SP MLA makes demand after mid-day report on govt delisting proposal for nod to relocate plant
Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Azmi stages a protest outside the municipal commissioner’s office on Wednesday
A day after mid-day reported about the delisting of a proposal for a green clearance to relocate the medical waste treatment plant SMS Envoclean from Govandi to Khalapur in Raigad district, Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Azmi has taken up the issue. Acknowledging the travails of Govandi, Deonar and Makhurd residents, Azmi and his party workers staged a protest outside the office of municipal commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal on Wednesday.
The SP legislator from the Mankhurd Shivaji Nagar Assembly constituency had sought a meeting with the civic chief. However, as the latter was absent, the meeting had to be postponed. Azmi said, “The issue of the Govandi, Mankhurd and Shivaji Nagar, where SMS Envoclean Pvt Ltd has affected the health and well-being of a huge segment of Mumbai’s population is to be duly registered.” Azmi has also written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Union Environment Ministry, Assembly Speaker Rahul Narvekar, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB).
The letter reads, “I, as a public representative from the Mankhurd Shivaji Nagar Assembly constituency, have often voiced the concerns of citizens about the deteriorating health situation in Govandi... The first and only dumping ground was introduced by the BMC in 1927 in Deonar and Govandi. Almost 13 years back, a biomedical waste treatment plant was set up in the vicinity, offering no respite to already ailing residents. SMS Envoclean Pvt Ltd and BMC operate the biomedical plant and MPCB awarded the contract in 2009. A study suggests that the entire area has multiple environmental hazards. The incinerator could have been chosen based on the logic that this place already has a dumping ground. As per civic data, between January and May 2022, 2,058 TB cases were reported from M-East ward. In 2021 alone, 5,080 TB cases were reported, which is roughly 10 per cent of the total cases reported across Mumbai in 2015. A BMC survey also marked the neighbourhood around the landfill as the most polluted area in the city.”
Azmi concluded, “Like Mumbai geared up for hosting the G20 meet, let's hope that Mumbai's own citizens are not left to suffocate and die. Let’s hope that Mankhurd Shivaji Nagar and Govandi also invite urgent attention from authorities and policymakers.” For years, those living in Govandi, Deonar and Mankhurd have said that the plant has been spewing toxic smoke. Locals and activists sought an environmental clearance (EC) as the last resort to get the plant shifted away from their backyard.
Former Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray had ordered the relocation of SMS Envoclean to Khalapur by May 2022. However, the relocation had been delayed until June 2023 owing to the pending EC, which was rejected by the state environment department this week. Faiyaz Alam Shaikh, a resident of Shivaji Nagar and founder-president of NGO New Sangam Welfare Society, said, "Such meetings have happened many times before. What we are looking for now is results, as we have suffered for years. We have been very patient. Our matter is being heard in court. We will wait for the MPCB and state government's reply to the court during the next hearing."
The Bombay high court will hear the residents’ PIL on January 16, 2023. The MPCB in September 2020 directed Envoclean to divert 50 per cent of its COVID waste to a facility in Taloja. In 2021, it started diverting half the load to Taloja amid repeated demands from the locals. Azmi told mid-day, “We have been fighting for this issue for the past 10 years. We even called for a meeting with the former environment minister when he promised us that the plant would be shifted to Khalapur. Whatever is happening now is not tolerable. We suggest that while the administration deals with the shifting process and environmental clearance, 100 per cent of the biomedical waste should be diverted to Taloja instead of 50 per cent.”