Flood of ‘environment’ complaints leave BMC in a bind

Civic body has no powers to prosecute or impose penalty on people found violating environmental norms

Written by Anjali Lukose | Mumbai | Published:June 25, 2014 1:40 am

At Vile Parle, a neighbour’s dog got the adjective “ferocious” and his hens “wild”, as they found themselves subject of a complaint to the office of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) environment department. Pigeons and a pet fish tank weren’t spared either. In another complaint-it was the hot air vented by an air-conditioner’s external duct that was brought to the notice of the environment department by a pedestrian in Girgaum. Early this year, another “serious problem” was the noise from an ice-crusher stacked in the parking garage of a residential building by a hotel functioning in the basement.

All this and more-form the 187 “environment” complaints between January 2013 and May 2014 received by the Worli-based office of the BMC’s environment department.  The department also had 19 “air pollution related” complaints against dust raised by Ready-mix concrete (RMC) equipment used at construction sites in the city.

Many citizens  also found it appropriate to club their complaints against “illegal hotels”, those allegedly functioning without a licence, as an environment complaint. Violation of health-safety norms and air pollution by 27 hotels around the city (mostly against hotels in Kurla and South Mumbai) by use of improper chimneys also have found their way to the office.

A majority of the complaints are repetitions of previous complaints on the same issue such as Indian Education Society’s complaint about the “smoke pollution due to cooking at the school canteen”, individuals complaining against food stalls in their area cooking on the road. “These complaints do not represent the actual environmental issues that plague the city. We have found that many complaints are due to personal vendetta and some are easily resolvable,” Khanolkar added.

Of the other complaints concerning environmental issues such as water, air and noise pollution include that of untreated sewage being released in Powai lake, dumping at Lokhandwala creek, bad smell and smoke pollution as a result of burning at the Worli crematorium, and noise and hot air from chimneys of hotels operating in the complainant’s building.

The BMC’s environment department, having no powers to prosecute or impose penalty on people found violating environmental norms, pass on these complaints to the respective departments of the civic body and Maharashtra Pollution Control Body (MPCB), equipped to act on these complaints.

“We visit the site mentioned in the complaint and check the veracity of it. We inspect the site and include our remarks in the letter of complaint while forwarding it to the concerned department,” said M V Khanolkar, executive engineer, environment department. “There is no provision in the byelaws of the BMC that allows us to take action or monitor the pollution in cases that do not come even under the purview of the MPCB or penalise any violator.”The department also gets complaints from other wings of the government.

The fire brigade department complains of health hazards and changes made to the internal structure posing a risk at the hotels inspected by them.

anjali.lukose@expressindia.com

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