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Not everyone is protesting against the garbage dump in Gurugram’s Bandhwari

The reaction to the garbage dump vary depending on a person’s place in the social and financial hierarchy of the village.

gurgaon Updated: Jun 30, 2018 13:04 IST
Sadia Akhtar
Sadia Akhtar
Hindustan Times, Bandhwari, Gurugram
bandhwari,bandhwari garbage dump,bandhwari landfill site in Gurugram
In April, 2018, residents had called a mahapanchayat to demand the removal of landfill site from Bandhwari village. However, they called off the protest after the government promised to waive off half of their electricity bills. (Yogendra Kumar/HT PHOTO)

Despite high incidence of cancer, contaminated groundwater, polluted air and leachate filled soil — all due to a landfill site in close proximity to their village — locals in Bandhwari are divided in their opposition to the giant garbage mountain.

One set of residents want a waste-to-energy plant to come up at the site after the government promised to waive off half of their electricity bills. Others, however, are demanding the relocation of the landfill. The reactions vary depending on a person’s place in the social and financial hierarchy of the village, located 20 kilometres away from Gurugram.

In April this year, residents of seven villages located near the landfill called a mahapanchayat, demanding relocation of the waste treatment plant. They had even planned a ‘Raasta Roko’ campaign. However, the protest was called off after a meeting with Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. The CM assured Bandhwari residents that half of their monthly electricity bill would be waived off.

The concession was intended to allay the villagers’ reservations about pollution from the landfill, and the upcoming waste-to-energy plant which is scheduled to start operations next year. Two months later, however, discontent prevails, and the sops have failed to cut much ice with the locals.

“The mountain of garbage and the treatment plant should be removed. We will work to make ends meet and pay for electricity. What good the concession would do, if the water (groundwater) continues to make us sick. How are we going to live?” asks Preetam, a mother of three who lives in a one-room house in the village.

The 24-year-old moved to Bandhwari a decade ago, after her marriage. Her parents rarely visit her because of the situation in the village. Preetam said she would never have agreed to marry into a Bandhwari family if she knew that she would have to face diseases, pollution and make do with contaminated water supply.

“I never thought that I would end up in a place like this. But now I’m stuck. The water makes us sick, electricity is erratic and the stench of garbage doesn’t let us breathe. The government doesn’t care either,” said Preetam.

Most of the residents of the colonies which are home to people from the lower castes are opposed to the landfill. A concession on their electricity bill doesn’t mean much to them. The supply is unreliable to begin with.

“We read in the papers that our electricity bill will be reduced to half. However, nothing to that effect has happened so far. Authorities should come and live here to experience the problems that we face because of the garbage,” said Santara Devi, 35, who has been living in Bandhwari for the past 21 years.

Santara’s neighbour, 38-year-old Suman, nods in agreement. “Every other house has a sick person, and the situation is worse for women. The government dispensary has no facilities for us, as a result of which we are left with no choice but to travel to public hospitals in Gurugram or Faridabad,” said Suman.

Some in the area have given up hopes of improvement in their living conditions.

“We have made many efforts over the years to get the landfill removed but to no avail. Nothing has changed in the past 10 years. If it cannot be removed then we should at least be given better amenities like water supply, and a well-equipped dispensary in the area,” said Shripal Singh, who lives in the same quarter.

Santa Bandhwari, who belongs to the dominant community in the village, don’t see any merit in the opposition to the landfill.He is a contractor who provides trucks on rent. He has been dumping waste from Gurugram and Faridabad into the landfill for the past 10 years. “People cannot dump waste in their homes. There has to be a place where garbage has to be dumped. This location was chosen because it was sparsely populated. Moreover, I don’t believe that people in the village are suffering from cancer. I have been dumping waste here since 2009 but have never even been down with fever. There is no problem in the water either. We don’t even have a filter at home, and everyone drinks the same water,” said Santa.

Santa is joined by other men from the village as he talks to HT. They huddle together and make a case for the waste- to- energy plant. “These pollution rumours are being spread by the government. They do not want us to use the groundwater so that we pay for packaged drinking water,” said Satbeer Pal, another resident of the same quarter as Santa.

Raghubar Sharma, one of the group, struck a discordant note. Sharma said the least the government could do was waive off the electricity bill, if they are going to build the plant so close to the village.

First Published: Jun 30, 2018 13:03 IST