Citizens wage virtual battle to seek resolution of issues at Bandwari landfill
Citizens, activists and green campaigners took to social media in a “tweet storm” on Sunday, voicing their opposition to environmental law violations at the Bandhwari landfill site in Gurugram.
The virtual protest was organised by members of the city-based Aravalli Bachao volunteer group, in collaboration with the India chapter of Fridays for Future, an international climate strike movement started by Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg.
Using tags #AravalliBachao and #RemoveBandhwariLandfill, residents of Gurugram and Delhi-NCR voiced a series of demands to the state government and district authorities on Sunday.
Residents sought action against urban local bodies in Gurugram and Faridabad, which, activists allege, have continued to allow unscientific dumping of solid municipal waste at the landfill site despite adverse consequences for health and ecology.
Citizens also demanded that the contract signed between the MCG and Ecogreen Energy, for integrated waste management in the city, be cancelled in lieu of repeated violations of the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, by the latter. These violations, they pointed out, have also been upheld by the National Green Tribunal, which had fined Ecogreen Energy Rs 25 lakh in August 2018. A few months later, the MCG had fined Ecogreen Energy Rs 6.4 crore for violations of its contract.
According to a December 2018 order of the MCG, 43 notices were served to the company between November 2017 and September 2018 by zonal officers regarding poor waste collection. An audit by MCG also revealed that only 35% of the company’s door-to-door collection targets were being met. “As a result, we have levied this fine,” Ravinder Yadav, nodal officer, MCG, had said at that time.
More recently, on November 18, the MCG House passed a resolution to rescind the contract with Ecogreen Energy, with mayor Madhu Azad saying that the company had failed to establish decentralised waste management in the city, or set up the proposed waste-to-energy plant. At the time, MCG commissioner Vinay Pratap Singh had confirmed to the press that the MCG House’s letter would be forwarded to the Haryana government for action.
Additionally, citizens have also asked that environmental clearance (EC) for a proposed waste-to-energy plant at the landfill site, which was granted by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change’s (MoEFCC) expert appraisal committee in November 2019 be revoked.
“We ask the ministry of environment to withdraw the environment clearance given for the waste-to-energy plant at Bandhwari on the basis of the faulty EIA (environmental impact assessment) submitted by the municipal corporation,” said Neelam Ahluwalia, founder of the Aravali Bachao group.
In a written statement circulated to reporters, representatives of the Aravalli Bachao group stated, “Thirty-plus lakh tonnes of legacy waste at Bandhwari must be treated according to bioremediation method followed in Indore. Indore has successfully recovered a dump site where 15 lakh tonnes of legacy waste was biomined, segregated and processed. The same needs to be done at Bandhwari. The National Green Tribunal has also been repeatedly asking for this to be done.”
Kuldeep Singh, regional officer, Haryana State Pollution Control Board, said, “We are aware of these concerns. Work on a solution for Bandhwari is underway, in keeping with the instructions of the National Green Tribunal. We are also preparing to prosecute Ecogreen, as well as government agencies responsible, in the environmental court in Faridabad quite soon.”
Hindustan Times earlier reported, in December 2019, that the MCG withheld crucial information from the Centre while seeking the aforementioned environmental clearances. However, the NGT, in February this year, upheld the Centre’s move to clear the project, paving the way for a waste-to-energy plant in the area, which experts maintain is part of a sensitive wildlife corridor between Asola Bhatti in Delhi and Sariska in Rajasthan.
Deputy commissioner Amit Khatri and municipal commissioner Vinay Pratap Singh did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday. Sanjeev Sharma, official spokesperson for Ecogreen Energy, also did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday.