NGT orders for new dump site within two months; GMC in fix over location
The Guwahati Municipal Corporation seems to be in a fix as a new dump site has not been finalised by the urban local body yet. The municipal body was supposed to shift the site from Boragaon to Chandrapur way back in November 2015, but no action has been taken on that till now.
The government body has been ordered by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on April 29, 2019 to shift the dumping site within a period of two months. The order was passed by the Principal Bench of the NGT and also directed the GMC to file an affidavit on the steps that it will take to shift the dumping ground to the new site.
Earlier, the GMC had said that they had abandoned the plan of shifting the dumping ground to two possible sites allotted by the Revenue Department for garbage dumping - one at Saidang and the other at Bonda - due to the resistance by the local residents at both the allotted sites. Later, the GMC also consulted IIT-Kharagpur to do a study on the scientific waste management system.
The GMC submitted an affidavit before the NGT bench that the municipal committee has taken a decision to shift the dumping ground from the current forest areas of the Deepor Beel to a different site in Chandrapur area of Guwahati.
Speaking to G Plus, Debeshwar Malakar, commissioner of the GMC said that the municipal body has directed the deputy commissioners (DC) of both Kamrup and Kamrup (Metro) to look for an alternative location for a new dumping ground. “We have directed the DCs of both Kamrup and Kamrup (Metro) districts to search for an alternative site and the Kamrup (Metro) DC has proposed a site at Chandrapur area and we are carrying out a survey of that area.
It will take some time to finalise the site, but we are also looking for other alternative sites,” said commissioner Malakar.
He further said that the municipal body is currently carrying out solid waste management techniques and Dalmia Cements have shown interest in taking the plastic from the site for their cement factory.
“We held a meeting with the Pollution Control Board of Assam in connection with supplying the waste plastic from the site to Dalmia Cements after they have shown interest in taking it and the Pollution Control Board has agreed that it can be done by segregating it from other waste materials. We are carrying out the survey fast to finalise the new spot as per the NGT order,” said Malakar.
“We had a meeting with urban development department officials recently. In the meeting it was decided that a tender would be floated to invite agencies for the modern waste management technique to separate plastic from other waste which are bio-degradable which is still under the discussion as it is time consuming and expensive. We are chalking out a budget for that,” Malakar further added.
Growing pollution concerns call for relocation of dumping site
The Boragaon dumping ground of the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) is posing a threat to the natural habitation at Deepor Beel just on the outskirts of the city.
The site is protected under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, 1971. The area has been suffering from environmental degradation due to continuous waste dumping since 2004. The continuous garbage dumping by the GMC is causing serious health issues among the local residents, who have demanded that the garbage dumping should be stopped immediately.
On April 25, a Hargilla (Greater Adjutant Stork) was rescued by the locals of Boragoan when it was found unwell after having consumed some waste materials lying around at the GMC dumping site. The area, which is home to many endangered species of birds and animals, is being continually exposed to water body pollutants and other harmful chemicals which have now put the lives of many endangered species under threat.
Parimal Suklabaidya, the minister of fisheries, excise, and environment & forest, in February 2019, had said that pollutants as well as the waste materials from the dump site have become a matter of serious concern for the ecologically-sensitive Deepor Beel. He even warned the people from consuming fish caught from the Beel because of the rampant pollution.
While raising the issue in the Assembly session, Parimal Suklabaidya said that all the waste from across the city are dumped at the Boragaon site which has led to spillage of the garbage into Deepor Beel thus polluting the water-body.
Environmentalists say that the Boragaon dumping site is located at an important place with respect to its proximity to important institutions and the Deepor Beel. They have also been demanding shifting the site to a new location for the past many years.
“I strongly feel that the Boragaon dumping ground should be shifted to a new location at the earliest since no dumping of waste and garbage should take place near a water body and important institution buildings,” informed city-based consultant engineer and environmentalist, JN Khataniar.
He added that Boragaon is an important location with respect to the flora and fauna and is also in a green belt. Therefore, dumping of city waste should not take place here.
Khataniar told G Plus that the authorities should look into a permanent scientific process for disposal of the waste at an earmarked site.
“The new location needs to be a permanent location and there should be no shifting of the dumping ground from time to time. The open dumping of waste should be avoided since it pollutes the water and air. There should be a proper site and we should follow other advanced cities such as Ahmedabad,” he mentioned.
Another city-based environmentalist informed that the process of shifting the dumping ground means that the garbage will not be physically shifted to the new location. However, no further debris will be dumped at the old site.
“The old site will be abandoned and no further waste will be dumped there. But, it will still continue to create trouble for the environment and will deteriorate the condition of the nearby areas,” he added.
Proposed land not feasible for dumping ground: GMC
The Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) officials informed that nothing has been finalised with regards to shifting the dumping ground from Boragaon.
“We have not finalised anything yet. Although a plot of land has been assigned to us for a new dumping ground at Chandrapur by the deputy commissioner, there are some issues with the plot which makes it unfeasible,” informed a senior official at the GMC at the condition of anonymity.
Elaborating on the reasons which make it inconvenient for turning the new location in Chandrapur into a dumping ground, he mentioned that the proposed land is a low lying area and it also lacks a boundary wall.
“Apart from this, we will also have to construct a road near the area. The location might also be shifted from Chandrapur to a completely new place,” he further added.
Citing the technical issues faced by them in the area, the municipal body has also requested the government to consider choosing a different location from Chandrapur for a new dumping ground. This apart, the GMC officials have also written to the government authorities and have brought the existing issues at Chandrapur to its notice.
Further, GMC officials also cited fund crunch for construction of the boundary wall and road at the proposed site at Chandrapur.
“The government needs to sanction funds to us. Only then will we be able to resolve the existing problems at the new dumping ground site,” he said.
Commenting on the process of locating a new dumping ground site, an official informed that first the land will have to be developed, boundary wall will also be constructed and road construction is required for vehicular movement.
He added that apart from this, scientific landfill will have to be designed.
“It is a time-consuming process. There are procedures which do not require to physically shift the garbage from Boragaon to the new place, this includes bio-manning. For this we had already involved IIT Kharagpur to prepare the DPR,” said an official.
He added that after the IIT officials provided them with a few suggestions, the GMC had written to IIT for the same to provide them with the required funds in order to move ahead with the project.
Deepor Beel battling with pollution
Experts say that apart from apart from the Boragaon dumping ground, the primary reason for Deepor Beel’s toxicity is the untreated sewage waste from the city which goes directly or indirectly into the water body.
The demand for setting up a sewage treatment plant (STP) in the city has been ongoing for a long time now.
However, the authorities have turned a blind eye as no steps have been taken by them in this regard.
“One of the major reasons that the pollution levels in the area has not gone down over the years is because of the city’s untreated sewage waste ends up in the major water bodies in the absence of a sewage treatment plant in the city,” informed a senior official at Pollution Control Board of Assam.
He added, “We have written to the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) as well, as to the Guwahati Development Department of the state government from time to time asking them to set up an STP to treat city’s waste before it goes into the rivers.”
Experts working in the field of environment say that since Guwahati has been selected to be developed as a “smart city,” the authorities must be concerned about the proper treatment and disposal of city’s waste.
The untreated waste also falls into the Brahmaputra River - the lifeline of Assam and pollutes it, too.
Environmentalists feel that if steps are not taken, the Brahmaputra River will also become highly polluted in the future.
An official at the GMC informed G Plus that the municipal corporation does not have any plan to set up a STP in the near future as of now.