A drive down the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass is fun, and more so in winter. Fresh vegetables — cauliflowers, radishes and a variety of leafy greens — available cheap, at an arm’s length. But that is set to change. The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has decided to turn Dhapa’s farmlands into a huge garbage dumping ground.
Mayor Subrata Mukherjee announced on Tuesday that the land in use by the 200-odd farmers will be taken back from them, as the existing dumping sites are almost brimful. Mukherjee was at a function to flag off a bulldozer and two tipper vehicles.
“There are four sectors in Dhapa for dumping garbage. We need to add a fifth, as these sites are full,” the mayor said.
“Garbage can be dumped up to a height of 20 ft. Beyond that, the gradient becomes too steep for bulldozers and conservancy trucks to scale. Bulldozers are used to level the mounds to make way for the trucks,” said Rajib Deb, mayor-in-council member (conservancy). “The sites in use will soon reach the maximum height,” he added.
The decision will hit the farmers hard. Each of them was given a licence by the CMC to use the land for farming. Some of them have appealed to the mayor and his mayoral council member for a job in the conservancy department in lieu of the land.
Mukherjee said the city generates 2,500 tonnes of garbage a day and it is the CMC’s job to remove the trash away from the city. “Every day, more than 550 truckloads of garbage are dumped at Dhapa. An alternative arrangement has to be made, and we have no option but to take the land back from the farmers. However, it will take some time to prepare the site, as the proposal demands an investment of Rs 2 crore to construct the approach road and fill up the marshy lands leading to it,” he said.
According to Arun Sarkar, chief engineer (conservancy), the idea of using Dhapa for agricultural produce had been conceived for natural recycling of garbage and sewer water. “The ‘Dhapa Square Mile’ was taken on lease in the 19th Century and the solid waste was used for vegetable farming and the sewer water for pisciculture,” Sarkar said. More than 40 per cent of the green vegetables in the city markets come from these lands.