Last month we closely followed the electoral drama unfolding in Mumbai – the financial capital of the country. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections were held in 227 wards of the city and both Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were locked in a close competition to put forward their candidates for the Mayor’s office. BMC is the country’s richest civic body and winning the elections topped the agenda of both parties in the state. Last week, Shiv Sena’s Vishwanath Mahadeshwar took charge of the Mayor’s office but the victory promises to be anything but sweet. The BMC is set to face looming challenges of epic proportions in the weeks and months to come.
The Garbage Disposal Battle
One of the first and biggest challenges that the BMC will now face is waste disposal in the city. On an average, Mumbai generates about 9,000 metric tonnes of garbage a day. Of this, about 5,200 metric tonnes of garbage is sent to the dumping grounds at Mulund and Deonar. Following frequent episodes of fire outbreaks in the Deonar dumping ground, the Bombay High Court has prohibited the BMC from dumping waste in these two grounds from June 30, 2017. So in about three months from now, the BMC will need to find a new dump yard or come up with a way to process huge amounts of waste daily.
Waste Processing Plans Meet Roadblocks
The BMC intends to set up waste processing units both at Deonar and Mulund. The 90 year old Deonar yard is the city’s largest dumping ground. Setting up a waste processing unit here will require a tremendous amount of work. Starting from finding contractors, launching tenders, getting the bidding process going, and getting environmental clearances – the mammoth task will require at least a year to set up and may even go up to two. While the tenders for Mulund have already been floated, there seem to be no bidders. According to the environment protection laws of India, setting up a waste processing unit in a highly populated area is illegal. The contractors who bid for the project will be responsible for getting all the requisite clearances – the challenge seems to be an insurmountable one.
Alternatives Pose Challenges
The Maharashtra state government had provided the BMC two alternative plots to be used as landfills. One of these is located on the Mulund-Airoli road and the other in Taloja. The problem with the 240-acre alternative plot provided to the BMC on the Mulund-Airoli road is that it the Salt Department of Mumbai has refused requisite permissions. The land belongs to a third-party and is still being used to make salt, says the Salt Commissioner’s office. The 52-acre plot in Taloja is owned by the state government and was handed over to the BMC, but the people of the six villages in the vicinity have raised mass protests about using the land as a dumping ground. The wastes dumped there will raise the pollution levels and affect the health and well-being of the villagers, the protesters claim. The BMC also claims that this plot is unsuitable as there have been illegal encroachments and people are living on the site. The BMC also claims that the protests are unfounded as the waste dumped here will be processed and will not affect the environment. With time quickly running out on the deadline set on the Deonar and Mulund dumping grounds, the BMC is only left with the Kanjurmarg dumping ground where waste treatment and dumping is possible. The two dumping grounds at Deonar and Mulund hold over 14.38 million tonnes of waste waiting to be treated. Meanwhile, the air and land pollution levels of the city are escalating. While Shiv Sena may have won the electoral battle, the real test of performance without the support of either BJP or Congress, is to follow.
Read More… Deonar Dumping Ground: Fire and Pollution