Govandi, Deonar, Mankhurd residents step up fight to push a hospital waste treatment plant out of vicinity
Smoke rises from a chimney at SMS Envoclean plant at Govandi. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Stepping up their fight against Mumbai’s lone biomedical waste plant, residents of Govandi, Deonar and Mankhurd have now decided to boycott the BMC elections. The locals, who had earlier moved the National Green Tribunal accusing SMS Envoclean of polluting their neighbourhoods, said politicians and elected public representatives have abandoned them and it’s time to desert those contesting in the upcoming civic elections. The residents have released “Boycott BMC election 2022” posters on social media and plan to distribute physical copies in their areas.
Stressing that they were tired of assurances about shifting Envoclean’s plant to Khalapur, citizens from Govandi and Deonar have moved the national green court against the state government on May 28. In their petition, they alleged that tuberculosis (TB), asthma and other health complications among thousands of residents have been aggravated because of the smoke being spewed by the plant that burns down city hospitals’ waste.
In October and November 2020, the Maharashtra environment department had directed that the facility be relocated 70 km outside of Mumbai to Khalapur by February 2022. While the deadline was later extended to May 20 of this year, locals said, nothing has been done to move the plant out of Govandi.
“Plans are made, directions are given by higher authorities. However, on the ground, nothing is moving. We are suffering every day, the facility continues to treat biomedical waste and throw out black smoke carrying soot. Will anyone else allow such a facility in their backyard, then why us? There is already the Deonar dumping ground, the biomedical treatment plant adds to our miseries. The residents of Govandi, Mankhurd and Deonar have now decided that we will not cast our votes until our problems are resolved permanently. We will also fight it out legally,” said Shaikh Fayyaz, a Govandi resident and founder of the group ‘Govandi citizens’.
Another local, Rafiq Shaikh, said: “We vote for them, but the elected representatives hardly do anything for us when we need them. They were elected to represent us, what are they doing now when we want them to represent us before the state government. They only come out and meet us when they need votes, once we cast the vote they are nowhere to be seen. We have decided to teach them a lesson by boycotting elections.”
Last year as a preventive step, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board had directed SMS Envoclean to divert half of its COVID-related waste to another unit in Taloja—Mumbai Waste Management Ltd. A BMC official said, “The amount of biomedical waste generated in the city has reduced compared to 2020 and even 2021. However, since this is the only biomedical waste treatment plant we cannot divert all biomedical waste generated within the city elsewhere. The plant will be shifted soon, and the process is on.”