Chicken down the drain

Chicken down the drain

Tonnes of meat waste generated by hundreds of unauthorised slaughterhouses in the city bypass the BBMP’s already overstretched disposal mechanism. Dumped in open spaces and sewage drains, the decaying muck raises a deadly stink.

Sunday, 6.30 am: Fresh from his three-km brisk walk, Sumit stepped into Shivajinagar’s stately Russell Market for his weekend shopping with gusto. It was then the stink from the carcass stockpiles hit him, mercilessly overpowering his senses, throwing his morning plans totally out of gear. The city’s pathetic non-vegetarian waste disposal system had scored, yet again!

Packed in bags of every size and dumped in an open space next to the market, waste from chicken, mutton stalls and illegal slaughter spots in and around Shivajinagar form a putrid mountain of decay. Raising a stink that rivals Mandur, this decomposing muck traps the shopkeepers and customers alike, before a BBMP truck drives in.

Already trapped in a garbage management system gone wayward, the Palike is apparently in no hurry to find a solution specific to dealing with non-vegetarian waste. Simply put, it is a problem left for the city’s slaughter houses to handle.

But when a hundred thousand tonnes of animal waste is generated by meat retailers outside these State outlets, when they are dumped and left to rot in abandoned sites, in stormwater drains and sewage pits, should the civic agencies look the other way? Shouldn’t this hazardous muck, dangerous enough to trigger diseases, be handled with more care and purpose?

Untreated liquid waste

At the Tannery road abattoir, the men handling the sheep and goat headed for slaughter assert that the waste is cleared in truckloads. But the blood, they admit, is let off into the underground drains thus adding to the pollution.

This blood, which is lost, could instead be collected and sent for use in the pharmaceutical industry. Inadequate facilities at the slaughterhouses and scattered illegal slaughtering negate any chance of a systematic collection of animal blood.

Besides blood, the other liquid waste is required to be washed away by safe, potable and constant supply of fresh water at adequate pressure. Since the waste water from slaughterhouses is heavy in pollution, it can be let into the drains only after a thorough pre-treatment process. 

In Shivajinagar, the mountain of unsegregated animal waste shows no sign of any such systematic clearance. The Palike tries to do a job that requires 20 people and more machines, with barely eight men, says Russell Market Traders’ Association General Secretary, Mohammed Idris Chowdhary.

“Each bag that is dumped illegally here in the night weighs around 250 kg. Since this place is open from all sides, we can’t stop this. Neither is it cleared on time,” he complains.

But elsewhere, clearance is a misnomer, a near impossibility, when chicken waste is dumped in open drains meant to carry only storm water. Before these waste piles inside the drains are washed away to the lakes, they degenerate and mix with other muck thrown without a care. If the drains are distant, the underground sewage lines remain the easiest way for meat retailers to let out the muck.

Stringent rules, there aren’t any to penalize them heavily. BBMP has its bye-laws on responsible disposal of waste generated in licensed slaughterhouses. But thousands of meat retailers in the city are clearly outside the purview of rules framed for abattoirs. So are many residents in Shivajinagar and other areas who butcher sheep and chicken in-house, but do not observe disposal mechanisms mandated by law.

Fish-feed, no more

Chicken waste from retailers across the City once had a definite destination: Razackpalya near Bagalur, where the inedible parts of the poultry were fed to catfish bred in illegal farms. But the huge multitude of farms were closed down since the birds attracted to the fish were a threat to aircraft landings and take-offs at the Yelahanka Air Force base and the Devanahalli-based Kempegowda International Airport (KIA).

Enquiries now reveal that alternative fishing sites are now being identified. Azeez Pasha, a chicken retailer from Islampur in HAL, says the daily waste is taken away by pickup trucks to lakes near Hoskote, where such fish are bred. Pasha explains, “We pay about Rs. 100 a week for the trucks. This way, we don’t need to worry about the feathers, legs and other wasted parts of the chicken.”

Typically, about 300 to 600g of a chicken weighing two kgs end up as waste. While many do dispose this through the trucks, there are others who take the shortcuts to open grounds, drains or even wooded areas! The stink raised by animal waste often dumped overnight inside an enclosed green space near Islampur is proof of this ugly deed.

Untreated, unsegregated, huge quantities of the meat and fish waste also end up daily in the garbage mounts of Mandur. The stench from this, mixed with other wet waste, and the sight of birds hovering above the dumps present tell-tale pictures of a system gone horribly wrong. This problem, as BBMP insiders say, will continue as long as the petty meat shop owners are not brought within a new system, outside the established slaughter houses. 

Retail butchering

The existing slaughterhouses are too small to accommodate the butchering demands of the petty shops. So, the retailers often cut the goat and sheep brought from outside, themselves. This practice skyrockets during the festival season, putting immense pressure on the existing waste disposal system. Some butchers in this category say they rely on the piggeries, but the mechanism is not formalised.

Disposal of animal waste is also an issue outside the meat industry. Take the case of animals dying natural death of the ones killed in road accidents. Once these are carried away to the city’s outskirts, they are dehided. But the carcasses are left in the open, attracting vultures and other animals and becoming a public health hazard. 

The Government of India had issued guidelines to set up dry rendering plants to process dead animal carcasses scientifically. Instead of being left to rot, the carcasses and the slaughter house waste could be directed to these plants that produce meat meals / bone meals, etc. The slaughterhouse waste could also be subjected to bio-methanisation.

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