SRINAGAR: Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) has risked the lives of people living around Achan by open dumping of garbage, according to an official. SMC had adopted open dumping of garbage in November last year after it faced shortage of space at the land-fill site.
An official of the corporation told Kashmir Reader that the SMC acted on the advice of a person, Dr SR Malley, who opined that a chemical added to the openly-dumped garbage would break it quickly without any serious implications. However, the official said, in the process, over 10,000 metric tons of garbage was accumulated and spread over 100 kanals of land.
SMC in coordination with the Economic Reconstruction Agency (ERA) manages solid-waste in Srinagar. While SMC collects garbage from the city, ERA helps in its disposal on scientific lines. A solid waste management expert of ERA, who works at the Achan land-fill, said the SMC has overlooked health and environmental hazards caused by open dumping of garbage.
“SMC neither prevented nor took any precautions before going ahead with open dumping of waste,” the expert added. “Open garbage can cause cholera, malaria and dengue. The bio-aerosols (colonies of bacteria and fungi) will spread in the area and can cause asthma and bronchitis. The metal waste can also prove carcinogenic,” he warned.
The expert told Kashmir Reader that the SMC, before going ahead with the open dumping, did not take into account the leachier produced during the process. “Now, garbage is sitting over the leachier it produces,” he said. “The leachier will also contaminate the surface as well as ground water,” he added.
During the last two weeks open dumping resulted in a standoff between SMC and Achan residents. Locals pelted stones at SMC vehicles carrying garbage to the dumping site. A SMC driver Rouf Wagay was also injured during the protests. After a ten-day standoff, SMC resumed garbage dumping at Achan, but under security cover.
Although SMC has now given up the idea of dumping in open air after protests, the local residents have not given up their resistance.
Why is there resistance from locals?
“In November last year the land fill site at Achan was full to its carrying capacity of 2.14 lakh metric tons. To meet the requirements, SMC dumped a considerable chunk of waste in open air and the rest of it into the already-exhausted site. This proved counterproductive,” an SMC official told Kashmir Reader.
“While the waste was accumulated with each passing day, till it reached 10,000 metric tons spread over 100 kanals of land, the land fill site reached a saturation point where it no longer could take any more waste. At present it has been dumped with an extra 50,000 metric tons of waste against the designed capacity,” an official said.
Once the residents came to know about open air dumping, they hit the streets, protested and pelted stones at SMC trucks during the last ten days. Garbage remained unattended on roads for more than a week. It was only on Monday that the government deployed armed forces around Achan, so that SMC drivers could resume work.
SMC has been dumping waste at Achan since 2009 after giving up its old method of dumping in open air. The ‘scientific method’ was funded by Asian Development Bank (ADB), who appointed the Economic Reconstruction Agency (ERA) to operate it. Before 2009 too, Achan residents often hit the streets against SMC.
“The open waste spread a foul smell in the area. Many started complaining about diseases after which we protested to prevent the SMC from dumping in the open,” Ghulam Rasool, a local said.
An ERA engineer, Mohammad Yousuf Khan, said that the site cannot take waste any more. It is not clear how will the SMC manage the 400 metric tons of waste generated every day.
A few months ago, the SMC had proposed that the Asian Developmental Bank (ADB) fund another land-fill site to solve the waste management crisis. Though the ADB agreed, it asked SMC to segregate degradable and biodegradable materials. However, SMC missed all the deadlines to do so, following which the ADB pulled up the SMC many times.
In November last year, ADB also gave an ultimatum to SMC to segregate waste material at source and warned that it would freeze Rs 19 crore for a third land fill site. Also, SMC has to refund about Rs 2.5 crore that it already spent on the project. The SMC missed this deadline too.
“We tried segregation in three municipal wards but failed. Now we are buying machines which will do it at the dumping site,” said chief sanitation officer SMC Manzoor Ahmad. However he did not say when this will be done.
The fate of the third land fill site will be decided by the ADB next month.