The BMC has been dumping debris on the spots identified as sources of pocket fires in the dumping grounds, since last week, but the civic body’s efforts were unable to prevent fresh fires. Efforts to douse the fire that broke out in the Deonar dumping ground on Saturday evening and another that broke out in the Mulund dumping ground on Saturday night continued in to Sunday.
A total of seven fire engines and two water tankers were sent to Deonar on Saturday. However, the nearly doused fire flared up again on Sunday. Ten fire engines and eight water tankers were put to use by Sunday evening.
Two fire engines and four water tankers were sent to Mulund. The fire at Mulund was doused and cooling operations continued till late Sunday afternoon.
Holding the BMC responsible for the recurring fires and the corresponding problems, Rajkumar Sharma, a member of the Diamond Garden Advanced Locality Management (ALM) in Chembur, said, “Here the government is saying that people should abstain from using water on Holi, but the BMC is wasting so many tankers of water, dousing fires which should have been dealt with by now. The BMC is taking too long to implement measures like constructing gas wells without which these fires won’t stop,” he said.
Tired of the lack of action from the BMC, BJP corporator Manoj Kotak said, “Even after several announcements from the High Court, some officials are not taking things seriously and things are moving at a very slow pace. BJP demands timely action now or else we will take our protest out on to the streets.”
Fire department officials said that fire broke out at 7 to 8 spots in the Deonar dumping ground. “The thick smoke from the fire posed a problem, since the drivers of the fire engines were unable to see where they were going,” said an official.
Residents of Shivaji Nagar and adjoining areas complained of the thick smoke from the fire, causing breathing problems. “There is poor visibility in the roads close to the dumping ground because of all the smoke. It is also causing breathing troubles, especially to the elderly people,” said Sageer Ahmed Khan, a resident of Shivaji Nagar.
As per the figures provided by System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the air quality index of areas closest to the two dumping grounds, namely Bhandup and Chembur, were 228 and 221, respectively.
The figures fall under the poor category.
Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta, in his statement to the standing committee on March 9, had laid out the BMC’s plan of action, which included dumping debris on top of the garbage mounds as well as slope stabilisation of the mounds. The dumping of debris began last week, but the BMC has no concrete plans for slope stabilisation yet. An official in the Solid Waste Management (SWM) department said that the gas wells could be created only after the work of slope stabilisation had been completed.
According to the officials of the SWM department, 4-5 locations where pocket fires have broken out multiple times have been identified. “We have started covering two of the spots with 1-1.5 feet of debris so that methane gas can be trapped inside and oxygen supply to it can be blocked. We need to take measures in a scientific manner and are thus waiting for IIT Bombay’s report which will make other recommendations,” said Deputy Municipal Commissioner Vijay Balamwar. Since last week, more than 50 trucks have dumped their debris at Deonar.
Manoj Kotak said that until the methane gas trapped under the mounds of garbage had been released, the situation would not change, regardless of all other measures, and the BMC should expedite the process of creating the gas wells.
Similarly, Rais Shaikh, Samajwadi party corporator, said the BMC’s negligence was to blame for the fires. “The BMC, when talking to the media, High Court or even the Chief Minister, keeps IIT at the forefront of the discussion. However, the BMC has neither said ‘yes’ nor ‘no’ to IIT-Bombay or NEERI’s suggestions. The situation at Deonar has not changed at all since the fire broke out in January.”
Despite calls and messages, Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta could not be reached for comment.