Gurugram: Villagers call off stir after assurance on Bandhwari plant
Days after holding a mahapanchayat and deciding to hold a massive protest demanding relocation of the Bandhwari waste treatment plant, residents of seven villages called off the stir after a meeting with chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar at the PWD rest house in the Civil Lines on Thursday evening.
Following a mahapanchayat on Thursday morning at the Teen Murti Mandir, next to the Gurugram-Faridabad toll, residents of seven villages — Bandhwari, Dera, Gwal Pahari, Ghata, Baliawas, Behrampur and Mangar (in Faridabad) — held a silent protest outside the Bandhwari waste treatment plant seeking its relocation. They claimed that over 100 residents have died of cancer owing to the contamination of groundwater resources by the waste treatment plant.
However, they called off the protest following an assurance from the chief minister that his government will look into their concerns. He further assured them that the waste-to-energy plant (WTE) is being built keeping their interests in mind.
The CM is scheduled to lay the foundation stone for the Bandhwari waste processing plant on Friday.
“The CM has assured us that his government will look into our concerns on the environmental impact on the waste treatment plant on priority. He said that the plant will cater to our interests as it will not only help process tonnes of untreated solid waste that piles up at the site but will also prevent leachate (chemical leak) from contaminating our groundwater resources and seeping into the water table,” Manoj, a resident of Bandhwari, said.
The protesting residents said that the seven villages are home to approximately 50,000 people.
Environmentalists said that a report issued by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in September 2017, which had tested groundwater samples from Bandhwari, Mangar, and Dera, confirmed that the groundwater sources in the area were contaminated by the leachate (liquid that drains or ‘leaches’ from a landfill) from the Bandhwari plant.
“The CPCB report confirmed groundwater contamination and hence, it is vital that the government relocates the plant. Across the world, WTE plants have ceased to exist or are not considered viable, as the process of burning mixed waste results in emission of toxic gases which have a severe neurological and biological impact on humans,” Vaishali Rana Chandra, an environmentalist, said.
Chandra claimed that she and a few other environmentalists had even sent reports of the findings of the environmental impact of the plant to Khattar and Dr Harsha Vardhan, the Union minister for environment, forest and climate change, earlier, but did not get any response.
The residents said a team from the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) visited the affected villages on Wednesday after reports of cancer-related deaths surfaced. After taking a tour of these villages for 3-4 hours, they determined that the cancer deaths couldn’t be attributed to the plant.
Dr Asrudin, the chief medical officer of MCG who led a team to the villages on Wednesday, did not wish to comment on the matter and said that ‘he has already submitted his report’. He reiterated that there is nothing in the report submitted by the MCG team to suggest that the Bandhwari waste processing plant poses any health hazard.
Despite assurances from the CM, few residents continue to hold the waste plant responsible for losing their loved ones.
“My wife, Ramwati, died of cancer in the gallbladder in January. Doctors said that environmental factors could well have been responsible for my wife’s death. Since the time the Bandhwari waste treatment became functional, many residents have been diagnosed with cancer,” Karam Singh Tanwar, a resident of Gwal Pahari, said.
Nirmal Singh, a resident of Bandhwari, lost his brother Veer Singh to kidney cancer a month ago.
“There has been a spike in cancer cases in the last few years and my brother was of the unfortunate ones who fell prey to this disease. It seems the chemical contamination from the waste treatment plant is taking a toll on villagers nearby,” Singh said.