“Would you ever let anything like this come up in your city?” asks Jayamma pointing towards Bangalore’s largest legal municipal waste landfill, located yards away from her village, Mavallipura. It is always the less-privileged who are left to suffer, she believes.
A rancid smell sticks to her hair, flies are everywhere and vector-borne diseases such as chikungunya are on the rise ever since the landfill came up five years ago, says Ms. Jayamma. And a couple of weeks ago, during heavy rain, toxic leachate from the landfill made its way into the only water body here, endangering crops and cattle. In short, this landfill - where 150 truckloads of garbage from the city are dumped every day - has turned the quiet agricultural village of Mavallipura in north Bangalore into a distinctly unpleasant place to live in.
Mavallipura is not the only village to be affected. Similar complaints have been registered from no fewer than eight villages around this landfill including Kurubarahalli, Shivakote, Mayapanahalli and Ramagondanahalli. And ferment is brewing in villages around the two other authorised landfills too - in Mandur and Doddabalapur. Doddabelavangala village not long ago protested against the convoy of 100 garbage trucks that passed through their village every day.
As the city’s garbage generation has mounted to a staggering 4,000 tonnes a day, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) will be creating more landfills to process it - the most recent acquisition being a 150-acre site in Anekal taluk. But will they factor in the problems that villages like Mavallipura have encountered? With the nearest hospital being 7 km away and no check-ups to ascertain or monitor the impact of the landfill on their health; residents have no option but to suffer the health hazards silently.
Meanwhile, rights groups have claimed that the Mavallipura waste management unit, managed by Hyderabad-based infrastructure and waste management company Ramky, is run in a patently “unscientific” manner, contributing to the problems that the villages face. According to the prescribed procedure, garbage is supposed to be transported first to a processing yard where bacteria break down the waste for a month. The semi-decomposed waste is then to be dumped in the landfill. The leachate that drains out is collected in a leachate pond and then treated in a treatment plant. However, at the waste management unit in Mavallipura, BBMP trucks are seen dumping the garbage directly into the landfill. And most crucially, the landfill lacks a treatment plant - an integral part of a scientific waste management unit - to treat the toxic leachate.
Dhanraj Bayanna, a member of the Dalit Sangharsh Samiti, says that despite several complaints to the BBMP, the Pollution Control Board and even the Lokayukta, no enquiry has been conducted. “Now, a week after we were forced to take the extreme step of threatening to close the plant down, they ‘treated’ the water in our tank. Promises of health camps or check-ups have remained on paper,” he points out.
The Mavallipura lake, which is the primary source of water for most families, their cattle and irrigation for their crops, reeks of chemicals and waste, residents claim. Every time it rains, the stench gets stronger and flies swarm the place. Following a series of protests by angry residents, BBMP authorities announced that it would conduct health camps, monitor the quality of water in surrounding lakes and even compensate any losses incurred by residents due to the proximity of the unit. Irate residents point out that these promises are far from being met.
A BBMP official told The Hindu that they plan to conducting health camps in Mavallipura “every 15 days” along with fogging to drive away mosquitoes and spraying on a regular basis. BBMP is in the process of digging four bore wells in the area to create more drinking water sources, the official added. Following protests by residents, BBMP Commissoner Bharat Lal Meena had announced that the BBMP also proposed to declare the areas surrounding landfills as “No Development Zones” in order to check pollution of drinking water sources.
The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board has commissioned a report on the state of water bodies and ground water in villages surrounding the unit.