Major fire breaks out at Ariyamangalam garbage dump for the third time in three months

People living around the garbage dump at Ariyamangalam in the city appear to be in for a torrid time over the next couple of days as a major fire broke out again on Tuesday.

This is the third major fire in as many months, apart from a couple of minor ones that were put out quickly, at the garbage dump. A massive fire in May took four days to be extinguished and Tuesday’s fire seemed to be much bigger on scale, going by initial reports.

The dump is spread over 47 acres of land with over 12 lakh tonnes of garbage accumulated down the years and 400 tonnes are added every day.

The fire reportedly started at a place where fresh garbage collections from the city are dumped. The gutsy winds, characteristic of the weather during the Tamil month of Aadi in the city, fanned the fire and sent a dense cloud of smoke across residential colonies and the Tiruchi-Thanjavur National Highway.

Apart from local residents, road users suffered because of poor visibility.

An alert was sent to the Fire and Rescue Services at around 1.30 p.m. Nine fire tenders, including three from Tiruchi city, and one each from Uppilliyapuram, Lalgudi, Manapparai, Thuvarankurichi, Navalpattu, and Thirukattupalli and nearly 15 water tankers of the Tiruchirapalli City Corporation were summoned for the dousing flames with Corporation Commissioner V.P. Thandapani and Divisional Fire Officer Syed Mohamed Sha supervising the operation that continued into the night.

Mr. Thandapani told The Hindu that about 20 sanitary workers stationed at the garbage dump had been trying to douse minor fires that were noticed over the past couple of days.

But the fire had spread rapidly on Tuesday because of strong wind despite their best efforts. He conceded it could take two or three days to extinguish the fire.

Local residents seemed to be vexed over the problem as the public outcry that follows every such incident has not goaded the corporation into action. Faced with heavy pollution from the reeking garbage, people living in and around the dump had been campaigning for shifting the dump. The corporation had been exploring various options to solve the problem, but has not put the plans into action so far.

A consultancy agency appointed by the Commissioner of Municipal Administration to identify ways to tackle the problem has submitted its report and the financial modalities for implementing the suggestions were being worked out, Mr. Thandapani said. One of the suggestions is to go in for ‘bio-capping’ of the accumulated garbage and another is to go in for incineration. Mr. Thandapani said the initiatives were expected to begin within the next three months.

The corporation, he pointed out, had decided to set up another bio-manure manufacturing unit at Panchapur and the solid waste processing capacity of the one functioning at Ariyamangalam would be scaled up from 100 to 300 tonnes a day.

But all these promised steps have not brought relief for local people. “The corporation has to take the blame for poor maintenance and apathy, which has put residents into much suffering yet again,” alleged S.P. Saravanan, a former Corporation councillor from Ariyamangalam. Mr. Saravanan alleged that a network of water pipelines laid around and across the garbage dump about a decade ago had not been maintained and was untraceable now. The pipeline was laid specifically to fight such fire. Besides, the corporation used to spray water on the dumps during Aadi to prevent such fires and the practice does not seem have been followed now, he said.