By Asmita Sarkar:
On the outskirts of Bangalore, in Lakshmipura village, situated near the Bannerghatta National Park, residents woke up to a nightmarish reality on the morning of 20th July 2015. An abandoned quarry pit of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) emanated intermittent bursts of fire and smoke while pungent smell filled the air and the stagnant water visibly boiled. Residents of the area, scared about their health, asked if their lives were at risk while some resourceful residents started cooking food using the leaking methane gas. The slums situated near the area have been moved temporarily before the disaster can be controlled for which 2 feet of soil is going to be deposited at the site.
However this is not the only case of a mysterious fire erupting in the city. In March 2015, the Yamlur Lake, which is the most polluted lake in the city, was on fire for over an hour. Pollution Control Board Chairman Vaman Acharya notified that, “There is floating oil, diesel such things which come from service stations, garages. This oily material also is floating over the river. It has caught fire. How it has caught fire, whether some miscreants have put a fire or it has caught on its own, I’m not very sure”.
The BBMP used to dump solid waste in the landfill in Lakshmipura for 10 years until recently, when the landfill was closed hurriedly, when residents protested about the landfill, without taking measures to control imminent environmental and health risks. Though the cause remains unknown, officials said, in their defence, that it was methane gas leak which lead to the fire, for which they blamed a nearby engineering college for releasing untreated chemical sewage.
The growth of Bangalore in the last decade has been phenomenally fast – from 5.7 million people in 2001 to 8.7 million in 2011(marking a 48.68% increase). Apart from land and water pollution, the city has seen a rise in the level of RSPM (Respiratory Suspended Particulate Matter) in the air. The RSPM level, recorded in 15 air monitoring stations, has exceeded the national permissible level.
Vehicular pollution, incessant construction and growing population in urban centres is symptomatic not just of Bangalore but also of any urban centre in India. The capital of India, for instance, generates 15,000 tonnes of solid waste everyday as compared to 5,000 tonnes in Bangalore. The landfills of Delhi are long overdue for closure but they are still being used while the population of Delhi saw a 20.96% increase in population in 2011.
The whole country generates around 60 million tonnes of solid waste every year, out of which 10 million tonnes is generated in just 6 metro cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Kolkata. Sunita Narain, director of the Centre of Science and Environment pointed towards another glaring issue, “The segregation of biodegradable waste from non-biodegradable waste is not done properly. The municipal authorities should develop a model to ensure the same.”
The answer to the massively expanding solid waste issue for cities across the length and breadth of India seems to be that of finding innovative and natural methods instead of creating new landfills. Otherwise the hellish prediction of waste generation doubling by 2025 would become entirely unmanageable.