Garbage burning rampant in Bengaluru

Garbage burning rampant in Bengaluru

(Photo by Tejas Dayananda Sagar)

By Kapil Kajal
Despite being banned by the Karnataka Government in 2017, the practice of garbage burning is still rampant in the capital city of Bengaluru. While the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the agency responsible for the city’s garbage disposal, admits that the practice has stopped, garbage burning can be witnessed in numerous places across the city. 

A resident of Jeevan Bhima Nagar stated that they have to burn all the waste because even after complaining to BBMP several times, they have not collected the garbage dumped in front of their houses, and the uncleared garbage has become a host for diseases such as malaria and dengue.

Another resident Nihaal (27), who only goes by his first name stated that burning of garbage makes it difficult for him to breathe as he also suffers from sinus problems.

Vishwanatha M, a BBMP field marshal who was posted in Jeevan Bhima Nagar, highlighted that since the appointment of field marshals three months ago, no cases of garbage burning has been reported in Jeevan Bhima Nagar. 

He added that, however, sometimes leaves can be found burning on the side of the road. 

Mafia menace

The BBMP has assigned auto tippers, who are responsible for door-to-door collection of waste for each ward. After collecting, they dump the waste in the Dry Waste Collection Center (DWCC). While the BBMP has a DWCC centre for almost all of the wards, a transfer station is present, from which the waste is directly transferred from the auto tipper to compactor in the wards missing the DWCC. 

An environmental activist Jagdish Reddy stated that the contractors collect garbage, and then, instead of transferring it to the DWCC, they dump it in some secluded place and set it on fire to save money spent on logistics.

Reddy asserted that the local body doesn’t have the right infrastructure, and the local garbage mafia doesn’t want the garbage to be segregated. He mentioned that while the joint commissioners are putting effort to tackle the menace, the mafia, because of their links with politicians, manage to overrule them every time.

According to the Section 19(5) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, the state government imposed a complete ban on burning of solid wastes including twigs and leaves of plants in open places within the jurisdiction of all urban local bodies including BBMP and in solid waste landfill sites throughout the state. The penalty for garbage burning was fixed at Rs 1,000-2,000 for the first time and Rs 5,000 for the second time.

While citizens complain of instances of garbage burning, K R Pallavi, the BBMP Joint Commissioner (East), denied the allegation. However, she clarified that some residents put light their dry waste on fire. 

She added that neither the BBMP workers nor the contractors burn garbage anymore. She highlighted that though it was rampant last year because of the absence of an adequate number of dumping grounds, and the contractors are being monitored closely and are fined if they are found burning garbage.

More harmful than stubble burning

A research by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) revealed that burning of solid waste including plastic in open places, especially in urban areas, releases harmful chemicals such as sulphur dioxide (SO2), carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), dioxins and furans in addition to particulate matter. These particles and gases and can cause serious health hazards to all the living creatures in the system. 

Dr H Lokeshwari, the Chief Scientific Officer of the KSPCB, stated that garbage burning includes plastic and other carbon-emitting trash, and that can cause cancer as well.

She highlighted that garbage burning is more dangerous than stubble burning as the former releases several toxic fumes into the environment on top of the PM2.5 that is released during stubble burning. 

Dr T V Ramachandra, a professor with the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Sciences, stated that the garbage usually comprises metals, plastic and aerosols, and burning it emits out very poisonous gases like carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrocarbons and dioxins. 

Dr H Parmesh, a paediatric pulmonologist with the Lakeside Center for Health Promotion, highlighted that particulate matter, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and methane emitted from garbage burning can give rise to several respiratory diseases and heart failure. 

He added that other pollutants such as hydrocarbons, organic pollutants, benzene and dioxins can cause skin and bladder cancer, and cause reproductive and developmental problems. 

Dr Yellapa Reddy, the Governing Council Member of the Foundation for Ecological Security of India mentioned that not only humans but also plants and water bodies are also affected owing to garbage burning. 

He highlighted that toxins from the burning of heavy metals like mercury and lead seep through the soil and affect the underground water. He added that the particulate matter deposited on the plant surface hampers the photosynthesis process, and the growth of the plant is affected.

He asserted that inefficient and negligent contractors should be put under bars under culpable homicide as they are toying with the health of the public.

To address the issue, Dr Reddy mentioned that the waste should be segregated as per the directions by the Supreme Court and the corporation should segregate the waste. 

“It [garbage] is not a waste, it is a resource. The organic waste can be converted into a resource like biogas and vermicompost. Recyclable material can be recycled, and anything which can not be recycled can be sent to the landfill site,” he stated.

(Author is Mumbai - based freelance writer and a member of, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.)

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox