Environmental safeguards to be ensured: Manjalamkuzhi Ali

The garbage issue in the capital city inched closer towards a temporary solution on Wednesday, with the government deciding to set up sanitary landfills in three abandoned quarries in the district.

A consultation meeting convened by the government with scientists and technical experts decided to take up the project as an interim solution to dispose of the accumulated garbage at Chalai, the site where a modern treatment plant is slated to come up. Experts stressed the need for proper engineering to ensure that groundwater sources were not polluted by the landfills.

Minister for Urban Affairs Manjalamkuzhi Ali said the government would ensure safeguards to minimise the environmental impact and prevent pollution from the quarries. He said the site selection and engineering work would be done carefully under the strict supervision of the Suchitwa Mission.

Activist Sugathakumari, who is mediating between Vilappil panchayat and the State government to find a solution to the garbage crisis, presided over the meeting.

Groundwater issue

The Minister also promised to put in place a groundwater monitoring system to allay the concerns of the public. He, however, said the location of the quarries could not be revealed at this juncture. “We have seen in the past that agitations are triggered by vested interests not connected in any way with the neighbourhood,” he said.

He said an all-party meeting would be convened soon to dispel apprehensions raised by the public and pre-empt local resistance.

Asked how long it would take to set up the sanitary landfills, he said it depended on several factors. “We have a plan but it is not possible to say how many days it will take,” he said. The Minister added that the project was conceived as a temporary solution for a maximum period of six months until the treatment plant was expected to come up at Chalai. Asked whether the government would consider a liability clause in the engineering contract to ensure that the safeguards were maintained, he replied in the negative. “After all, the government is doing it directly,” he explained.

Mr. Ali said the landfill could be used later for low-cost housing by local bodies or to create parks or playgrounds. The government, he added, would provide drinking water and other basic facilities to the residents in the neighbourhood and consider local residents for employment at the site.

Technical experts said only quarries with rain fed reservoirs would be considered for landfill. The sites would be insulated with intermittent layers of clay, HDPE sheets, and laterite soil, and provided with leachate and rainwater collection facilities. They explained that landfill gas pressure would be vented out through a network of pipes. The experts also stressed the need to ensure minimum haulage distance for the garbage. Earlier, Ms. Sugathakumari said the landfill project had to be viewed as a desperate measure to prevent the outbreak of epidemics following the onset of the northeast monsoon. She, however, feared that it would face stiff resistance from local residents. She said it was for the government to ensure that groundwater sources were not contaminated and that the landfills were properly maintained even after closure.