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Municipal workers burn dry leaves along Ballygunge road despite ban since 2016

On Monday morning, residents in the area woke up to a pungent smell

Anasuya Basu, Subhajoy Roy | Published 15.03.22, 08:06 AM
Dry leaves set on fire by municipal workers along Ballygunge Circular Road on Monday morning

Dry leaves set on fire by municipal workers along Ballygunge Circular Road on Monday morning

Telegraph Picture

Many residents of Ballygunge Circular Road woke up on Monday to a strong smell caused by burning of fallen leaves by waste collectors of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) along the thoroughfare.

The National Green Tribunal had in 2016 banned open burning of waste. The tribunal had said a fine of Rs 5,000 would be imposed for burning waste in the open and a fine of Rs 25,000 for bulk burning of waste in the open. The KMC’s Solid Waste Management Rules (published in 2020), too, has provisions for imposition of fines for burning waste in the open.

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Despite the tribunal’s order and the KMC rules, waste collectors of the civic body and others are often seen burning waste in the open. The practice is more rampant during winter and spring, when trees shed leaves. Debabrata Majumdar, mayoral council member in charge of the KMC’s solid waste management department, said he would probe reports of open burning of leaves.

“We have never received any complaint of open waste burning from this area. We have clearly told our waste collectors to not burn waste in the open. This is usually done by local people. I will try to find out what happened there,” he said.

In December, The Telegraph reported that a mound of dry leaves and other solid waste were put on fire on the Maidan.

Waste collectors are prone to burning a part of the waste to save on trips to compactor stations. Ashes produced by the burning fly around and pollute the air.

On Monday morning, Ballygunge Circular Road residents were surprised to smell something burning. As they looked out, the residents discovered that fallen leaves had been set on fire.

“It happens in winter, too, but the fumes usually do not enter our houses as the windows are shut. Since now we keep the windows open, the acrid fumes hit us,” said a resident of an apartment on Ballygunge Circular Road.

“I woke up choking the other night,” said Amit Das, a guard at a housing complex on Ballygunge Circular Road.

When asked why he didn’t stop those who were burning leaves, Das said: “They do not listen to us. It is extra work for them to pick the leaves up and throw them into a vat. Setting them on fire is far easier.”

A municipal worker who was found burning leaves said: “Itna patte kaise uthaye (How can I pick up so many leaves).” Sources said several burning piles were spotted on Ballygunge Circular Road and at Ballygunge Phanri on Sunday night.

Anumita Roy Chowdhury, an air quality management expert, said uncontrolled burning of open waste leads to uncontrolled emissions.  “There is a sudden and significant rise in local pollution. This can be stopped if the KMC creates enough composting infrastructure,” she said.

Last updated on 15.03.22, 08:30 AM
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