|Proposed MSW dumping site raises ecological concerns|
GUWAHATI, Aug 24 - The selection of a forested hilly tract near Jorabat under Sonapur revenue circle for dumping of the city’s municipal solid waste by the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) and the district administration has exposed the myopic vision of the authorities entrusted with the task of maintaining the city’s health and hygiene.
The site where the GMC’s solid waste dumping ground is proposed to be set up.
The move has understandably triggered strong protest by the local residents and mass organisations who fear that the converting the large area into a dumping ground will cause serious pollution and environmental degradation besides making the living conditions miserable for the residents.
The issue has also evoked concern and condemnation on social media.
Dotted with trees and shrubs, the sylvan area is crisscrossed by the Dighalnadi rivulet and the Langpi waterfall and stream, running right through the proposed garbage dumping site. The Dighalnadi joins the Digaru river after some distance and ultimately drains into the Brahmaputra. A wetland is also in its immediate vicinity and shockingly, it is the wetland where the authorities are planning to dump the garbage. One of the streams is also connected to the wetland.
Solid Waste Management (SWM) Rules-2016 126.96.36.199.(5) stipulate that processing or recycling site shall be away from habitation clusters, forest areas, waterbodies, monuments, national parks, wetlands and places of important cultural, historical or religious interest.
“This is absolutely shocking and exposes the utter lack of sensitivity of the GMC and the administration. How can they even think of destroying a pristine area by converting it to a dump? It does not need rocket science to understand that the dumping of garbage would cause irreversible damage to the environment and make living conditions miserable for the residents,” Nobinson Kro, a resident of the area and social activist told The Assam Tribune.
Kro added that many people in the locality are dependent on the water of the rivulet for their daily requirement, including drinking purposes. “Surface water apart, the dumping ground will contaminate and pollute the water table of a large area,” he said.
Pradip Bey, gaon burah (village headman) of Tamulkuchi said that the government authorities were assuaging the fears of the residents by saying that there would be a waste treatment plant. “But treatment would also entail dumping and accumulation of huge quantities of garbage at the site. And the effluents after treatment as also spillover from the dumps would naturally enter the waterbodies. Does the government want us to live amid filth and stink?” he said.
The All India Tribal Students’ Association, Assam (AITSAA) has also decried the move, reasoning that it would pose a grave health hazard to the local people besides destroying the natural environment.
“We are not going to allow the shifting of the dumping site to this virgin area of Sonapur that has rivers, a wetland and forests besides residential areas and important installations like Kamarkuchi Gaon Panchayat, Tamulkuchi Primary School, Byrnihat Karbi area, Guwahati Goat Research Centre under Assam Agricultural University, Meghalaya Horticultural Centre, etc. This will lead to severe pollution and is tantamount to violation of human rights of the locals,” AITSAA adviser Arindom Prince Panging said.
SWM Rules-2016 (188.8.131.52.) also states that flue gas recirculation from waste treatment plants “causes mono-nitrogen oxide, reduces oxygen concentration, reduces nitrogen, produces fly ash, organic materials, degrading the air, water, and land surrounding the plant. Therefore, the plant cannot be constructed in wetland, agricultural land, forest reservoir, wetland, river, pond, and water source”.
The proposed site at Sonapur has all these natural conditions.
The rules further note that MSW incineration causes a range of volatile and gaseous emissions which are released to the atmosphere, and which can compromise the environment.
“Dust carries toxic contaminants and ash leachate which might contaminate soil and water. Therefore, the plant should be constructed away from park, agricultural land, and human residential area,” SWM rules says.
The GMC has been searching for a dumping site since it was ordered by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on April 29, 2019 to shift the existing dumping site located close to Deepor Beel – a Ramsar Site wetland – within a period of two months.