The state government’s decision to reduce the buffer zone around the landfill site of Moshi in Pimpri-Chinchwad was prompted by the report submitted by Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering Research Limited (NEERI).
However, documents accessed by The Indian Express under the Right to Information (RTI) show the decision goes against the guidelines set by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) regarding buffer zone to be maintained around such landfill sites.
The issue of the buffer zone around the Moshi landfill site had assumed political overtones both during the Lok Sabha and state Assembly elections in Pimpri-Chinchwad. Spread over 80 acres of land in Moshi, this landfill site for municipal solid waste is run by the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC). The site has a mechanical composting plant (capacity 400 tonnes per day), a vermicomposting plant (12 tonnes per day) and a plastic-to-fuel plant with a capacity of 5 tonnes per day. Much of the 646 tonnes of solid waste generated every day in Pimpri- Chinchwad is not segregated.
The clamour of reducing the buffer zone from 500 metres to 100 metres or less started a few years ago with local politicians taking the lead. Documents show that since 2012, Shirur MP and Bhosari MLA were clamouring for reduction of the buffer zone to less than 50 metres.
Correspondence by MPCB with both the state government and the civic body showed it had reiterated the need to keep the buffer zone at 500 metres.
In a letter dated 2012, the member secretary of MPCB had emphasised the need to maintain the 500-metre buffer as any reduction would be detrimental.
Later, NEERI was appointed by the PCMC to study the question and come up with suggestions to reduce the buffer zone. Although NEERI suggested taking various steps to reduce the buffer zone, MPCB has been steadfast in its refusal. In fact, the latter reiterated its stand as late as October 2014.
Construction of a leachate treatment plant, provision of a green belt, appropriate housekeeping and segregation have been suggested by NEERI as precursor to reduction of the buffer zone. While the general body of the PCMC made provisions of Rs 51 lakh for various works at the site, it had not included the above-mentioned works.
Sanjay Kulkarni, head of the environmental cell of PCMC, said the civic body would start work on the construction of a treatment plant and other provisions.
“We have floated the tender for the same. Once it is constructed, NEERI will again inspect the site and give recommendations,” he said.
Asked about MPCB’s objection, Kulkarni said while MPCB issued guidelines, NEERI’s report had suggested a scientific way in which the buffer zone could be reduced.