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HT Spotlight: Welcome to Chandigarh’s wasteland

The ever increasing dump at Dadumajra is not just the bane of people living in adjoining sectors, but also of the entire city

punjab Updated: Jul 04, 2018 10:39 IST
Vivek Gupta
Vivek Gupta
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Chandigarh,Waste,Dadumajra
The smelly dump at Dadumajra is spread across 20 acres as the treatment plant can process only 30% of city’s waste.(Sikander Singh Chopra/HT Photo)

Half a million tonnes of garbage lying at Chandigarh’s waste disposal facility in Dadumajra speak volumes about the city’s waste management woes. It’s also the main reason why the city is unable to garner the No 1 position in the annual Swachh Survekshan.

While Panchkula and Mohali are still struggling to set up a waste processing plant, Chandigarh was the first to get this facility in 2005. But what was touted as a solution has turned into a problem for the city due to inadequate functioning of the plant and failure of the corporation to either legally exit from the firm running the plant or take it over for larger public interest.

The current waste disposal facility at Dadumajra comprises a waste processing plant run by JP Associates and a dumping ground that was meant to just store the waste before its disposal.

But mountains of garbage make a mockery of this exercise. The plant can process only 30% of the over 500 metric tonnes of garbage generated by the city every day. The rest is dumped outside. Things have come to such a pass that the MC has been forced to extend the dumping site by another 18 acres. The result is a strong stench that affects the quality of life in the surrounding sectors.

This year, a group of residents from the affected sectors used the International Yoga Day on June 21 to protest against this dump by using surgical masks while performing asanas.

The summer and monsoon are particularly harsh on the residents as the dump often catches fire and the stench putrefies.

WHAT IS WRONG?

The city hasn’t made much headway in either processing or segregation of waste. Last year, it celebrated the World Environment Day by distributing blue and green dust bins for segregation of waste, but since this exercise wasn’t extended to door-to-door garbage collectors, it failed even before taking off.

The processing part has never really taken off. Former mayor Arun Sood, councillor of the ward comprising Sectors 37, 38 and 38-West adjoining Dadumajra, says there is complete mismanagement in the processing plant.

The plant, he claimed, runs on German RDF technology that is supposed to produce fuel bricks out of waste, which can be sold in the market. Sood alleged that since JP is unable to sell its bricks, it is not investing in upgrading the plant to improve the quality of fuel bricks it is producing. Its composting plant too is not working since it has failed to enter into a contract for selling compost, he alleged.

While MC officials claim they can’t legally exit from the contract since there is no termination clause in it, Sood insists that the administration has the power to annul the contract and run the plant on its own. “There is a new technology that converts waste to energy without requiring any segregation but there is complete policy paralysis over it, forcing people to live in misery,” he fumed.

Unlike Mohali and Panchkula, there is no scientific capping of the dump at Dadumajra, which can go a long way in reducing the foul smell.

MC has also been unable to streamline the functioning of bulk garbage generators in the city, which are mainly hotels and institutes. As per municipal solid waste rules-2016, every institute producing 100 kg of waste a month needs to set up a composting plant. MC has so far identified 23 such institutes, but they are yet to take any action. Kavleen Kaur, an official deputed for solid waste management, said a public notice will soon be issued to increase compliance among bulk generators.

PEOPLE’S MOVEMENT

Last Friday, Mayor Davesh Moudgil sought to put the ball in the court of residents by citing the example of Indore, where 100% of waste is segregated and processed. He claimed that Indore’s waste management exercise is a success due to people’s participation. Calling for a change of public mindset, an infrastructure push, and proper processing of waste, the mayor said, “We lost the number one spot in cleanliness due to our weak waste management, but we are now actively working to usher in reforms that will give us the No 1 slot in the country.”

Baljinder Bittu, president of federation of resident welfare associations in Chandigarh, said the residents are ready to change but MC must ensure the required infrastructure.

“It is due to the active participation of residents that Chandigarh scored the highest marks in citizens feedback,” Bittu reminded the MC.

Nature of waste
  • Total waste generated per day: 500 metric tonnes
  • Biodegradable waste: 45%
  • Non-biodegradable waste: 55%
  • Area under the dump: 20 acres

FACE-TO-FACE WITH MC CHIEF KK YADAV

How do you see the current problem?

The city is definitely lagging behind in solid waste management. We are processing a little more than 30% of the total waste, and the rest is dumped unprocessed. Waste segregation is yet to take off.

How do you plan to tackle the problem?

A comprehensive plan is being drafted. We have the example of Indore which is segregating the waste at household level. While organic waste is composted, solid waste is sent to the processing facility.

What is needed for better waste management?

We must follow the three R’s -- reduce, reuse and recycle. Waste segregation is important as 45% of our total waste is organic, and can be reused and recycled through a central composting facility. The rest can be processed.

How can segregation be done?

First, we need to engage the residents, and then bring infrastructure to support segregation. For instance, Indore has collection vehicles with different bins for biodegradable and non- biodegradable waste. Similarly, they have different dustbins at every 100 metres, and these are cleared twice a day. The best part about Chandigarh is that our basic infrastructure is good and residents are active. We can easily achieve such high levels of waste management precision.

What about the ongoing dispute with the JP plant?

I am studying the matter and have already held a couple of meetings. We will soon find a solution.

Will funding be a problem?

No, we will not face any fund crunch. While part of the grant will be made available under Swachh Bharat Mission, we will also get funds from the smart city project, which has the component of solid waste management.

Life near a dump

Life in Dadumajra, the village that houses the dump and the waste processing plant, is a living hell. Narinder Chaudhary, a resident, wrings his hands as he tells you about the travails of living amidst filth, stench, and flies. “Whenever we protest, the MC makes some cosmetic changes but soon it’s back to square one.”

Mamta Dogra, a homemaker, said many families have moved out, and the ones that remain are those who don’t have the finances to make the switch. Most of the people living here do odd jobs and earn meagre salaries. Subhash Sood, who works in a private school and keeps all his windows and doors shut, says when people bought their houses here in the late 1990s, there was no dumping ground. “Now the mountain of garbage is so high that it reaches the second and third levels of houses here,” griped Narinder Chaudhary.

Sector 38 West adjoining Dadumajra is also suffering the collateral damage. Rajbir Brar, president of area HIF flats residents’ association, says a foul smell hangs in the air all the time, worsening during the monsoon and strong winds. The Tuesday’s shower, for instance, led to a strong stink in the sector. “MC should do something to solve this problem as things are deteriorating with every passing day. We don’t feel like a part of the City Beautiful,” groused Harpal Singh, another resident.

He said there are days when residents can’t come out of their houses. Old people are getting respiratory problems due to the smell. “People spent over 2 crore to buy independent houses here, but now they are repenting their decision. The administration should throw out the JP plant and bring in a new player,” he demanded.

First Published: Jul 04, 2018 10:39 IST