Darjeeling, Aug. 4: The age-old practice of dumping garbage over a hillside in Darjeeling, a fatal method that ended the life of 10-year old in 2007, is coming to an end 165 years after the Darjeeling municipality was set up.
The state government has approved a Rs 14 crore solid waste management project which will be launched after the monsoon.
Amar Singh Rai, the chairman of Darjeeling municipality, said: "The state government has decided to fully fund the Rs 14 crore project. As of now, the municipality is dumping garbage down a hill slope. Once the new project is put in place, waste will be segregated before treating it to form bio gas."
At the moment, garbage is collected from vats placed in different parts of town and then thrown down a dumping chute, situated between Sister Nivedita Gram and Mangalpuri in Darjeeling. The waste usually slides downhill into a stream. Some of the trash is also burnt in the open by the municipality.
On February 25, 2007, 10-year-old Sushmita, along with Sashi Tamang, was below the dumping chute when a huge morass of debris slithered downhill. The girl was buried alive. Tamang, 50, was rescued from below the heap of the refuse.
Following the incident, then Bengal governor, Gopal Krishna Gandhi, decided to visit the chute. During his visit, Gandhi had said: "The garbage is thrown down the hill .....to nowhere!"
Turning towards then vice-chairman of the civic body, B.L. Limboo, and then Darjeeling district magistrate, Rajesh Pandey, Gandhi asked: "Tell me is this scientific?" before adding: "This is unhygienic and anti-ecology. This is an archaic method."
Darjeeling municipality was set up in 1850 and the present garbage disposal system exists since then.
Rai said the new trash disposal project would be spread over an area of 23.7 acres, at the same place where the trash is thrown now.
"The segregated waste will be taken to a bio-gas plant through a ropeway," said Rai.
Sailendra Chhetri, the municipal councillor in-charge of conservancy, said: "During off season, Darjeeling generates about 35 metric tonnes of waste a day. During tourism season, the figure doubles."
The new project was to be announced by chief minister Mamata Banerjee during her visit to Darjeeling on August 6. However, her trip has been postponed and she is likely to visit Darjeeling on August 25.
As part of its plan to improve solid waste management, the municipality has started clearing the drains across town from July 12.