A fire erupted from the garbage mounds in the municipal landfill site of Pirana on Monday morning, barely 24 hours after it was controlled in the intervening night of Saturday and Sunday. Panic gripped nearby areas, including Citizen Nagar – the colony of survivors of 2002 massacres at Naroda and Gulbarg – as over a thousand residents ran out of their houses due to suffocation and breathing trouble from methane gas, seeping out of the waste.
The fire first started around 10.30pm on Saturday and controlled by three fire tenders and five tankers by 2.30 am on Sunday. On Monday, it again broke out around 11.30 am and it took four fire tenders to control the blaze by 2.30 pm. Additional chief fire officer Rajesh Bhatt said the site was not fit for human settlement but people had occupied it illegally.
Local councillor Badruddin Shaikh, who rushed to the spot on Monday morning, however, said, apart from the illegal occupants, those living in nearby private colonies were also affected.
On Monday, the victims demonstrated on Khodiyarnagar-Piplaj Road, causing traffic jam. They shouted slogans demanding closure of the four-decade-old landfill site. Shaikh said it often caught fire and smoke, emanating pungent smell, reaching even Narol-Vishala Bypass. “If the civic body does not stop dumping city garbage at the site in 15 days, the residents will start an agitation. We will also form a human chain of 10,000 persons on the spot after 10 days to draw the attention of the reluctant authorities,” he said.
When contacted, director of solid waste Harshadrai Solanki said, “Such fire and emissions have been occurring in the area for years. This summer, when the mercury touched 42 degree Celsius, methane burned up. The situation can be worse when the temperature goes up later this summer. We can do little about solving a problem of this magnitude, but sprinkle water whenever fire breaks out.”
Standing committee chairman Pravin Patel said, “There is no immediate solution to this.” Nadeem Saiyed (53), a riot survivor who had come here in 2003 from Naroda Patiya, says, “My lungs have been affected badly due to inhaling poisonous gas over the years. There are many like me who have got serious ailments with no medical facility,” he said.
Saiyed complains of burning sensation in eyes, which turn red often. “I have been afflicted by acidity and diabetes to make matters worse,” said Saiyed who had to give up his carpenter job and become a casual worker due to health issues. Despite lack of facilities, we pay tax,” he said.