For at least two years before the Deonar dumping ground fire, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) had sent eight notices to the BMC on its unscientific handling of waste. “We had sent notices to the BMC on the issue of the way the waste was being handled in the dumping ground under the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986, and the Municipal Solid Waste Rules, 2000,” Dilip Khedkar, regional officer of MPCB, confirmed.
MPCB officials said that the responses received from the BMC to the notices were on the steps they were taking to eventually control the waste being dumped at Deonar. The waste being dumped at Deonar dumping ground till before the fire on January 27 was not being treated.
“The responses were to inform that the contractor appointed by the BMC had not been able to set up a processing unit due to a lease dispute with the state government. BMC had also informed MPCB that they were setting up a processing unit in Kanjurmarg where some of the waste would be sent. Municipal authorities had said that they were on the lookout for alternative sites in Taloja and Airoli where the waste can be sent and processed,” said an official. The BMC had given the contract of handling, managing and treating the waste at the Deonar dumping ground to United Phosphorus Limited since 2009. The recent fire at the dumping ground started in the last few days of the contract with UPL ending on January 31.
After the fire at the dumping ground, MPCB has issued fresh prosecution notices to the executive engineer and plant engineer seeking their response on the incident. “The BMC has been given 15 days to respond after the notice was sent on February 1. They are expected to file a reply by next week,” said Khedkar. “These notices were issued under Air (Prevention and Control) Act, 1981, and the Water (Prevention and Control) Act, 1974, seeking the BMC’s response on whether pollution control norms are being complied with at the dumping ground. Based on the hearing before MPCB, further action will be taken. Under rules, action can be taken in a court of law with a penalty of Rs 1 lakh imposed as fine and six months imprisonment if found guilty,” added Khedekar.
Apart from the notices, the BMC also made a presentation before the state environment department, members of the MPCB and other state government officials last week after the fire on the short-term and long-term plans to tackle the city’s solid waste management crisis.
Meanwhile, a hunger strike by 11 residents of Deonar, including corporator Mohammad Siraj Shaikh, to demand the shutting of the dumping ground ended on Monday night after receiving assurance from the BMC. For the past three days, the residents had been on a hunger strike at Rafi Nagar, a locality at the edge of the dumping ground. Shaikh said they ended the strike after Additional Municipal commissioner Pallavi Darade assured residents that a processing unit will be set up at Deonar tackle the waste.