Water bodies in Mavallipura, Shivakote, Kudlu contaminated

The Koramarakunte Lake in Mavallipura was once a water source. Today, the villagers of Mavallipura do not even let their livestock drink from it. The reason is that the lake is completely contaminated by the leachate from the several tonnes of garbage nearby at the dump yard managed by Ramky Enviro Engineers Ltd. More than 150 truck-loads of garbage from the city are dumped at the landfill daily.

M. Ramesh, gram panchayat member and resident, alleged that the leachate is untreated and allowed to seep into the ground. As many as 13 villages are affected by the groundwater contamination, he claimed.

Tired of raising these issues, the residents had prevented the trucks from dumping waste in the landfill in the past six days. It was only on Sunday that the trucks were let inside the landfill. On Sunday, several trucks laden with garbage were seen lined outside the gates. Mr. Ramesh said that due to prolonged exposure to garbage and toxins, the villagers have begun contracting skin and other diseases. Not just villagers, but even livestock reared by the villagers are developing diseases. Agriculture and agri-based activities, which is the mainstay in 13 villages around the landfill, have been badly hit.

Dalit Sangharsh Samiti member B. Srinivas has for long been fighting against the unscientific handling of solid waste here. With more villagers falling ill, he has submitted more than 100 memoranda to the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to take action against Ramky. Representations have been sent to the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) and the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission but to no avail.

He said that the company has not followed the specifications for landfill sites as prescribed under Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000. “The rules stipulate that the landfill should be away from habitation clusters, forest areas, water bodies, monuments, national parks, wetlands and places of important cultural, historical or religious interest. This landfill has blatantly violated this requirement. Also, the leachate is contaminating the drinking water source,” he claimed.

The leachate has contaminated the water bodies in Mavallipura, Shivakote, Aiwarakandapura and Kudlu. Water from these bodies flows into the Arkavathy basin and later Tippagondanahalli reservoir. Water from Tippagondanahalli is supplied to many parts of Bangalore.

“Ideally, leachate has to be stored in concrete-based ponds, lined with tarpaulin. This is to mainly prevent it from seeping into the ground. This is not being followed. Only when the BBMP officials come, the Ramky personnel cover some garbage mounds with tarpaulin to show that they are following the rules. All this is just eyewash,” he said.

Senior BBMP officials conceded that Ramky had failed to adhere to the agreement norms. They said that the BBMP had levied a fine of Rs. 5 lakh on Ramky. “The company claims that it has not been able to adhere to the agreement due to lack of sufficient land. As per the agreement, 100 acres were to have been handed over to the company. However, only 38 acres was handed over. Land is a major impediment. The Government took away 20 acres for the construction of homes under Ashraya scheme. Another 20 acres is under litigation,” they said.

The company has also claimed that there was delay in procuring machinery to set up a waste-to-power plant at the site. “The KSPCB clearance is in the final stages. The permission will not be given if Ramky does not meet the prescribed standards,” they officials said.

The officials added that the link between water contamination due to garbage and increase in health disorders among the villagers has not been established. This, even though tests on water samples showed that it was not fit for consumption.

“The KSPCB is monitoring leachate seepage, while a team from the Indian Institute of Science is looking into the reasons behind the increase in diseases among villagers. Meanwhile, the BBMP has decided to give Ramky time to set up the power plant. If they fail to do so, the BBMP will cancel the contract,” the officials said.