12 days after the fire was lit, village residents are complaining of rashes, allergies and wheezing

First it was just the stench, and now it’s the smoke.

There seems to be no respite for residents of villages in and around the Mandur landfill. A haze of smoke envelops the landfill, the result of the fire that was lit on February 1.

The fire began on the same day as the deadline the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) set itself to stop dumping waste in the landfill.

For residents, the smoke is yet another adverse effect of the landfill. Many complain of the smoke and smell, with some stating that there are more mosquitoes and snakes in their villages, driven out of the landfill due to the smoke.

Anger is mounting among the people, who are already facing health hazards due to the mounds of garbage. They now have to contend with increasing incidents of rashes, allergies and wheezing. “Patients have started coming here with problems. We have seen at least six cases of bronchitis and breathing difficulties in the last 10 days, but we cannot correlate them to the fire,” a medical officer at the local government hospital, who did not wish to be named, said.

‘20 patients in 10 days’

Ramesh, a private practitioner whose clinic is not far from the government hospital, said: “Agricultural labourers have been coming to me with rashes, itches and allergies. They complain of the smell at the landfill. Ever since the fire, many more patients have started coming in with related problems. I have had 20 such patients in the last 10 days,” he said.

Meanwhile, the city’s waste continues to be dumped at the Mandur landfill, with over 300 trucks plying every day.

Vaman Acharya, Chairman of the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), said the fire could be due to an accumulation of methane gas, with pockets of gas catching fire and lighting up residual and plastic waste around it. He said the best that could be done was to extinguish the fire completely.

BBMP officials maintained that the smoke was residual and from the layers of garbage right at the bottom, which are still ignited. The corporation is preventing it from spreading to other parts of the dump by mud-capping (dumping mud over the burning areas), they said.

Gangadhara Swamy, Superintendent Engineer, Mahadevapura zone, said almost 75 per cent of the fire had been contained, and the remainder would take a week to cover.

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