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Thursday, September 23, 2021

Dadumajra landfill: Where Chandigarh chooses to dump the law

By polluting the soil and air, as found by a PEC study, the landfill violates the fundamental right of people living in the vicinity besides ignoring several other environment laws.

Written by Hina Rohtaki | Chandigarh |
Updated: July 31, 2021 5:08:40 pm
By allowing habitation so close to the Dadumajra landfill, and not treating the garbage, the UT Municipal Corporation is not only endangering lives but also violating several laws.

The world over, scientists agree that landfills emit toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, methane and ammonia, all of which are injurious to health.

Scientist S Das, a scientist with CSIO, Chandigarh, told The Indian Express, “The inhalation of methane, carbon monoxide is very harmful. In fact, landfills emit all these gases and various types of pathogens, besides air-borne bacteria.”

Underlining the need to use advanced technologies to process the waste, he added, “Methane gas is so flammable that it can cause fire in the landfill site leading to further problems. A high percentage of methane in the air can even damage the lungs.”

By allowing habitation so close to the Dadumajra landfill, and not treating the garbage, the UT Municipal Corporation is not only endangering lives but also violating several laws.

In the case of Subhash Kumar versus State of Bihar, the Supreme Court had clearly held that the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution is a fundamental right and included the right to water and air free of pollution.

Justice (retd) MMS Bedi, while speaking to The Indian Express, said under Article141 of the Constitution, any observations or guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court are applicable and binding on all authorities.

“When the Supreme Court has made certain observations or laid down guidelines, they are binding on all the authorities as per Article 141 of the Constitution,” Justice Bedi said.

Justice Bedi said that in this case, provisions of CrPc empower even a sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) to take action if he finds any nuisance of foul smell, among other things.

“Also, the right to clean air, and clean environment comes under the basic right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution. These fundamental rights should be legally enforced,” he added.

A recent PIL on Dadumajra, wherein the Municipal Corporation was issued a notice on July 20, also highlighted how the dump less than 50 metres from the residential area violates several laws, including Article 21 of the Constitution, CrPC, the civil procedure code, solid waste management rules, environment protection and air pollution laws.

In the case of Subhash Kumar vs State of Bihar, the Apex Court had observed, “Article 32 is designed for the enforcement of fundamental rights of a citizen by the Apex Court. It provides for an extraordinary remedy to safeguard the fundamental rights of a citizen. Right to life is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution and it includes the right to enjoyment of pollution free water and air. If anything endangers or impairs that quality of life in derogation of laws, a citizen has the right to have recourse to Article 32 of the Constitution for removing the pollution of water or air which may be detrimental to the quality of life.”

Punjab Engineering College study

A study conducted by Punjab Engineering College in 2017 detailed how Dadumajra’s dumping ground is polluting the air and soil of the area. The study found a high concentration of copper and zinc in Dadumajra’s soil as compared to other parts of the city.

The study said, “Dadumajra landfill is the only designated dump yard in Chandigarh city, consisting of 45.11 acres of land and is situated in Sector 38 near Dadumajra labour colony. At Dadumajra landfill waste is being dumped without any source separation. The garbage dump creates a constant pervasive stench and is leading to a number of health issues among the residents of Dadumajra colony, such as skin allergies, asthma, rashes on the faces, arms and legs and problems in lungs and chest. The results revealed that the concentration of copper and zinc in the soil in the vicinity of Dadumajra landfill have a significant amount of higher concentration as compared to the soil in other parts of the city. The concentration of iron and manganese in soil of different parts of the city did not show any significant variation with the soil of Dadumajra landfill.”

The study clearly specified that higher concentration of copper can cause health issues — such as anaemia, liver damage, kidney damage, stomach-related problems and intestinal irritation among humans. Higher levels of zinc may lead to respiratory disorders, nausea, metal fume fever and epigastric pain.

The living conditions caused by the dump are a clear violation of basic human rights.

In the case MC Mehta versus Kamalnath, the Apex Court had made it clear that any disturbance of environmental elements, like air, water and soil, could be hazardous to life and can’t be polluted. Mentioning the “Doctrine of the Public trust” in its judgment, the court had said, “Our legal system — based on English Common Law — includes the public trust doctrine as part of its jurisprudence. The state is the trustee of all natural resources, which are by nature meant for public use and enjoyment. Public at large is the beneficiary of the seashore, running waters, air, forests and ecologically fragile lands. The state as a trustee is under a legal duty to protect the natural resources.”

SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT ACT 2016

The Dadumajra dumping ground also violates several provisions of the Solid Waste Management Act, 2016. According to this Act, landfilling or dumping of mixed waste must be stopped. It also states that only non-usable, non recyclable, non biodegradable, non combustible and non reactive inert waste can be disposed of in sanitary landfill sites. It also calls for making every effort to recycle or reuse the rejects to achieve the desired objective of zero landfill site, which is not being done in the city.

UNDER NGT SCANNER

The issue of Chandigarh solid waste management is also under the scanner of National Green Tribunal (NGT). During one of its hearings, the NGT had observed, “We are shocked to know the attitude adopted by the public authority. We are sorry to observe that the Municipal Corporation, Chandigarh, and the project proponent both have left no stone unturned to ensure that the most beautiful city is converted into a junkyard. It is expected from the public authorities to know that to deal with the waste and its disposal is not only a statutory obligation, but also a constitutional obligation vested upon them in terms of Article 50 (A)(g).”

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