Quarries filled with trash spell ecological disaster

Last Updated : 20 August 2018, 19:38 IST
Last Updated : 20 August 2018, 19:38 IST

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Bellahalli, a small hamlet 25 km north of Bengaluru, could be a ticking time bomb for the city which is grappling with its garbage crisis. An abandoned quarry in the village is being filled with mixed waste in violation of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directives.

The BBMP, which was rapped by the NGT a few months ago for dumping the same waste at similar sites in Mitiganahalli and Bagaluru, instead started dumping garbage into the Bellahalli quarry, just a metre away.

According to eyewitnesses, around 350 to 400 compactor trucks dump over 2,500 tonnes of garbage into the quarry every day. The locals allege this has been happening for over a year. Ordering a halt to the dumping, the NGT had directed the BBMP to carry out bio-mining at all the quarries filled with garbage. However, the BBMP is yet to comply with the NGT’s direction. Sources in BBMP revealed that bio-mining is an expensive affair.

With no bio-mining in place, the Bellahalli quarry today has several gallons of leachate beneath its belly. To prevent percolation of the leachate into the groundwater, BBMP has set up a treatment plant at a whopping cost of Rs 5 crore. Ironically, the plant is yet to achieve the purification levels. As a result, the accumulated leachate, overflowing into adjacent quarries and areas has left the village in a putrid condition and a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

When DH visited the spot, all that the BBMP officials were doing was to top the grabge with construction debris and cover it with a tarpaulin sheet.

B H Gurumurthy, executive engineer who is supervising the leachate plant said, “The filled debris will be drilled at the centre for laying a pipe and leachate will be pumped out. The leachate will be treated and used to rejuvenate lakes,” he said.

Currently, the plant has a capacity to process 80,000 litres but millions of litres of leachate is accumulated over the months. “Presently, a chemical spray is used to prevent the smell,” Gurumurthy clarified.

Vehicles entering the quarry must pass a toll gate where security personnel note down the vehicle number and the contractor to whom it belongs. Ramesh Kumar, driver of a compactor said, “I collect garbage from hotels and apartment complexes. My owner has fixed a charge for collection of garbage from these sources. At the toll gate, we pay Rs 5,000 per trip to dump the waste at the quarry. On each trip, we carry about 7 to 8 tonnes of garbage.” To avoid the fee, some drivers dump garbage at open places and lake beds.

Sukumaran K, a driver said, “We have to pay Rs 5,000 at Bellahalli quarry which is 2 km away. Instead, we can pay Rs 2,000 here and dump the whole load which will eventually be burnt.”

However, burning of garbage has triggered severe health issues. The owner of a hotel nearby spends around Rs 15,000 a month on pest control. Sachin Raj, a student at a nearby college said, “They burn even plastic waste which is hazardous to our health. Many students are suffering from respiratory disorders.”

KSPCB yet to crack whip

The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) had, in fact, cautioned BBMP against dumping garbage in quarry pits, failing which it threatened to file a criminal case.

Clarifying to DH, KSPCB chairperson Lakshman said that BBMP has not obtained any permission. “If the order is passed with respect to one application, it applies to all similar problems. Mittaganahalli is next to Bellahalli and the people and environment are all the same. We have directed BBMP several times to set up leachate plants at various landfills, but till date, not a single one has been commissioned,” he said.

“My hands are up. We are not gods. We cannot do anything. We know dumping waste in the quarry is not a solution but we don’t have any other options. Tenders have been called to set up waste-to-energy plants and segregation units and processing unit and it will take some time. Till then, we will dump the mixed waste in the quarries,” said Sarfaraz Khan, joint commissioner, Solid Waste Management, BBMP.

“After filling the Bellahalli quarry with mixed garbage, we will cap it with soil and make a racing track. As a lot of boys are being killed on the road doing wheelies, this is will be made as motor sport area,” he said.

Published 20 August 2018, 19:32 IST

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