HT Spotlight: The smoky mountain of Panchkula
The gigantic heap of garbage in the city extension continues to pollute both air and possibly water as planners struggle to find the right place for a treatment plant far from the city.
It’s a curse they bear stoically. For years, the residents of Panchkula extension, which is made up of Sector 23 to 27, have become used to seeing garbage-laden trucks crossing their homes and going towards the landfill, less than 800 metres away from the populated residential sectors of the city.
Once touted as the Paris of Haryana by a former chief minister, Panchkula has nothing in the name of solid waste management but for a mountain of garbage that continues to smoulder and emit a stink that makes daily life a misery in the adjoining sectors. The municipal corporation’s solution--a new landfill closer to the residential area than the existing one--is also proving to be a non-starter due to its locational disadvantages.
Panchkula ranked 142nd in the annual Swachh Survekshan Survey this year, the worst in the tricity, due to its poor score of 2368 out of 4000. MC Commissioner Rajesh Jogpal attributed the poor showing to non-availability of an adequate number of processing units, recycling centres, and scientific landfills. “Panchkula has no solid waste management plant. Therefore, we could not score even a single mark out of 1,000 for this,” said Jogpal.
Fire incidents common
The landfill, which is slowly growing into a mountain, often catches fire during the summers due to the methane gas produced by the waste.
On May 25, as many as 93 fire tenders and 123 trucks of sand had to be pressed into service to douse the fire that broke out on the 12-acre dumping ground in Sector 23. It took five days before the fire was doused on May 30.
Of late, the MC is also trying to battle foul smell with heaps of sand.
Residents who had to bear the brunt of the fumes from the garbage mountain blame HUDA for choosing a residential area for the landfill. “HUDA shouldn’t have set up the dumping ground so close to residential sectors,” fumed Harish Saini, a resident of Sector 25.
“Smoke from the dumping ground contains dangerous dust particles and gases, which pose a serious threat to infants, elderly and persons prone to asthma,” pointed out M K Lall, a resident of Sector 26. Taking note of the complaints from residents, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had directed HUDA and the Pollution Control Board to ensure due compliance of laws governing management of landfill sites in November 2015, but the waste is still not being covered.
The Haryana Pollution Control Board had even given a notice to the Panchkula MC way back in 2010, asking it not to dump garbage at the site but to no avail.
Water pollution a concern
Residents fear that the dump could also be polluting their groundwater “The dumping ground receives tonnes of garbage every day. It includes wet waste that mixes with the water collected around the site. This contaminated water leaches into the ground or flows into the Ghaggar,” griped Geeta Thakur, a resident of Sector 25. Following several complaints from residents, the MC wrote a letter to member secretary, Haryana Pollution Control Board, on May 30, asking them to test the groundwater around the dumping site in Sector 23. The letter also called for an ambient air quality test. Officials said the reports are awaited.
It isn’t as if the MC doesn’t have a plan, but implementation is a problem. It was in April this year that the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) handed over 13.24 acres at Jhuriwala village to the MC for a solid waste management project covering Panchkula and Naraingarh clusters in Panchkula district.
A month later, the civic body floated tenders for technical bids, for which two firms — Delhi MS Solutions Limited and Mail Hem Ikos Environment Private Limited — came forward. “We have started the work and the tenders are at the final stage. Technical bids were received and now financial bids will be opened. After this, work order will be allotted to one of the firms,” said the MC Commissioner Jogpal.
“We will adopt the 3-R principal (reduce, reuse, recycle) of managing waste in the city; the aim is to get rid of the landfill by the next survey,” he added.
At present, the city generates over 160 tonnes of garbage a day, a number that is likely to cross 200 tonnes after the inclusion of Naraingarh in this cluster.
Jogpal said once they shortlist a firm, they will launch waste segregation. “We aim to achieve 100% waste segregation in Panchkula,” Jogpal said. The selected firm will also carry out door-to-door garbage collection, organic waste treatment, processing and sanitary land filling.
The MC plans to emulate the waste processing plants at Hyderabad. In April, a 10-member panel, which included Jogpal, MLA Gian Chand Gupta and four representatives of resident welfare associations (RWAs) of the trans-Ghaggar sectors, had gone to Hyderabad to study the waste processing plants there.
Jhuriwala to Bhanu, New site likely for waste plant
The plans for setting up a solid waste management project on a 13.2-acre site at Jhuriwala village is mired in trouble even before it can take off. Alka Sarin, a local, has filed a petition in the Punjab and Haryana high court against setting up this facility at Jhuriwala. The case will come up for hearing on July 18.
Sarin had submitted that proposed facility is within 140 metres from the Khol-Hai-Raitan wildlife sanctuary . The standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife had suggested that the landfill site be located away from the said location as it was a source of disease for human beings and wildlife. Also, the proposed site for the new dump at Jhuriwala village is merely 1.5 km away from the present dumping ground in Sector 23 here, which will not solve the purpose of shifting it.
Now plans are afoot to shift the Sector 23 dumping ground to Bhanu village, which is far from the residential area. Recently, Panchkula MLA Gian Chand Gupta had also written to Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, urging him to shift the dumping ground to some other area.
“I wrote to the CM , the site at Bhanu village will be perfect for the solid waste management project,” said Gupta. A person at Bhanu village is reportedly ready to sell his land at collector rates. The MC is planning to purchase this land and will also retain the land in Sector 23.
“If all goes per the plan, the dumping ground and the garbage processing plant will both be set up at Bhanu village. We will soon send a proposal to the Haryana government in this regard. A meeting with Haryana CM is also on the cards,” said an MC official.