Civic workers take the easy but harmful way out — of burning garbage piles along roadsides

Morning walkers of the city can be left gasping, for it is that time of the day when civic workers or pourakarmikas burn piles of garbage, filling the air with smoke and acrid smell.

Instead of ensuring the waste reaches the dump yard, the workers find it convenient to set afire the garbage — including plastic bags and rubber footwear — on roadsides. They are indifferent to the noxious fumes emanating from the pile; and so is the Mangalore City Corporation. What is alarming is that plastics, which are of different kinds, when burnt, can release carcinogenic fumes such as dioxins.

In the absence of an efficient waste segregation system, burning the garbage is an easier way out.

According to the World Health Organisation, in terms of dioxin release into the environment, uncontrolled waste incinerators (solid and hospital waste) are often the worst culprits, because of incomplete burning.

The WHO also says: “Dioxins are environmental ‘repeat offenders’. They have the dubious distinction of belonging to the “dirty dozen club” – a special group of dangerous chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants. Once dioxins have entered the environment or body, they are there to stay due to their uncanny ability to dissolve in fats and to their rock-solid chemical stability.”

Despite such information in the public domain and instructed not to do so, MCC’s pourakarmikas burn plastics along with organic waste. Gangadhara, president, Pourakarmikara Sangha, admitted this though they have been told not to burn plastics. But who will convince the pourakarmikas – and how — not to burn plastics? The MCC officials say they do instruct them not to burn plastics. Manjunath Shetty, Environment Officer, MCC, said, “They have a tendency to do that. We are issuing instructions to our contractors and supervisors. It may not have come to a standstill but we are on the way to improving on that.”

Jayaprakash Nayak, Scientific Officer, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, said no study was done on carcinogenic substances in the air in this region. The board had organised activities to raise awareness of segregating waste but it was an uphill task. He said, “It is more difficult to convince educated people. They say it is the duty of the corporation.”

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