Waste disposal becomes complex because of the number and variety of industries

Driving on the neat, tree-lined streets of Peenya industrial estate, one may forget that the area is home to over 3,000 large- and small-scale industries. It is one of the largest industrial areas in Asia, set up in the late 1970s, producing diverse materials and one of the largest revenue generators for Karnataka.

But, apart from an occasional waft of the smell of industrial chemicals, the area looks surprisingly clean. No mounds of garbage lying about, no pot-holed roads, no fumes choking you.

Tank turns toxic

One has to walk into the 2nd phase of the estate to witness the underlying chemical pollution in the area. T. Dasarahalli tank was once a lake, but now stands as a basin of thick, black, foul-smelling liquid, far from anything that could be called water. “Unauthorised factories around the lake empty their waste into the lake without any treatment,” say authorities from the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board. This untreated waste has caused the eutrophication of the water, says Nandini N., professor at the environmental science department of Bangalore University, who conducted tests on the water here for over three years.

What little water is found in deep borewells here seems dangerously polluted that not finding any at all seems safer for the unaware resident.

Last March, water from borewells in Peenya Phase III was a foul yellow. When tested, it was found that hexavalent chromium was found in absurd amounts in this water, even causing chromium sores to residents who had no clue about the presence of this heavy metal in the water they used for almost everything around the house.

Peenya industrial area councillor K.L. Thimmananjiah says that about 50 kg of waste is generated by each industry in this area every day.

“The issue of waste disposal becomes complex because of the sheer number and variety of industries here and the variety of waste that each produces,” said a senior government official, who did not want to be named. “Facilities are provided, but they are just not enough.”

Most of the waste generated by big industries is recycled if possible and even used as raw material by other industries. But, the hazardous waste is carried to a landfill in Dabaspet, where the government has allotted 100 acres for dumping.

Blame game

Time and again, voices have been raised against the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagar Palike (BBMP) by the industries in the area for not supporting them with amenities to keep the area clean. The most recent of these strikes was staged last month demanding facilities on a par with the taxes they paid.

“The issue of solid waste management should be handled technically and not as per the contractor's convenience, like it is being handled now,” Thimmananjiah says.

As the blame jumps from one department to the other, untreated metals and chemicals continue to seep into the water and soil here.

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