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Forget hygiene, villagers choke on litter stench & fumes

- Patna Municipal Corporation dumps garbage at landfill site without covering it with soil, risking people’s lives

Urban welfare compromising with rural hygiene — that seems to be the case with Patna Municipal Corporation dumping garbage at Ramchak-Bairia village on the outskirts in complete violation of environmental norms.

At stake are the health and hygiene of thousands of residents of the village — termed the backdoor junkyard of Patna — where tonnes of garbage dumped in the open emits inflammable methane gas, which catches fire under the scorching sun every summer owing to unscientific dumping. The villagers claim they are completely neglected even during elections. This time, too, none of the political parties visited them. The village falls under Patna Sahib Lok Sabha constituency, which polled on April 17.

“We live in inhuman conditions and have to bear smoke and stench for the past four years. When the elections started, we hoped that political leaders would come to us but were proved wrong. They went to nearby villages but not ours,” said Rakesh Kumar, a resident of Bairia-Kranpura.

The landfill site located around 5km from Zero Mile on Patna-Gaya road is spread across 85 acres in Bairiya and surrounded by six villages — Kanauji-Kachuwada, Manpur-Bairia, Illahibag, Chakvairia, Karnpura and Sitjaunchauk — with a total estimated population of around 20,000.

“We have been living in hellish condition. As the garbage keeps burning, people, especially children and the elderly, suffer from breathing trouble. Hardly anyone steps out of the house without covering the face with a handkerchief or cloth,” said Sushil Kumar, a resident of Chakvairia village.

“Huge flames and dense smoke emanate from heaps of garbage. Nobody knows how the garbage catches fire every year. The situation worsens when loos blow,” said Pushpa Kumari, the mukhiya of Bairia-Kranpura gram panchayat.

According to estimates by civic authorities, Patna generates more than 750 tonnes of garbage daily, which is dumped at the landfill site since December 2010.

Sounding a note of caution, environmental experts have iterated that dumping garbage at the landfill site is done in violation of norms.

Ashok Ghosh, a former member of the technical committee of State Environment Impact Assessment Authority and professor-in-charge, department of environment and water management, AN College, said: “The State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), while giving environmental clearance to the landfill site and solid waste processing facility project, had prohibited open dumping of garbage till the sanitary landfill site is ready. Orders were issued for the removal of heaps of garbage prior to the development of sanitary landfill facility. However, the PMC is not following any such practice at present, thereby violating the environmental clearance criteria.”

PMC commissioner Kuldip Narayan, on the other hand, said the work of covering openly garbage dumps is on. “We have handed over the project of construction of the solid waste processing complex at Ramchak-Bairia to Bihar Urban Infrastructure Development Corporation, they must be working on it. Meanwhile, we have also started putting a layer of soil on the garbage to prevent its burning. The entire area would be covered in two weeks,” said Narayan.

The norms laid down by the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, state that the municipal authority or the agency appointed by it, should put a layer of sand or soil after dumping garbage at the landfill site everyday till a solid waste processing facility is functional at the site. As of now, PMC is in the process of finalising the bidding process for construction of the solid waste complex.