“We are ready to bow before the court, but not before garbage. If they try to bring one more truck of garbage from the city, it will be over our dead bodies,” said 60-year-old Surni who runs a tea stall less than a km away from the controversial Vilappilsala solid-waste treatment plant.
The resentment in her words reflected the general sentiment of Vilappilsala residents towards the City Corporation's waste treatment plant, which, they say, has been making their lives miserable for the past 12 years.
Even as the Vilappil panchayat members and political leaders were engaged in heated arguments over the Supreme Court's directive to reopen the plant, the common people of Vilappilsala seemed to be calm and firm about their resolve to continue their fight against the plant.
Conversation of a small gathering at the tea stall hovered around the treatment plant issue and the unfavourable Supreme Court directive which, according to most of them, was a fallacy of the Vilappil panchayat.
“They should not have approached the Supreme Court when the case in the High Court was in such a premature stage,” said S. Surendran who lives adjacent to the plant.
“We don't understand why the Mayor is so adamant about dumping the city's waste here despite so much opposition.
This garbage plant has caused major health and environment problems to us. Almost every member of my family is suffering from one disease or the other because of this plant. My wife has frequent bouts of asthma. Our children are also suffering from skin and respiratory disorders,” he said.
Pollution of groundwater and the Meenambally canal, a tributary of the Karamana river — a major drinking water source, are some of the main environmental issues caused by the plant.
“Scarcity of drinking water, especially in summer months, is a huge problem in our area. Earlier, the Corporation used to bring us drinking water in tanker lorries. But since we launched the agitation, they have stopped it,” said S. Prasad, an autorickshaw driver.
Ms. Surni said that as part of pacifying the agitators, the Corporation had launched a drinking water supply project for Vilappilsala. “But we don't want anything from them other than the permanent closure of the garbage plant,” she said.
K. Stewart, who sold his property near the plant to the Corporation around 11 years ago, said the Corporation was trying to systematically weed out the local people from the area surrounding the plant. “My family was actually forced to leave our property next to the plant after they surrounded us with garbage. Finally we decided to move out and sold the 2.25-acre land and a house to the Corporation. Even after 11 years, we are still engaged in a legal battle to get the payment on the property sale,” Mr. Stewart said.
He added that the people of Vilappilsala were no more fearful to fight the Corporation. “We will not allow the reopening of the plant. Leave alone only garbage-laden vehicles, we will not allow any vehicle from the Corporation to enter the plant,” he said.