Burning garbage dump leaves 3,000 in Uran vulnerable to infection

Updated: 27 March, 2020 08:03 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

Senior citizens and children in Bori Pakhadi are suffering from respiratory tract issues due to a fire in a nearby dumping ground

The dumping ground at Bori Pakhadi
The dumping ground at Bori Pakhadi

Three-thousand residents in Uran's Bori Pakhadi, many of them with respiratory issues, are being forced to inhale toxic fumes from a nearby dumping ground that has been on fire since March 18.

The population includes seven buildings full of state and central government employees. Senior citizens and children are the worst affected, with upper and lower respiratory tract problems leading to breathing trouble and asthma, which could make them vulnerable to Coronavirus infection.

"We have been facing issues due to the fire at the dumping ground and fumes that have invaded the residential area just a few metres away," said Samir Ashrit, a resident and local activist. "Solid and biomedical waste is dumped here. Sewage also gets discharged, making the nearly one-hectare area highly contaminated. We inhale poisonous fumes daily, and cannot even organise a protest due to restrictions for Coronavirus."

Another resident Pritam Thakur, whose wife Priti, 36, was recently discharged from hospital, said the situation is made worse by the Uran Municipal Council (UMC) spraying disinfectant on the waste.

The fire started on Wednesday night when a small truck loaded with snacks and sauce bottles arrived at the dumping ground. Alert residents caught three people on the truck and handed them over to the police, who registered an FIR. But, the garbage continues to burn. "With Section 144 in force, no one is venturing out, but everyone is suffering," said Ashrit.

Pritam Thakur with his family outside their residence in Bori PakhadiPritam Thakur with his family outside their residence in Bori Pakhadi

Residents and environmentalists have been fighting for long to have the dumping site shifted to a safer location and have complained to all authorities from the prime minister to the Mangrove Protection and Conservation Committee (MPCC).

The PMO had closed the case after the UMC promised to take proper care while disposing of garbage. NatConnect Foundation, an environment group, has been continuously alerting the Konkan divisional commissioner, Raigad collector and other officials, but nothing has changed. Konkan Commissioner Shivaji Daund refused to comment.

"Following our complaints, the high court-appointed MPCC had three months ago ordered CIDCO and the Raigad district collector to clear the garbage, save the mangroves and find an alternative site. Yet, nothing concrete has happened," said B N Kumar, director, BNG NatConnect Foundation.

"Now, we sent a fresh request to the MPCC to ensure that the dump is move away but they have not responded yet," said Kumar. Raigad Collector Nidhi Choudhary said, "I am aware of the difficulties the residents are facing It is also a matter of concern as ONGC gas pipelines pass close to the dumping area. We have already sorted out an alternative location. It awaits a few NOCs from other stakeholders."

The fire and smoke continued unabated till press time on Thursday. Locals said UMC officials visited the site on Wednesday, but there was no action. "On Thursday, workers were spotted using excavators to remove garbage that was dumped on the ONGC pipeline but the waste was straightaway dumped on the other side, which had biological waste like surgical mask, gloves, etc!" said Ashrit.

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First Published: 27 March, 2020 07:35 IST

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