BANGALORE: Residents of Banashankari 6th Stage are fighting a desperate battle against a nine-acre municipal solid waste management unit coming up in their midst.
The BBMP project, near reserve forests and rejuvenated lakes, will turn the pristine neighbourhood into a hell hole, citizens fear. It is meant to process garbage from 21 wards. But it has not obtained the necessary sanctions (see box).
When Mandur, the village where Bangalore's garbage was being sent for years, protested, the government was forced to think of an alternative site, and it zeroed in on this layout. It now looks like another Mandur is in the making.
When City Express visited the site in 5th Block, Lingadeeranahalli, hectic civil works were in progress, with two JCBs levelling the land. The work goes on round the clock, according to people living in the vicinity.
Citizens are scared to talk on record, since they say protest is being crushed with the help of the police. Work began on the project on July 17, amid tight police protection. Estimated to cost `45 crore, it is being executed in two phases.
The processing plant will come up on 38,000 square metres just 15 feet from a reserve forest and a stone's throw from the rejuvenated Sompura Lake.
Why This Secrecy?
In fact, a policeman on duty warned City Express not to take any photos. He did not allow us to go near the forest wall, slowly being eroded.
A wall is being constructed around the 9.28 acres earmarked for the SWM plant to set it apart from the residential layout and the B M Kaval State Reserve Forest.
In fact, when the plant becomes operational in December this year, it will sit cheek by jowl with many residences, according to Banashankari VI Stage Resident Welfare Association President Mahesh T S.
“We were trying to ensure this verdant forest zone, with its unique flora and fauna, was maintained well, but we are doomed," he said. The association has already launched a campaign to make the layout a plastic-free zone.
Lakes Under Threat
The BDA spent `3.9 crore on rejuvenating the Sompura Lake. Hemmigepura Lake nearby is one of the biggest lakes in the city. "Now what will happen to these water bodies?” Mahesh said.
Some houses are just 100-300 metres from the site. Resident Leelashree says, “We thought we were safe as it was a BDA layout. Never had we imagined we would live next to a garbage landfill.” Chandrashekar Joshi, an engineer, is running around to highlight the issue.
“Repeated RTI applications have not yielded details as the project is completely under wraps," he said.
The Upalokayukta, he recalls, visited the spot and told the BBMP to get all permissions. "But they are capable of cooking up backdated permissions,” he said, angrily.
MLA, MP ignored
Displaying letters, a scared citizen said, “Both Somashekar, Yeshwantpur MLA, and Sadananda Gowda, Bangalore North MP, have voiced their opposition to the project. It is no democracy when even our representatives are helpless.”
Jayarame Gowda, a long-time resident of Metkalpalya village, alleged, “No opinion of the residents was sought. They have not done any environment impact assessment study, mandatory under the Solid Waste Management Rules."
He spoke about five schools and colleges, including the RV College of Architecture, being in the vicinity.
The BBMP is scrambling to meet a December deadline and is not bothered about the unit's adverse impact, a citizen said. “Each ward should have its own processing facility, according to a High Court order, but why a mega plant here?” said Mangala, who lives in the area.
Where are the Sanctions?
Documents accessed by Express clearly reveal many regulations being flouted by the BBMP in its haste to begin a new unit as Mandur closes on December 1.
The BBMP has no clearance from the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board or from the State Forest Department.
In fact, on August 8, 2014, the KSPCB regional officer wrote that the site was unfit for a solid waste plant.
On August 30, in the wake of a study by the Kaggalipura Range Forest Officer, the Deputy Conservator of Forest (Bangalore Urban) directed the BBMP to stop all work and obtain a no-objection certificate. He cautioned that the unit was coming up adjacent to the B M Kaval forests, and would adversely affect the wildlife habitat. According to a notification issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, landfills should be away from habitation clusters, forest areas, water bodies, monuments, national parks, wetlands and places of cultural, historical or religious interest. BBMP Commissioner Lakshminarayana claims there will be no landfill at Banashankari 6th stage, but only a processing plant.
But the proposed layout plan shows a clear area marked out for a land-filling area in Phase-1 of 10,153 sq metres and in Phase-2 of 9,830 sq metres. He further asserted the plant was coming up with all necessary sanctions. “The clearances are looked after by various officers,” he said.
Every ward should have a municipal solid waste unit according to High Court orders and that is what the BBMP is building, Lakshminarayana said.