It is common for water to enter houses due to heavy rains, but in Mangaluru city's Mandara village, residents were forced to deal with a unique problem when heaps of garbage from the nearby Pachanady landfill slid down with rainwater from a landfill in the area to farmlands and homes.
The incident affected multiple acres of land and forced 21 families living in the area to move to a rehabilitation center near the Kudupu Ananthapadmanabha temple in the area. The heavy rains caused the garbage to flow down and affected areca farms, houses and a temple in Mandara.
“We have been complaining about this landfill for a long time and now. The garbage has come sliding down along with the rain. Officials visit the spot wearing masks but we have to live here every day. This has made the entire area reek of the smell of the garbage,” said a resident of the area in Mangaluru.
Former Mangaluru Mayor Bhaskar Moily who visited the spot, said, “180 tonnes of garbage enters this place every day, and the problems faced by residents here worsened after the garbage slid down to the low-lying area."
The district administration has drawn up temporary measures to clear the solid waste and are currently discussing permanent measures to solve the problem.
"We are doing civil works to stop the slide further like building bunds and diverting rainwater, since the garbage came with the torrential rain. These are temporary measures we have taken so far,” Dakshina Kannada Deputy Commissioner Sasikanth Senthil S said.
But the continuous rains in Mangaluru has hampered the district administration's plans of re-surveying the area. "We are unsure about exactly what areas have been affected. We believe it is around 5-6 acres," added Sasikanth.
The landfill, which is the main dumpyard in Mangaluru, is about 50 years old and covers an area of 28.32 hectares. Residents in the area have often complained about spontaneous fires in the landfill and foul odour emanating from it. They say that their living conditions are dangerous and that they are susceptible to diseases due to the waste in the landfill.
Three years ago, Jeeth Milan Roche, an environmentalist and entrepreneur from Mangaluru, took up the task of transforming the area by planting over 1,500 saplings in the landfill. "The plan did not succeed mainly because of the heat created in the landfill. After conducting this exercise, I understood the risks in the landfill. One of our volunteers fell 5-6 feet inside the landfill when we tried to plant saplings there", Jeeth recalls.
Jeeth invests a significant part of his income to the cause of planting saplings in Mangaluru. He believes that the solution to the problem should be determined collectively. "This is a problem that could affect any city today. The height of the landfill is increasing every day because of the waste that is dumped. We need to be strict with waste segregation and that requires involvement from the public,” says Jeeth.Following the incident, residents in the area renewed their demand for a permanent solution to the problem of the overflowing landfill.
"We are discussing with the Pollution Control Board. We are considering incineration as one option and re-consolidating the whole material with bio fencing implemented with proper standards. We will be announcing a permanent measure soon," said Deputy Commissioner Sasikanth.
However, engineers overseeing the landfill say incineration is not an option during the rainy season. "We have to consider other options like considering it as 'legacy waste', separating the plastics in it and moving it elsewhere", Madhu SM, Environmental Engineer, Mangalore City Corporation.
An expert team including officials from the Karnataka Pollution Control Board are studying the issue to solve the problem permanently.