The muck stops everywhere

The muck stops everywhere

Mini landfills have sprung up in residential neighbourhoods across the City, even as BBMP struggles to find a way out of the impending garbage crisis that could erupt once the Mandur landfill closes.  

Brinkmanship, it is yet again for the BBMP. With Mandur residents defiantly resisting any attempt to dump anymore garbage in their backyard beyond December 1, the Palike is caught in a deadly bind. For Bangaloreans, the spectre of another round of random dumping couldn’t have got closer!

Stinking stockpiles of muck had mushroomed across Bengaluru when the city’s waste management system completely collapsed the last time. Vacant sites, open grounds and even Freedom Park were not spared. All these could dramatically return to haunt us all. In just a few days!

But random, illegal dumpyards are already here, remind citizens from across the city. Unoccupied plots are being targeted both by garbage contractors and residents to indiscriminately pile up unsegregated garbage.

Concerned citizens have repeatedly put up godly images on these sites to dissuade the illegal dumping. But that has hardly halted the menace. Mini dumpyards have begun to emerge right in the city’s heart, as close as Shivananda Circle and Kumara Krupa Road.   

Midnight dumping

In Nagashettyhalli, Sanjayanagar, people wait till midnight to throw the muck, away from public glare. But a resident of this area, Janardhan Rao, justifies the act. His rationale: The BBMP trucks never come on time, the door-to-door collections are not regular. The garbage bags cannot be left to rot at home!

Segregation at source, zero-waste wards, collective action, these have largely remained slogans, although several citizens’ action groups and NGOs have shown different ways to treat garbage and even make money in the process. The result: Largely untreated muck, 4,000 tonnes to be precise, still finds their way to the City’s landfills.

But this time, Mandur and Mavallipura residents are no longer game to be taken for granted by the BBMP and the government. They have reasons galore to be so: Their water is polluted beyond redemption, foul smell eternally hangs in the air, and their children and elderly are in poor health. The High Court recently directed the Palike to process only segregated, organic waste at Mavallipura and Mandur.

Taken aback by the BBMP’s plans to get the Mavallipura landfill active again, the Bengaluru International Airport Limited (BIAL) had raised objections. The prospect of birds being attracted to fresh garbage was too dangerous for aircraft taking off and landing at the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA), just a few miles away.

Illegal and dangerous

The Yelahanka Air Force Station now faces a similar problem, but from an illegal dumping yard in Kogilu Layout next door. Residents have discovered that trucks headed for Mandur were diverted to an abandoned 60-acre quarry site.

Recent rains collected on the untreated garbage dumped over the last month.

Leachate formation has started and a foul smell has enveloped the area, triggering panic among the residents of areas in close proximity to the site, Groundwater contamination, as in Mandur, could be next.

In Marathahalli, pockets of Whitefield and roads leading to Old Madras Road and Mandur, illegal dumpyards flourish. Garbage contract workers find it convenient to dump the muck on the roadsides. If this is the reality before Mandur’s closure, the scene could get much worse in December.

At the gates of the IT hub, Whitefield, the AECS Layout in Kundalahalli is relatively clean and well maintained. But here too, uncleared garbage has started to make its presence felt. Residents like Govindan Nambiar complains that earlier the trucks would clear the dumps once a week. That is becoming a rarity these days. 

In open lands bordering Annasandrapalya, chicken waste could also be seen dumped with organic and inorganic waste. Rainwater collected in plastic bottles and other waste containers breed mosquitoes. With Dengue and other deadly diseases resurfacing, the ground is being wantonly prepared for a health disaster.
No segregation

Irregular pick-up of garbage from several residential areas by BBMP contract trucks has apparently killed whatever progress the waste segregation campaign had achieved in many areas. In HBR Layout, for instance, residents say there is no point separating garbage as dry and wet waste, since the pourakarmikas eventually mix everything.

They also justify the takeover of vacant sites for dumping. As Dr Mohammed Rizwan, an orthodontist from the area points out, due to infrequent door-to-door collection, the garbage bags are left to rot for long, inviting rodents. To address this problem, people hunt for vacant or abandoned sites.

“The garbage piles up, but nobody bothers to clear it. The corporators and garbage contractors are not reachable. There is no single window system to address this issue,” reasons Rizwan.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had promised Mandur residents that garbage will not be dumped in their backyard from December 1. The landfill there had a daily intake of 1,200 tonnes, transported in 150 trucks. By October end, BBMP was to divert waste to various processing plants.

The chief minister had identified MSGP, a private firm that was ready to process 750 tonnes of waste daily; and Noble Exchange, another company prepared to process 50 tonnes. Processing of another 50 tonnes could be taken up in other smaller units of five tonnes capacity each.

These alternatives, however, are yet to take shape. Until that happens, mini, illegal, neighbourhood landfills are bound to dominate the city. The rising stink can subside only if, as Save Bangalore Committee joint convenor V N Rajashekhar points out, the focus shifts from dumping to disposal. “Garbage,” he emphasises, “should be treated as an asset, to produce energy, vermicompost and other byproducts.

It is unfortunate that despite the chief minister’s proclamations and apppointment of a garbage commissioner, nothing has moved.”

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