Residents fear Karnataka government will dig up Mandur landfill for housing scheme

Dumping was stopped at landfill after years of protests by residents, who are now furious.
The housing department wants relaxation of the buffer zone in Mandur to proceed with construction | nagaraja gadekal
The housing department wants relaxation of the buffer zone in Mandur to proceed with construction | nagaraja gadekal

BENGALURU: Much to the anger of Mandur villagers and environmentalists, Minister for Urban Development and Housing U T Khader will meet officials on August 18 to ensure time-bound construction of one lakh houses for the poor near Mandur landfill. He will also request for relaxation of the buffer zone in order to proceed with the building.

Rajiv Gandhi Rural Housing Corporation (RGRHC) will construct apartments for the economically backward as part of the state government’s scheme for providing one lakh houses. The Mandur landfill, that occupies 64 acres on the outskirts of Bengaluru, was closed in 2014 after large-scale protests by residents. BBMP covered the garbage with sand and as a result there is no stench in the area, except when there is rain or wind.

Khader told The New Indian Express, “In the first phase, we will construct on the 100 acres near the landfill where there is no garbage. In the second phase we will clear the garbage on 35 acres of the landfill and construct there. I don’t want any dillydallying on this scheme. On August 18, I will convene a meeting with officials to expedite the process and request for relaxation of buffer zone norms.” According to the existing norms, construction is not permitted within the 1km radius from the landfill.

This proposal has come as a shock to environmentalists, urban experts, activists, architects and Mandur villagers. Ramesh MN (38) is a village of Mandur and his is one of the first few houses that lines the road leading to the landfill. “After four years, the stench has finally stopped and there is no smell in the water. But even now when it rains or if there is wind, we get the smell. If the construction of that housing complex will bring back the smell, we won’t let the construction happen,” he said.

How come rich don’t get the smell, asks Khader

On being conveyed of these concerns, Khader said, “So many high rises, apartments and gated communities have come up near the landfill. How come the rich and the affluent don’t get the smell? That said, we will take all the measures required and not do anything that is not in the interest of the society. We have not gone into the environmental specifics yet.”

BBMP Joint Commissioner for Solid Waste Management Sarfaraz Khan said, “Recently, a presentation was made to the technical guidance committee to allow them to do biomining of the landfill - the process of clearing the site of metals. We have to approach the government for approval.”

Environmentalist Yellappa Reddy said, “It is a volcano of biomethane gas. A small ignition can cause the entire mound to catch fire. How can one think of setting up anything there? Also, the leachate ponds won’t disappear from solar evaporation as it consists of sludge, hydrocarbons, grease, oil, petroleum, sulphuric acid, chromium and lead.”

Architect and urban designer Naresh Narasimhan said, “Let’s not assume the government does not know what it is doing. It is true that there are constructions near the landfill but has the pollution control board given a go-ahead? Let them get an environmental impact assessment report first and assess the soil content.”

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The New Indian Express