Environmentalists raise concerns over waste dumping in forest
Environmentalists and citizens alleged that the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) dumped waste in forest land near Mohtabad and Pali villages in Faridabad on Saturday night, to reduce the volume of legacy waste at the Bandhwari landfill ahead of a hearing in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) this week.
Locals alleged that plastic and household waste under the garb of refuse-derived fuel (RDF) was dumped in the forest land, which is a crucial leopard habitat. The site also has boards stating that it was a temporary site for storing RDF.
Despite several attempts, Vinay Pratap Singh, the commissioner of MCG could not be reached for comment till the filing of the copy.
Officials of the forest department and the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad (MCF) said that they did not allot the space to MCG for the temporary storage of RDF.
Yashpal Yadav, the MCF commissioner, said, “Last month, the MCG had sought support from us for temporary storage of RDF and we had allotted a site near Pali crusher zone. But later, we learnt that a case is underway in the high court regarding the said land, so we gave orders that no more waste will be dumped there. After that, we had informed MCG that we are looking for alternative land, but no land has been approved by us so far.”
Raj Kumar, divisional forest officer for Faridabad, said, “I learnt about RDF being dumped on Aravalli forest land near Pali-Mohtabad late on Saturday evening and I sent a team for inspection. The team was not able to locate the area and on Sunday, I did not get any further update. I will be checking with the authorities concerned and action will be taken accordingly.”
The NGT is scheduled to hear a matter regarding the remediation of legacy waste of Bandhwari landfill on April 7. On March 9, the NGT, while hearing a case on clearing of legacy waste from Bandhwari landfill site, said that it was giving a last opportunity to authorities for ensuring meaningful action on the ground level.
Environmentalists and residents said that the area where the waste was dumped is a crucial wildlife corridor, and is frequented by leopards.
Sunil Harsana, a resident and wildlife researcher who visited the site on Saturday night, said, “Around 8.30pm on Saturday, I learnt that eight trucks of waste from Bandhwari landfill was being taken to the forest land for dumping. I reached the site around 11pm when I saw that solid waste, including plastic, was dumped at two to three different sites almost one kilometre inside from the main road.”
“This area is a key habitat of leopards found in this landscape as it has old mining quarries where the big cat finds shelter, food and water. If waste is dumped here, then there will be regular movement of vehicles leading to disturbance,” he said.
Vaishali Rana, a city-based environmentalist, said that a 2017 report by the Wildlife Institute of India had shown that the said landscape has a presence of over 30 leopards. “Since the past one month, waste is being dumped inside forest areas in different parts of Gurugram and Faridabad as the authorities have to tell the NGT that they have taken action to clear the legacy waste at Bandhwari. But this is being done without any permissions or clearances… because it is inside the forests, it goes unnoticed by most people, but that does not mean it is not harmful to the environment,” she said.
The NGT, on March 9, asked the MCG to submit a future action plan that must provide for placing information about day-to-day progress on the website and to ensure processing of current waste at a different site. The court also asked the secretary of urban development/local bodies and the commissioner of MCG to be present in person or through videoconference with a report of meaningful action during the next hearing, scheduled for April 7.
The Bandhwari landfill receives around 2,000 tonnes of waste every day from Gurugram and Faridabad. Municipal solid waste from both these cities is being dumped at the site since 2015. As per a report by the Central Pollution Control Board submitted to the NGT in September 2020, the height of the dumpsite increased to 36 metres from 27 metres (recorded by CPCB in February 2020) and the total waste dumped stood at 3.1 million tonnes, approximately.