Referring to the fire which broke out in the Deonar dumping ground, the Bombay High Court warned that “What has happened in Deonar could also happen in Mulund dumping site”. The court asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to list preventive measures taken to ensure such an incident did not recur. The civic body told the court that it was consulting the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to curtail the fire and also investigating whether the fire was a result of any “sabotage” or an accident.
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One of the interveners, Raj Kumar Sharma, a resident of Chembur, suggested that a committee should be appointed to oversee security measures at Deonar to prevent such incidents in the future.
“Actively consider setting up a monitoring committee,” echoed Justice A S Oka.
The HC was hearing a matter pertaining to solid waste management sites in the city. The lawyer appearing for an intervener in this matter said the fire which had inconvenienced the residents of nearby areas could have been avoided if the BMC had taken into consideration the recommendations made by Sharma after a similar fire in Deonar in February 2015.
“We had demanded securing the boundary walls around Deonar, setting up watchtowers and ensuring that CCTV cameras were in working condition,” said the lawyer, adding that the corporation was playing with the life of residents as it wasn’t acting on the reasonable solutions provided by them.
The lawyer said that as per the agreement, 50 per cent of the dumping site should have shut down three years ago. “We are not being unreasonable, but there must be some concern for the life of citizens,” he added.
S U Kamdar, appearing for the BMC, said that they had to reconstruct the boundary wall around Deonar every time slumdwellers near the site broke it. He said that BMC would continue using the site for another one-and-a-half years.
“Right now, the dumping ground is not in use, and it will be partially shut down in the future. Also, the CCTV cameras are operational. We have been changing the cameras which are not in a working condition,” said Kamdar.
The civic body said they were facing serious issues in developing scientific dumping grounds in the city. “Every resident wants to generate waste, but does not want a dumping ground near them. The dumping site at Kanjurmarg, where waste is processed is still under several litigations after so many years,” said Kamdar, adding that homeowners should be made to segregate waste at source.
The HC has now asked the BMC to file an affidavit in this matter which has been kept for hearing on Wednesday.
With BMC seeking continued extensions for operation of Deonar and Mulund dumping sites, the HC questioned how many extensions could be granted. “How many extensions can we grant? These sites will have to be shut down,” said Justice A S Oka.
The Advocate General Shreehari Aney, however, said that closing down these sites wouldn’t solve the problem. “We keep granting extensions as no authority is taking this issue seriously,”said the court, adding that some method to tackle the situation would have to be evolved.
Pointing to the two-third of the solid waste in the city being dumped illegally, the HC asked the state government to clarify if the state could tolerate this in Mumbai. “With dumping of waste happening contrary to Municipal Solid Waste and (Management and Handling) rules, there has to be some solution ,” said the HC, adding that an impact assessment study needed to be done to stop this.
The AG said that they had handed over land to BMC in Airoli and Taloja for setting up of solid waste management facilities by them. “It will take at least two years to create such facilities. By then, the amount of waste generated will go up from 9,500 MT-10,000 MT per day to 13,000 MT. One way to prevent this is to put a cap on indiscriminate growth,” pointed the court.
The AG said that they couldn’t stop people from coming to Mumbai and solid waste would be created even if there was no construction. “Stopping construction in the city is not the solution to the problem,” he added.
According to the AG, this problem could be resolved to a certain extent if waste was segregated at source before being transported. “Only Pune has been able to do this. They have involved ragpickers for segregating garbage into west and dry garbage. Out of this, the dry garbage is re-used by them. In several instances, Deonar walls have been broken by ragpickers. If the BMC involves them in the entire process, they can help. Meanwhile, the wet garbage can be processed,” he said.
The HC said that there needed to be an immediate solution. S U Kamdar, appearing for the BMC said that a sewage treatment plant could be set up in building complexes. He added that while land in Taloja had been given to them, they still required land within Mumbai. “The state is equally concerned with the problem. This situation is peculiar to Mumbai. Will definitely come out with a solution. But it is ultimately for the local authority to so something,” said Aney.
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