The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has given the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) three months to stop fire incidents at the city’s largest landfill at Deonar, where two instances of fire in the past three months have taken air quality levels in the surrounding localities to toxic levels.
The MPCB has asked the BMC to submit a report on the causes of the fire and the measures taken to extinguish it. The municipal corporation has 15 days to reply. “After the first fire at the Deonar landfill earlier this year, the BMC had replied to our notice highlighting measures to control the release of methane and had committed than no future incidents will occur. Following the second fire, a notice was sent demanding the reasons why it took place, remedial measures to control future fires and a detailed plan of scientific waste processing at the dumping ground,” said a senior MPCB official.
After the fire in January, which raged for nearly a week, MPCB officials had said that 10 notices had been issued to the civic body to take proper measures for the treatment of garbage, as per the solid waste management rules, 2000. Following this, a prosecution notice was sent to the civic body for failing to implement adequate measures. “If we do not receive a reply in 15 days or the remedial measures are not carried out in three months, we will submit another prosecution notice as an add- on to the previous one and the matter will be taken up in court,” said the official.
The MPCB has been carrying out regular ambient air-quality monitoring around the Deonar landfill and have suggested a list of solutions along with the notice. “We suggested the BMC needs to immediately compartmentalise facilities at the dumping ground so that recurring fires can be stopped. The suggestions were sent only after we visited the site, saw the lapses and concluded that unscientific waste management is taking place,” said the official.
The solid waste management (SWM) department of the BMC said they have received the notice from the MPCB. “We are currently working at the ground level to resolve the garbage crisis at Deonar and will reply to their notice after the situation is completely under control. We have taken into account the suggestions by MPCB and will implement them,” said a senior SWM official.
“The larger issue in the present situation is the waste management in the city. The high court order has been comprehensive in this regard along with implementation of deadlines, we are following the same,” said municipal commissioner, Ajoy Mehta.
The Bombay high court had earlier this month restrained the BMC from granting permissions for any new construction for residential or commercial purposes, including hotels, until the civic body makes substantial compliance of the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000.
Environmentalists were sceptical about the MPCB warnings and said the pollution control board is as much to blame for the fire as the civic body. “It is a marriage of convenience for both the authorities,” said Stalin Dayanand from NGO Vanashakti, who added, “The civic body has consistently violated laws of waste handling for more than 15 years and the MPCB has only responded through polite replies. Together they are responsible for damaging the health of citizens and environment of the city.”
Meanwhile, residents living close to the Deonar dumping ground said pocket fires were still on, releasing smoke from the landfill. “While the amount of smoke as compared to last week has decreased, there is still an acrid smell and some smog outside our windows. All said and done, our only request to the BMC is that another massive fire should not happen,” said Meera Kopikar, resident of Chembur.