Bangalore – the problem with garbage landfill at Mavallipura

March 5, 2011

BBMP Commissioner Mr. Siddaiah promises permanent solution

March 05, 2011

About 700 tonnes of garbage generated in Bangalore is dumped every day in a landfill run by M/s Ramky at Mavallipura, past Yelahanka in north Bangalore. The company claims the landfill is scientifically run in total conformance with applicable norms, but the experience of the villagers proves something else altogether. For the hapless villagers who succeeded in shutting down an earlier illegal landfill spread over 40 acres of forest land in their village, run by a famer named Bailappa who falsely claimed the land as his own, the Ramky facility was promised as one without any such issues.

Contrary to such assurances, the Ramky facility that commenced operation in 2007 has spread disease and death through the villages. Several have contracted a variety of terminal illnesses and several are constantly suffering from skin ailments, fevers and gastro-intestinal disorders. The horrendous stench in the air is unbearable, and people simply cannot sleep. Mosquito nets are required during the day as well simply to have a meal without being bothered by hordes of flies. All lakes, wells, borewells and ponds are rendered toxic and there is simply no safe drinking water source for miles. Hordes of dogs drawn to the garbage attack cattle and sheep and destroy the livelihoods of shepherds; often children are victims of this scary menace. And scavenging birds offer a direct threat to flight movements of defence aircraft of the Yelahanka Air Force Base, only 5 kms. away.

Under the leadership of Dalit Sangarsh Samithi (S) and with the consistent support of Environment Support Group, the affected communities have been struggling against these illegal landfills for several years now. Protests and blockades have been frequently organised by DSS to highlight the suffering endured, only to be attacked with a series of false criminal charges. Unrelenting, the struggle has continued and exposed the hopeless state of affairs amongst regulatory agencies such as KSPCB, in BBMP and of Ramky. In response, high officials have repeatedly assured many relief and mitigative measures, but none have been kept. This cycle of protests and assurances have repeated endlessly over the years.

BBMP Commissioner Siddaiah, first to visit Mavallipura:

On Tuesday, villagers of Mavallipura resumed their protests unable to bear the assault on their lives and livelihoods by the mountains of putrefying waste from Bangalore. Trucks bringing in wastes (about 250 daily) were blocked. The gravity of the situation got the attention of the Commissioner Mr. Siddaiah who organised a meeting on 3rd March involving his entire team of officials. In was a very honest appraisal of the situation, in which ESG’s report “Bangalore’s Toxic Legacy” played a significant part, the extent to which communities had been contaminated and the various illegalities of the facility were considered.

As a consequence of this meeting, Mr. Siddaiah undertook a site visit along with his engineering, management, police and medical team and visited both the Ramky and Bailappa landfills and spent hours with the villagers to appreciate and understand their problems. This is the first time any Commissioner of Bangalore has ever visited this village that receives close to a third of Bangalore’s mess, a good proportion of which is toxic.

Mr. Siddaiah admitted that “the way Ramky is running the landfill, there are numerous problems. They are not treating the leachates; it is running everywhere. There is also no segregation of waste. A large amount of waste is being received and simply not managed properly”. Empathising with the villagers and the adverse impact on their lives and livelihoods, Mr. Siddaiah expressed his anguish. “People’s health is being adversely impacted. Healthy people are also being affected. Several are reporting kidney problems, meningitis, bone disorders, cancers, etc. Contaminated water could be the major causative factor. How can people survive in such a polluted environment?” Without sparing any words he said “The condition of the environment around the landfill is scary. It has created a variety of complex problems. What people are complaining about is absolutely to be trusted. BBMP takes full responsibility for this. But Bangaloreans also must take a share of their responsibility for being a cause of such a colossal problem”.

Mr. Siddaiah immediately ordered a series of steps that would be undertaken:

An interdisciplinary medical team comprising of nephrologists, gynaecologists, physicians, skin specialists, etc. drawn from leading hospitals will conduct medical camps in all affected villages over the next 6 months to identify the causative factors and extend help to the victims at BBMP cost. Those who are already suffering from various terminal illnesses will be comprehensively taken care of at BBMP and Government cost.

Safe drinking water will be sourced and supplied regularly. With the assistance of the BWSSB, the possibility of sourcing Cauvery water will be explored and extended to the affected villages, if possible.

All surface and ground water sources will be monitored for contamination regularly and steps taken to remedy the situation.

Animal husbandry specialists will undertake a comprehensive analysis of the impact on cattle and sheep, and appropriate relief will be extended. Similarly, the impact on agriculture and horticulture will be analysed and remedial steps taken.

BBMP will meet with Ramky officials and ensure contractual obligations are met with. Failing which appropriate action per law will be initiated. In particular, immediate efforts will be taken to ensure that leachates are treated and reused within the facility, stench will be minimised, and waste managed as contracted.

The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board will be requested to pursue to logical conclusion the criminal case filed against farmer Bailappa who falsely claimed forest land to be his own and allowed over 10 lakhs tonnes of garbage to be dumped through 2003-07.

All false criminal cases filed against various villagers will be withdrawn.

On the demand of the villagers to translocate the landfill given its threat to their lives, livelihoods, to the Yelahanka Air Force Base and to Bangalore’s major drinking water source T. G. Halli (which receives the effluents from the landfill), Mr. Siddaiah said this is a decision that he cannot take on his own. In his words: “It is indeed a demand of the local people. But are we to translocate this problem to another village? We need to find a comprehensive and lasting solution for this. Whatever information that has been provided by ESG has helped us understand the scale of the problem. We will go into this and find a lasting solution. We are serious.”

