The impact of the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste at the garbage dump in Devguradiya is not limited to the 2 lakh people living in nearby areas. It has also become a challenge for administrators as it is spewing deadly smoke into the air and polluting groundwater in Indore.
On paper, the area was designated as a “green belt” in Indore’s 2021 master plan, which is being implemented since 2008.
Permitting the construction of townships in Devguradiya while turning a blind eye to the problems associated with the garbage dump seems to have come naturally for the administration.
A highly placed official in the district administration said on the condition of anonymity, “The entire government machinery is helpless and a mere spectator to the problem.”
Besides Indore’s master plan, directions recently issued by the state government for management of municipal solid waste in urban areas too designated the area falling under the Devguradiya dumping ground as a green belt.
Establishment of new dumping grounds will take years
According to these documents, new dumping grounds should come up at three locations in the city – near Shakkar Khedi, Bada Bangadada and Morod – along with garbage processing units.
“But this can be achieved only in the long run,” the official of the district administration told Hindustan Times.
He cited several problems connected to identifying land for new dumping grounds, floating different types of tenders and the government’s glacial work culture.
“The tendering process alone takes more than six months, then identifying land, setting up processing units, and making the project work in a systematic way will take more than a couple of years, but only if every government department works in coordination with each other,” he said.
Asked why the district administration and the town and country planning department permitted builders to construct townships near the Devguradiya dumping road despite the risk to thousands and warnings from the state pollution control board, the officials said: “With the land being declared a green belt, there is not much left in our hands other than allowing constructions. Prior to that, constructions were permitted 500 meters from the periphery of the trenching site.”
But the stench and smoke spreads far beyond 500 meters.
Schools, colonies and hamlets located within a radius of three to four kilometres are severely affected by the toxic material sent into the air and groundwater.
Anil V Mangrulkar, a resident of Kalindi township and a consultant on sustainable growth, said, “At the time when even bigger cities like Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, Hyderabad and New Delhi are able to address garbage by turning it into a profitable business (such as setting up waste-to-energy units, recycling units and production of manure), the Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) has time and again failed in solving the issue in a time-bound manner.”
Waste management contract awarded to blacklisted firm
The district administration and the IMC awarded a waste management contract to Gurgaon-based A To Z Company even though it was blacklisted by several states for failing to manage municipal solid waste in several cities. The firm’s performance in Indore too has not been up to the mark.
On Sunday, A To Z shut down its waste disposal plant in Devguradiya when its machinery caught fire.
Because of the terms of the contract signed with the company, the district administration and the IMC are in a bind and unable to award the contract to some other player, officials said.
Irked by the myriad problems associated with the dumping ground, residents of nearby townships and 15 villages took to roads last November and were able to make quite a stir even as some political leaders tried to capitalise on the issue and corner the state’s BJP government.
The district administration was brought down to its knees and managed to get away after making some promises such as shifting the trenching ground, enhancing the processing plant capacity, floating tender for another 500MT waste processing unit, but has been unable to deliver on them so far.
And the problems have continued to mount for the residents of Devguradiya.
100-bedded hospital in the vicinity
According to sources, the district administration recently approved the construction of a 100-bedded hospital near the garbage dump. A government official said in response to a query: “Hospitals are corporate entities, they are here to make money; they will set up a hospital where they sense potential for good business. Devguradiya is a perfect place for their venture.”