The prevailing insanitation scenario and the failure of the Amritsar Municipal Corporation to deal with it continues to haunt the residents of the city.
"The increasing garbage heaps on the roadsides are posing serious threat to our health," said a resident.
Prakash Singh Bhatti, president, Pollution Control Committee, an NGO dealing with environmental pollution, said Amritsar stood as low as 403 in a survey of 412 cities of India in a survey conducted three years back.
He said the city might have slipped even further down in the list considering the present scenario. Consequently, the NGO has written to the MC and the district administration urging them to get these garbage heaps removed in a week's time.
"We call Amritsar a holy city, but have not lifted a finger to keep it clean," said Bhatti. He added that with the private company dealing with the solid waste management backing out of their contract, things had become even more unmanageable.
Bhatti said in the recent past the company had served a written notice to the MC about clearing their payment.
"Thrice they stopped lifting the municipal solid waste (MSW). It should have been taken as a warning signal but authorities failed to act on it. Now, for the last fortnight the company has withdrawn its MSW transporting equipment and manpower. The alternative arrangements made by the MC are not sufficient and the city is stinking," said Bhatti.
Bhatti termed the annulment of the contract of the private company with the MC as a contempt of court. He claimed that his NGO had gone to the court in 2008 when all other efforts failed to succeed.
He said the court then had directed the municipal commissioner to arrange for the lifting of all MSW from the city within six week's time.
Following the court order, the MC had entered into an agreement with a Mumbai-based private company to start collecting MSW door-to-door and transport that to the dumpsite at Bhagtanwala, which was also not approved by the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB).
He said the dumpsite was situated dangerously close to the grain market at Bhagtanwala. "We raised our voices in this regard many times, but our appeals had so far fallen on deaf ears."
Prabhdayal Singh Randhawa, general secretary of the NGO, said the MC's sanitation workers were burning garbage within the bins ignoring the grave hazard posed to the health of the residents.
"Wednesday's rainfall, while offering some respite from the heat, had added to the prevailing filth in the city, as the streets became waterlogged and garbage and filth could be seen floating on puddles of water in different localities," he said.
Municipal commissioner Dharampal Gupta said the question of contempt of court did not arise as the MC authorities were still in touch with the private company to sort out the problem.
"The matter does not only pertain to non-clearance of payment, but there are other issues as well, which need to be sorted out. We are working on those issues," he said.
Regarding the garbage scenario prevailing in the city, Gupta said the situation had worsened after the recent rains. "But we are doing our best to remove the garbage heaps. Our staff is working on Saturdays as well, which are otherwise off days," he said.
NGO urges civic body to remove garbage within a week; MC says it's still talking to firm dealing with municipal solid waste