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Upset Govandi, Deonar locals approach NGT over delay in shifting biomedical waste plant

Updated on: 30 May,2022 07:56 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Dipti Singh |

Upset Govandi and Deonar locals approach tribunal over delay in shifting biomedical waste plant, claim pollution aggravating TB cases

Upset Govandi, Deonar locals approach NGT over delay in shifting biomedical waste plant

Smoke emanates from the biomedical waste treatment plant. File pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

Fed up of the delay in shifting of the biomedical waste treatment plant (SMS Envoclean) to Khalapur, Govandi and Deonar residents have moved the National Green Tribunal (NGT) against the state government on Friday. The residents, in their petition to the NGT, have alleged that Tuberculosis (TB) has been aggravated among many of them because of the pollution due to the dumping ground and the biomedical waste treatment plant.

In their letter petition, Govandi Citizens, a group led by social activists and local residents, says that since the biomedical waste treatment plant (SMS Envoclean) was built in their neighbourhood, the incidence of tuberculosis has increased in many of them in the past five years. M (East) ward (Govandi, Deonar) is known as the tuberculosis (TB) hotspot of Mumbai.

“There have been several studies and surveys by the BMC health department and private institutions like the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). It is proven that lakhs of residents in Govandi and Deonar suffer from TB. The presence of the Deonar dumping ground and bio-medical treatment plant has only aggravated the condition of the citizens with TB,” said advocate Saif Alam, lawyer for the Govandi residents.

Smoke emanates from the biomedical waste treatment plant. File pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

He added that Deonar, Govandi, Shivaji Nagar, Baiganwadi, and Mankhurd, are surrounded by toxic air as a result of the Deonar dumping ground and the biomedical waste treatment plant is a major contributor to the problem.

Health problems

Since June 2020, residents of Govandi, Mankhurd, Deonar, and adjacent areas have submitted frequent complaints against SMS Envoclean Pvt. Ltd., stating that toxic air and black smoke are being discharged from the facility, creating health problems. The BMC has hired SMS Envoclean to handle the city's biomedical waste. The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) then urged the firm and contractor to enhance their scrubber equipment to control the emission of thick black smoke.

When the BMC and MPCB awarded the business a contract to handle Mumbai's biomedical waste in 2009, the goal was to establish three such facilities. However, because the authority was unable to secure locations for the other two plants, the Govandi plant was forced to shoulder the entire burden.

The Maharashtra environment department directed in October and November 2020 that the facility be relocated 70 kilometres outside Mumbai to Khalapur by February 2022. Locals say that while the deadline was later extended to May 2022, there is no evidence that the relocation is taking place. “Our lives seem to be of no value to the state government and BMC. They should have shifted the facility outside Mumbai as promised to us on priority. The deadline they gave us passed, and the extension given till May 2022 too has passed. We have waited for over 18 months now, we had already warned them that we will file a case in NGT,” said Shaikh Fayyaz, founder of the group Govandi citizens.

Shaikh said residents have put up videos on social media, of the thick black smoke emitting out of the chimney. He said CPCB’s official handle has asked for Action Taken Report (ATR) from MPCB several times following our complaints on social media, but no action is taken.

MPCB speak

“The shifting of the facility is in process. The environment clearance to set up the facility in Khalapur is awaited. Until they get the clearance the facility cannot be shifted there,” said a senior MPCB official.

“Documents like Mumbai Climate Action Plan (MCAP) show that the state government is thinking about mitigating climate and environmental issues. However, cases like Govandi and Mahul, where residents have to move NGT and take legal action for their right to clean air show that the government’s performance on ground is not enough,” said Sumaira Abdulali, member of Mumbai Clean Air Action Hub.

Dr Sanjeev Mehta, pulmonologist, Lilavati Hospital, Bandra said, “Long term exposure to air pollution can cause and aggravate asthama, other respiratory diseases and health complications. However there is no direct connection of air pollution to tuberculosis.”

When the Maharashtra environment department directed the plant be shifted

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