How does a refrigerator maintain the cool temperature inside? It does so, by disposing off the hot air outside. Even an air conditioner works on the same principle of compressors. This may work fine with machines. But in reality, can human lives be compressed the same way? Can their emotions, their agony, their complaints be compressed? Well, some questions, no matter how disturbing, must be analysed – if not answered.
Bangalore homes 8.4 million people, and still manages to maintain it’s stature of being the garden city of India. Bangalore is also one of the few cities in India, which has an effective door-to-door garbage collection mechanism in place. And therefore, with its state-of-the-art keep the city clean policies, it manages to generate 4,000 tonnes of garbage every day.
As of early 2012, the city dumped its garbage in 310 acres of yards – 80 acres in Mavallipura near Yelahanka on the way to the airport; 130 acres in Mandur, off Old Airport Road; and 100 acres in Doddaballapura. The question is – is Bangalore thriving on the agony, pain and lives of the residents of these villages? The answer, no matter how disturbing it may sound, is yes.
These dumps were overfilled with plastic bags, batteries, shoes, tyres, discarded clothes and rotting food, which decay in the sun and float with the rains. With more than thrice the load of garbage being dumped everyday, than what these processing units could support, sights of feasting dogs, scavenging crows and kites dotting kilometers of long dirt trail that lead to the settlements in these villages were seen everywhere.
The residents of Mavallipura complained that the dump there was not properly established, which led to leaching of hazardous materials and the contamination of water sources that feed about 15 nearby villages. This resulted in several deaths, and spreading of infections and diseases due to the contamination of soil and water sources and the breeding of mosquitoes in the dump.
Mandur faced the same problem. Water there was not potable, vegetables were not edible, and in the evenings, the time the monstrous dump trucks entered the village, houses were not livable, air not breathable. The villagers fought the fight for long. They wrote numerous letters, filed multiple petitions, blocked dump trucks from entering their villages, and even staged numerous protests in the city of Bangalore. In one of their protests, a farmer warned that the fruits and vegetables from the villages around Bangalore feeds the city. “Annadhathanige kasadhaana beda (Don’t feed garbage to the one who gives you rice),” read one of the protest placards.
Numerous Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petitions were filed complaining about city’s garbage problem, and the matter was finally taken up by the courts, which after witnessing a long fight between the people and the BBMP, in November 2012, brought in the rule for separate dumping of dry and wet wastes. Dry was the category of garbage which could be recycled – like paper, plastic, bottles, card-boards, packets etc. Wet waste included food leftovers, soiled food wrappers, hygiene products, yard waste, tissues and paper towels, as well as any other soiled item that would contaminate the recyclables. Wet wastes were to be burnt or disposed.
The court directed the BBMP to transport only dry waste to the Mandur landfill. The wet waste was to go to a newly identified temporary landfill at Chikknagamangala village, Sarjapur hobli on the city’s outskirts. The BBMP was also asked to identify newer methods to solve the city’s garbage problem.
Soon afterwards, in January this year, the BBMP zeroed in 600 acres near Togarighatta village in Koratagere taluk of Tumkur district, about 90 km from Bangalore. A private builder proposed the establishment of a garbage processing unit in Togarighatta. Both the BBMP and the State Pollution Control Board gave their green signals to the proposal. The Tumkur Zilla Panchayat along with the villagers around the site opposed it, since the area is surrounded by many villages, where agriculture is the main occupation.
While all of this continues to happen, Domlur, a small area in Bangalore remains the success story of waste being managed locally, while also generating local entrepreneurship and employment opportunities. The model dry waste collection center of Domlur stores the dry waste generated by 1,030 households, ensuring that over 50% of the garbage does not get dumped in any landfill but goes directly to the recycling units. Residents of the area religiously follow segregation of waste at source and send dry waste to this center, which is then sent for recycling.
While this leaves serious questions on what administration and planners of the city are upto, more importantly, it leaves serious question on us, as aware citizens who prefer being Nero’s Guests watching each innocent being thrown down the flames for the party of development and civilization to go on. Can we at-least not be responsible for our own wastes? Why are we accountable only till the food is consumed and the packet is thrown off? Why can’t we carry bags when we go for buying our daily groceries, produce lesser wastes, reuse materials at our own houses? Are the principles of reuse, recycle and reduce only good on discussion forums and public debates? Think about it!
This article was originally published in the Sankalp site