Citizens raise a stink about Mumbai's waste problem

The city’s three dump yards are already working over capacity — an issue that has been exacerbated by the temporary closure of the Deonar yard, which citizens now want to be shut permanently

The fire at the Deonar dumping ground has once again brought into the focus the city’s perennial problem – Mumbai makes far too much waste but has too little space to dispose of it. With the Deonar yard now being shut after the blaze, the burden of managing the city’s daily 10,500 metric tonnes of solid waste has now fallen on the remaining yards, which are already over-burdened.

Citizens form a human chain along the Ghatkopar-Mankhurd Link Road to protest rampant dumping at the Deonar yard. Pic/Sameer Markande
Citizens form a human chain along the Ghatkopar-Mankhurd Link Road to protest rampant dumping at the Deonar yard. Pic/Sameer Markande

The Deonar dumping ground itself was to be shut down last year as its capacity had already been exceeded. The Bombay High Court had instructed the BMC to close both the Deonar and the Mulund yards, but the civic body said this would make the garbage problem insurmountable, as the Kanjurmarg yard is only partially open — the BMC is yet to acquire 80 hectares of the land there, which requires permission from the Environment Ministry. It’s the same story at the Taloja plot as well. The corporation asked for more time and said it would undertake scientific disposal of waste at Mulund and Deonar, and eventually shut the dumping grounds. However, there has been little action on this front and the contracts for scientific waste processing are yet to be re-invited.

Mumbai generates about 10,500 MT of solid waste every day and this trash is divided and sent to the city’s three dump yards — Deonar, Mulund and the partially operating Kanjur Marg yard. Around 3,000 MT is sent to Deonar, 3,000 MT to Kanjurmarg and the rest to Mulund. The share that used to go to Deonar is now being sent to the remaining two, putting additional strain on the civic infrastructure. However, the BMC maintains that this is only a temporary provision until firefighting comes to a close at Deonar.

“It is a temporary measure. We had to undertake it to make sure the fire brigade was not obstructed in any way. But once the fire engines are withdrawn, operations will resume,” said deputy municipal commissioner Prakash Patil, in charge of the dumping grounds.

However, Chembur resident and social activist from Action for Good governance and Networking in India (AGNI), Rajkumar Sharma, said, “It is good that they are not dumping at Deonar anymore, but I’m afraid that sending the trash elsewhere might lead to a similar problem there. I won’t be surprised if a fire erupts at Mulund this time. Every civic official should be placed at Deonar so they can also experience what we go through.”

Action against contractors
The Deonar dump yard was being maintained by a private company, but its contract was terminated by the BMC because it had failed to implement scientific waste processing. The fire took place on January 27, just three days before the company’s term came to an end on January 30. Yesterday, the BMC took over the yard and officials said the civic body would also take action against the contractor.

“The fire occurred while the contract was still with them. Therefore, as per the terms of our agreement with them, they will be penalised. We will make sure action is taken,” said Sajid Ansari, deputy chief engineer (Solid Waste Management), adding that the number of security guards have also been increased at the spot from 36 to 103.

Citizens protest
Citizens took to the streets on Monday, demanding the permanent closure of the dumping ground. Schoolchildren held placards and formed a human chain along the Ghatkopar-Mankhurd Link Road. Residents of Chembur, Ghatkopar and Deonar also came together for a public meeting last evening, making the same demand.

One of the organisers, Vandana Trivedi said, “The ground should be shut completely. We are considering filing an PIL and launching an online campaign to garner support.” Jyoti Agarwal, another organiser, said, “If Pune can implement scientific processing of waste, why can’t we? It’s time we were allowed to breathe.”

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