The toxic stench emanating from Uttan’s garbage dumping ground is strong enough to spread beyond the villages in the Mira Road-Bhayandar region.
Citizens’ protest highlighting the health hazards of an open garbage dump have now prompted the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to intervene in the matter.
Acting on a complaint filed by a Delhi-based activist, the NHRC, on March 30 asked the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and the state’s chief secretary J P Dange to submit a report on the alleged health hazards within eight weeks.
The garbage dumping site in Uttan, a township situated 45 kms from Mumbai city, is located atop a hilltop. It is the only dumping site for the garbage generated by the entire Mira Road-Bhayander belt.
Anthony Arulraj, a Delhi-based social activist moved NHRC after he read an article on the Internet about Uttan residents’ protest about the threat posed by the dump to the agricultural belt. “Wastewater sliding down the hillside from the garbage recycling plant is contaminating the fields and the drinking water,” he alleged in the complaint.
“Most locals depend on paddy farming and vegetable farms for survival. The harmful water is killing our fields,” said Ronnie Correa, an Uttan resident. “The number of malaria and dengue patients at the local dispensaries has more than doubled because of the polluted water.”
Last September, the situation turned ugly when police lathi charged locals blocking trucks piled with garbage from entering the garbage dump. Subsequently, the state issued show cause notices seeking to extern local activists Correa, James Colaso and Sunny Gadekar from the township. The notices are still pending.
“There has been a series of human rights violations. I hope that NHRC takes cognisance of the problem,” said BJ Kolse Patil, former judge, Bombay High Court and president of Lokshashan Andolan, a social organisation fighting for the cause.
The dumping ground was re-opened in March. MPCB member chief Mahesh Pathak was not available for comment.