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Stink bomb ticks on tech city

Bangalore, June 4: The Garden City is bracing for a fresh garbage crisis with its biggest Mandur landfill in the grip of protests by local residents who want the facility shut down.

The city that generates about 4,500 tonnes of garbage daily is already stinking in some areas, especially the markets where mounds of refuse have been piling up since Sunday.

There was a similar crisis in 2012 when garbage piles dotted almost all streets in the tech city after cleaners struck work and protesters blocked the landfill at Mavallipura.

Russell Market, K.R. Market, Malleshwaram Market and City Market are among the spots where piles of putrefying garbage can be seen this time. When the monsoon sets in, the stench is bound to get worse.

Trouble started last week when the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board recommended closure of the Mandur landfill, some 35km from the city, after it was established that water bodies were being contaminated by leachate seeping out of the dump.

Mandur had been the best available option when the Mavallipura landfill turned the centre of a massive agitation by villagers in 2012.

Although Mandur residents had protested against dumping the city’s trash in their neighbourhood, they relented when government and civic body officials promised to use the place only for nine months. But it has continued for some two years now.

Rame Gowda, a small farmer, said their relatively clean village was now a garbage dump. “My children are so underweight, they fall sick very often,” he said.

Frequent summer showers have turned the place into a pool of filthy leachate that seeps out of garbage mounds and flows into water bodies. “Most of our wells are contaminated. Even the vegetables we grow taste bad since we use the same filthy water,” Gowda said.

State transport minister Ramalinga Reddy, who is also the district minister, said today the government had decided to use the Mandur landfill for six to eight months.

“We have spoken to the protesters about the need to use Mandur for some more months,” he said. “By then we hope that private players licensed to start waste-processing units would be up and running.”

But the locals are adamant. “You want to keep your city (Bangalore) clean. We also want our village to be clean,” said Yashodamma who lost her husband recently and works as a farm hand to feed her two children.

“Bangalore people must live here for a few days to know our suffering,” she said.

The issue is a blow to chief minister P.C. Siddaramiah who had promised to solve all garbage-related issues within six months of taking office in May last year. He has held a meeting with the officials concerned but a solution has yet to emerge.

Raghavendra Khadekar, an environmental engineer with a civic body, said it was difficult for big cities to manage non-segregated waste.

“In developed countries, waste is segregated in the home itself. There are separate bins for food waste, bio wastes like sanitary napkins and paper, for plastics, metal and even stuff like batteries and bulbs. In such a system, it’s easy for to process the waste,” he said.

But there is no such primary segregation in India. “The problem here is there are no machines available to segregate waste that comes in different densities and dimension. Only manual segregation will work here,” he said.

Thiruvananthapuram, too, has been witnessing a garbage crisis over the last three years after the sole dumping yard in Vilappilsaala on the city’s outskirts was closed following protests.

A waste-processing unit, which began operations in 2000, had to be abandoned after protests snowballed over non-installation of leachate treatment plants. The protests peaked in 2011 with local people laying siege to the plant.

Since then, the corporation has been unable to find an alternative site for dumping and processing the city’s waste. Heaps of garbage lying on open roads are a common sight in the once-clean Kerala capital.