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Updated: October 2, 2012 12:15 IST

‘The landfill model is not working’

Deepa Kurup
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TOXIC BACKYARD: Landfills were mere dump yards where garbage had not been processed; instead mounds and mounds of it were simply piled on. File photo: Deepa Kurup
TOXIC BACKYARD: Landfills were mere dump yards where garbage had not been processed; instead mounds and mounds of it were simply piled on. File photo: Deepa Kurup

Even as the city experiments with a new system to segregate dry and wet waste, residents in villages on the city’s periphery are up in arms

The discourse over garbage and the raging controversy surrounding the way cities have over the past decade managed their garbage is unlikely to die down any time soon.

Even as the city experiments with a new system to segregate dry and wet waste, residents in villages on the city’s periphery are up in arms, reminding us that it is they who are bearing the brunt of the tens of hundreds of tonnes of unprocessed waste that piles up in landfills located in their villages.

Protests yield victory

In August, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), responding to years of protests by residents of Mavallipura — where the city's largest landfill is located — shut down the solid waste management site.

In incriminating reports, KSPCB noted that the landfills were mere dump yards where garbage had not been processed; instead mounds and mounds of garbage were simply piled on. While this closure brought some relief to residents, it also meant that the loads sent to the other landfills, already running well over capacity, doubled and tripled overnight.

Abysmally equipped

Though the KSPCB has not shut down any landfills since, its new chairperson, Vaman Acharya, says that given a choice he would like to shut down all the “unscientific, unhygienic, illegal” units.

“They had been given sanction to operate but no landfill today is processing waste or even has the basic prerequisites to do so. From vacant land or a basic concrete base or PVC lining to piping for extraction of methane gas, these landfills don’t meet any of the requirements. A visit to any of the so-called landfills reveals that they are nothing but rotting piles of garbage,” he says.

“Clearly,” he emphasises, the landfill model is “not working” and should be discontinued.

The KSPCB has, in the past few years, shut down three landfills. While these decisions are not likely to be reversed, Mr. Acharya emphasises that KSPCB will not sanction any fresh landfills for Bangalore. “Cities across the country have to look seriously for alternatives and we should be open to any kind of technology to do this,” he says.

‘Excellent start’

The proposal to segregate dry and wet waste is an “excellent start”. Things could start changing here, Mr. Acharya says, as he proposes a new model where the clean, organic waste can be sent to farmers to be used as manure.

When asked if farmers, who till now have only got a raw deal with garbage and leachate poisoning their villages, will be receptive, he says that though there are challenges, this can be made to work by collaborating with agriculturists and convincing them that this is entirely scientific.

“There are tested methods to do this. This, of course, cannot happen where there is a standing crop as leachate may damage it. But a proper process can be evolved to benefit our farmers,” he says.

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