Trash burns, corporators muck about

Some corporators are in denial while others don’t know what action to take against violators
Trash burns, corporators muck about

BENGALURU: Organisers of Bangalore is Burning, a campaign advocating the scientific disposal of garbage in the city, has found that most trash was set on fire in Indiranagar.

A few months ago, they invited people to WhatsApp photos of garbage being burnt, with the location.

“We were taken aback because this is considered an upmarket and posh locality,” says Divya Narayanan, a campaigner at Jhatka, an NGO that works on environmental and human rights.

Out of the 327 photos it received since the launch of the campaign in May, 56 were from this neighbourhood.

“We initially had people saying garbage burning does not happen in the city, that it happens only on the outskirts,” she says. The crowdsourcing has, therefore, been an eye-opener. 

Paurakarmikas and other waste-management staff burning garbage have been caught on camera. One photo is from 17th B Cross, Indiranagar, and others are from Domlur and Kumaraswamy Layout.

“The garbage burnt is mostly mixed waste, and plastic releases dioxins,” says Divya.

Health experts say constant exposure to dioxins can cause lifelong asthma, growth defects and even cancer. The fumes can also affect one’s reproductive and immune systems.

City Express tried to get in touch with the corporators of the three wards these spots fall under — Hoysala Nagar in Indiranagar, Jeevan Bima Nagar (Domlur) and Kumaraswamy Layout.

While L Srinivas of Kumaraswamy Layout remained out of reach, neither of the other two had concrete answers on how they would deal with people who burn garbage, despite City Express bringing to their attention the photographs residents have sent in.

Hoysala Nagar corporator Anand Kumar S refuses to accept this could happen in his ward, crediting the residents for being a ‘pretty active’ lot who ‘won’t let such things slide’.

“17th B Cross is very close to our ward office and I haven’t observed any such thing,” he adds. “Garbage burning was a big issue on Double Road when I took over as corporator. I put an end to it.”

Yet, ask him what action he would take against those behind garbage burning, and he seems unsure.

Contractors are the biggest offenders, says Divya. But Anand Kumar says if the photos show pourakarmikas burning garbage, then ‘it won’t make sense to pull up the contractors for it’.

If the offenders are residents, he says, he can levy a fine. If they are commercial establishments then corporators ‘have the power to cancel their licences’.

The city’s corporation is short of contractors, says Sarfaraz Khan, BBMP’s Joint Commissioner (Solid Waste Management). Therefore, ‘unless they repeatedly do this, we cannot suspend their licences’.

However, he agrees that this is a serious offence. “I will fine the contractors and also not clear their bills if they are found guilty,” says Khan.

The contractors and BBMP staffers assigned to clear the streets of garbage don’t respond to the summons of elected representatives, says Ramakrishna, speaking for his wife Veena Kumari, councillor of Jeevan Bima Nagar.

“It’s one of 100 to 150 spots in the ward where the problem, common to the entire city, exists,” he says. “And people have been dumping garbage here for 10 years now.”

Sometimes residents dump their waste at these spots, but more often than not, commuters passing through drop of a bag full of garbage, perhaps en route to work, he observes.

“Garbage is an everyday problem,” he adds. “If we clear it at 8 am, it’s back by 9 or 10 am.”

But garbage burning is another issue, and it’s usually residents or other people he mobilises who put it off.

“If it’s forenoon, it’s generally the paurakarmikas who are behind it, and we call them to put it out,” he claims.

But if a fire is lit later in the evening, the person who sparks it mysteriously eludes all eyes, he adds. “And if we call the BBMP officials to help, they say, we’ve left for the day. So we put it out ourselves, sometimes calling for tankers.”

There’s little BBMP officials can do about this, he believes. “There’s a responsible way to dispose waste, and people have to realise it. No one can man these spots 24x7,” he says.

However, he first denied that the spot in Domlur, on Indiranagar 100 Ft Road, was under ‘our ward’. But after the BBMP zonal control room insisted it was indeed Ward 88, he relented.

The NGO had uploaded a petition asking the municipal corporation to issue a notification detailing the penalties that would be imposed if anyone burns garbage.

“The waste management rules only say it is illegal, but does not say what would happen to violators,” says Divya.

This petition has already garnered 3,000 signatures.

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