A mammoth mound of filth leaves little room for vehicles near Deshbandhu Talkies in Jharia on Monday. (Gautam Dey)
Perceive the putrid polarity of Dhanbad.
Over 500 tonnes of unattended garbage are threatening to bury the right to decent living of more than 500,000 residents of Jharia town while civic bosses are busy painting trees along a VIP stretch that President Pranab Mukherjee is expected to take to reach ISM, 12km away, on Saturday.
The magnitude of the problem can be gauged from the fact that all thoroughfares between Dhanbad and Sindri towns passing through Jharia are choking on mounds of unmentionables. At many places, the layer of garbage is over a feet deep. Most commuters are left with no choice other than taking a 2km detour through Jharia-Sindri bypass to reach their destinations.
Residents of Jharia, on the other hand, are not just grappling with olfactory challenge, but have been left vulnerable to a host of diseases such as diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera, typhoid, dengue, malaria and chikungunya.
And this dire situation only because the two urban local bodies responsible for civic chores — namely Dhanbad Municipal Corporation (DMC) and Mineral Area Development Authority (Mada) — are busy passing the buck. While the DMC claims that Mada collects taxes from Jharia and hence, the onus is on it, the latter is crying dearth of resources to carry out the Herculean task, pending since January.
The worst part is that a 100-strong garbage disposal fleet including wheelbarrows, trucks and compactors, which were procured as a part of the Rs 55-crore solid waste management project under JNNURM, are caught in litigation and rusting at the DMC’s Bartand depot. The vehicles were purchased in the name of A2Z Waste Management, the erstwhile private partner of the DMC has fallen out with.
Gopal Agarwal, the elderly owner of Deshbandhu Talkies, the oldest cinema in Jharia, pointed out that traffic snarls were routine on Main Road. “Garbage is all over the avenue. Motorists find it difficult to negotiate the stretch in front of my cinema. They keep honking and it is chaos,” the 65-year-old man said.
Sunil Dubey, who owns a hardware shop near the taxi stand, said his store was once 50ft away from the garbage vat. “Now, the distance between us and the stench has been reduced to 20ft because garbage carpets at least 30ft of road,” he claimed.
Doctors warned of an outbreak if the situation was not addressed soon. Naresh Prasad of Prasad Nursing Home, Jharia, said sewage water entering residential premises after showers could trigger health issues in every home.
Sanitary inspector (Mada) S.K. Srivastava expressed helplessness. “We have no resources. The DMC had promised us two tractors every day ever since A2Z pulled out in January, but we are getting only one every month,” he claimed.
A DMC official insisted that the civic body had only one tractor and one earthmover, which are pressed into service in other wards and hence, could not be sent to Jharia every day.
ADM (law and order) B.P.L. Das, who is also the acting CEO of DMC, sounded belligerent. “Why should we provide facilities to Mada when it is collecting taxes from Jharia and has 120 sanitation workers?”
As the civic outfits lock horns and councillors promise stir, residents can only hope for a miracle to deliver them from this predicament.