Mr. Srinivas of DSS who has been leading this relentless campaign on behalf of the villagers, was hopefull and shared that Mr. Siddaiah appeared to be a man of his word. He hoped that he will meet his assurances. In any case the campaign would continue till the villagers of Mavallipura could breath clean air and drink safe water, as they always did, until the curse of Bangalore’s garbage destroyed their lives and livelihoods.

Leo F. Saldanha, Bhargavi S. Rao, Mallesh K. R.

Environment, Social Justice and Governance Initiatives
Environment Support Group – Trust

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Narrative of taped interviews extended by BBMP Commissioner Mr. Siddaiah during the Mavallipura visit today:

The environment around the landfill is scary. It has created a variety of complex problems. What people are complaining about is absolutely to be trusted. Leachate has not been treated. Leachate Treatment Plant is not functional. When it rains the leachates are carried into lakes and wells. Drinking water has been contaminated as a result. The serious problem of leachates contaminating ground and surface waters will be comprehensively addressed.

Corrective actions to be taken:

I have directed my officials to conduct a comprehensive survey of the extent of contamination of surface and ground water. Immediately, we will conduct medical camps every month for six months. This will help us establish the extent of contamination of health. This will be done by specialists such as nephrologists, orthopedicians, physicicans, gynaecologists, etc. Based on their reports we will take comprehensive steps to treat those affected. We will also take up frequent spraying to contain the mosquito and fly problems. About the smell. this is a major problem. We will see if this can be resolved by covering the plant. In addition we are worried about the high rates of scavenging birds and dogs. This will be tackled on a war footing.

Impact on people’s health:

People’s health is being adversely impacted. Healthy people are also being affected. Several are reporting kidney problems, meningitis, bone disorders. Contaminated water could be the major causative factor. Muniraju, who lives next to the landfill, is now suffering from Kidney failure. He was a healthy man and his condition today is pathetic. I have referred his case to the proper doctors and we will ensure his costs are covered by BBMP or the Government. Similarly others who are suffering from terminal illnesses will also be covered by BBMP.

How can people survive in such a polluted environment. How can we correct this situation so people can live in peace, healthily. If all of us generate waste in Blore and come and dump it here, it is simply unacceptable.

There is a big responsibility for BBMP. But there is also a major responsibility of people of Blore. We will look into all the problems relating to the waste stream and find a comprehensive and lasting solution.

People are innocent and suffering. It is BBMP’s responsibility to take care of their every need. The problem is very serious. Yet people are very tolerant. We should not test their patience any further.

On the legality of Ramky facility and the demand for shutting it down:

We have allowed this facility to come up here from 2007. We have given them land and cleared it. How can we now say it is illegal? But I will examine this issue as well. It is indeed a demand of the local people (that the landfill has to be shut down). But are we to translocate this problem to another village? We need to find a comprehensive and lasting solution for this.

Whatever information that has been provided by ESG has helped us understand the scale of the problem. We will go into this and find a lasting solution. We are serious.


Action against Ramky:

The way Ramky is running the landfill there are numerous problems. They are not treating the leachates; it is running everywhere. There is also no segregation of waste. A large amount of waste is being received. We had discussions with them the other day. But by this visit I have understood the gravity of the situation and their colossal failures. This is not a business deal. This is about ensuring people live happily. In case Ramky does not take corrective action we will take action per law against them.

Bailappa’s illegal landfill on forest land:

I have requested the KSPCB to pursue the criminal case filed against Bailappa. Someone who has claimed forest land as his own and allowed dumping, must be punished. Everyone connected with that decision will also be punished. The waste that is dumped there must be contained and the are decontaminated. We will take up this issue seriously.

About providing safe drinking water:

If there is a possibiilty to extend Cauvery water facility, we will certainly ensure that this water reaches these contaminated villages. This is a problem we have created. WE have to find a solution for this drinking water problem. We will immediately try and find safe drinking water in a week or two and supply it by tankers.

In summary:

We have all failed villagers of Mavallipura. We cannot go on talking about these failures. We will ensure there is now a comprehensive solution.

A Cattle rearer:

If we fight, they arrest us. Just give us some poison so we can all die. I used to have 50 sheep, today I have none. How can I live? I had 23 heads of cattle, today I have three. They collect all the dogs from Blore and release it here. There are at any time 1000-2000 dogs here. They attack our sheep and cattle. Our children and women folk are attacked.

I was a award winner for rearing sheep. I had 50 sheep. On one day I lost four sheep to those dogs. When our cattle die, can we live. (Cries)

You gave our Gomala (grazing pastures) to Ramky. Why did you give this to Ramky? Give it back to us.

They come and dump carcasses of cattle here. We are old and will die soon. Is this what we leave for our children.

There is simply no water to drink.

A Farmer:

The stench is horrendous. If we labour on our fields, earn a little and eat, we throw-up that food right-away because of the stench.

The Gomala was granted to us during Maharaja’s time. To support our cattle rearing and help us prosper. Today you are dumping waste in this gomala.

You make up your mind and stop this mess. Stop the plastic from coming here. That will solve more than half our problems.

An elderly man:

All you officers sit in your rooms. If our cattle die what are we to live off. We used to generate 3000 litres of milk. Today it is only 500 litres. Tell us what are we to do?

An elderly woman:

Everyone is falling sick.