Villagers allege that air, water and soil have been contaminated by effluents of factories set up there after land was taken from farmers in the name of development; the dumping ground will only complicate matters, they say
The villagers of Taloja feel cheated. Authorities allegedly took farmers’ land here in the name of development decades ago and not only set up industries, but also used it as a dumping ground. Villagers allege their produce has been affected, and the water and the air have been contaminated, due to pollution from a biomedical waste processing plant, and the factories set up here instead. Now, more of the land will get heaps of garbage coming from all over Mumbai, as a new dumping ground will be created here. They are determined to stop this from happening.
The damaged brinjal crop in a village. Villagers allege that the produce is affected due to the soil contamination. Pics/Swarali Purohit
The creation of the new dumping ground at Taloja had been in the offing for a few years. Originally owned by the state government, the 52-hectare land was handed to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in January for creating a new dumping ground. But when mid-day visited the site last week, there was no board declaring BMC’s ownership there.
Sunil Patil, Dhanaji Maharaj Patil (centre) and Gopinath Patil say their villages are already suffering from pollution and the dumping ground will add to it
A fire broke out in the Deonar dumping ground about a month back and altered the city’s solid waste management scenario. The villagers in Taloja fear that they will have the same problems if a dumping ground comes up here.
Villagers who can afford it, drink mineral water and containers of it can be seen in some houses like this one
The cluster of villages located at Taloja include Ghot, Ghotwada, Turma, Karavle, Bhoirwada and Taloja, with a population of around 50,000. There is only one primary school here and no healthcare centre nearby. Villagers mostly practice small-scale farming of rice and vegetables.
Contamination has led to many issues in the villages. There are several wells in Karavle village. But many villagers drink mineral water. They say this is because of the contamination of groundwater due to the effluents allegedly let into the soil by the factories.
“Last year, I had planted vegetables worth Rs 50,000 expecting returns upto Rs 2 lakh. All I got was R40,000 worth. How are we to live?” asked Ranjana Bhoir, a resident of neighbouring Bhoirwada.
The word ‘company’ makes every villager frown. The villagers refer to the processing plant and other factories set up here by the word.
“A lot of biomedical waste from across Mumbai is brought here and burnt at night. We cannot keep our doors and windows open after nightfall, not only because of mosquitoes but also because of the stench,” complained Gajanan Patil, a farmer. His family buys cans of mineral water for drinking.
His wife Nandabai claimed that new mothers don’t start lactating soon here due to hormonal problems. She also said girls hit puberty soon.
“Most of the groundwater is not potable any more. Our land does not yield what it used to. Even the vegetables don’t taste the same. Babies are born weak. Small children suffer from irritation in the eyes, respiratory problems, diarrhoea. All this happened after the company came,” alleged Naresh Patil, another resident.
Planning a protest
The ex-Sarpanch of their group panchayat, Gopinath Patil, said, “Our farmers gave them land and they poisoned our water and soil. Our lives are wasted now. But we will not let this happen to the next generation.” Patil, along with several others, has formed the Sadguru Wamanbaba Maharaj Pradushan Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti (anti-pollution committee). They protested when district authorities visited the villages last year.
“In Ghot, 4-5 persons have suffered unnatural deaths since the company came. It is the children who generally suffer the most. Every person in Ghot is on medication for some ailment or the other,” said Dhanaji Maharaj Patil, convenor of the committee.
The committee is also miffed since it has not received any official communication from any authority yet. It claims to have written several letters to the district administration, CIDCO and Zilla Parishad in the matter, and is planning a protest soon.
When asked about the health concerns of the villagers, Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta, hinting at scientific processing of waste, said, “We have made it amply clear that there will be no more just dumping at the new grounds. In that case, fire will no longer be a threat as it is to Deonar. In fact, once processing of waste starts, it will create jobs for villagers. We will definitely take the local population into consideration.”
“The land for the dumping ground has been handed over to us but it has encroachment. The collector’s office will first have to clear that. We have invited bids for a compound wall there and a board will be put up,” said deputy municipal commissioner of BMC Vijay Balamwar.
Thane Collector Ashwini Joshi said, “There is encroachment by about 48 families on the land. If they are eligible, they will be rehabilitated.” As for the biomedical waste, she said that the plant is at a distance and is monitored by Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB).
Manisha Mhaiskar, principal secretary (urban development) said, “The chief minister has made it very clear that henceforth, there will only be scientific processing of waste. The BMC has been given the land subject to the condition that only scientific processing will be undertaken. Therefore, the villagers have no reason to worry about.” When asked whether this will be conveyed to the villagers who are threatening a protest, she said that the BMC will have to do it.
Up in smoke
Villagers from Karavle claim that solid waste from cities is dumped there on barren plots but authorities refuted these claims. NMMC Commissioner DT Waghmare said that the city’s waste is not dumped here.
Solid waste is dumped and then burnt, as seen here
But he implied other municipal corporations could be doing it as he said it is a ‘common dump for MMR region.’ An official from CIDCO however said that it is not a dumping site for it either. Thane Collector Ashwini Joshi said she was not aware of the solid waste being dumped there.