Plastic waste from Kerala used as fuel in jaggery units

The toxic emission from a jaggery unit in a village of Mandya taluk. dh photo

Most of the jaggery production units (alemane) in the district use plastic and rubber waste for burning the hearth, releasing toxic emissions, posing health risks for the residents, in the district.

With the Kerala government taking strict measures in solid waste management, all waste from the neighbouring state is reaching the jaggery making units in Mandya district, which is dangerous. Pieces from plastic, leather and oil factories are being used as fuel at the jaggery making units. Solid waste segregation yards are set up at Devalapura village, Nagamangala taluk, from where plastic waste is purchased by the owners of jaggery units.

Several alemanes in Mandya, Nagamangala and KR Pet taluks are dependent on the waste from Kerala, sold at Rs 1,500 per tonne. Around 60% of the units are dependent on the plastic waste, due to shortage of firewood during rainy season. The soot from smoke of the chimneys of the units can be seen turning the walls of houses black. Children and senior citizens are complaining of lung infection and breathing problem.

Cancer threat

According to sources, three people of Bilidegula village, Mandya taluk, are diagnosed of cancer, and the doctors suspect the toxic fumes from alemanes to be the cause. The children complain of cold and cough often.

Speaking to DH, a jaggery unit owner said, “The cost of dried coconut fronds has increased. As ‘bagasse’ is dampened due to rains, we are using plastic as fuel.”

There are over 100 units in villages under B Hosuru Grama Panchayat. The residents have lodged a complaint to the GP against air pollution. Based on this, the GP has issued notices to the units thrice. However, the factory owners continue to use plastic waste.

B Hosuru Panchayat Development Officer B R Chandru said, “August 25 was the deadline for the units. As they continue to ignore the notice and use plastic waste, a report has been submitted to the ZP CEO. Also, a letter is written to the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board.”

Farmer leader Shambunahalli Suresh said, “Around 60 lakh tonne of sugarcane is ready for harvest in the district. But, MySugar and Pandavapura Sahakara Sakkare Kharkane are yet to start crushing. Private sugar factories too are not functioning properly. Hence, it has become inevitable for the farmers to supply cane to the jaggery units.”

“There are over 2,000 jaggery units in the district and thousands of labourers from Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and other states work here. The labourers have spoilt the system. They even burn vehicle tyres to produce jaggery,” he said.

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