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Pune’s garbage crisis mounts

The Hindu, Pune, 7th January, 2015


Shoumojit Banerjee


Two villages refuse to be dumping yards


With residents of Uruli Devachi and Phursungi refusing to allow dumping of garbage from Pune, city-based NGOs have written to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, demanding an Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) probe into irregularities plaguing the city’s garbage processing units.


The Nagrik Chetana Manch, in conjunction with the Sajag Nagrik Manch, have written to Mr. Fadnavis calling attention to the decrepit state of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC)- run waste disposal plants which have consumed lakhs of the taxpayers’ rupees even as the city’s waste-disposal problem, festering for over two decades, majored into a full-blown crisis.


Tensions peaked between the PMC and the hapless villagers of Uruli and Phursungi, 16 km from the city, who have resolutely barred any PMC truck from dumping on their land for the seventh consecutive day even as trash in urban Pune continued to pile at alarming levels.


“As a result of snags in the city’s waste-processing plants, villagers and in Uruli and Phursungi today face a major health crisis,” said RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar.


In 1981, the State government allotted 43 acres of land in verdant Uruli and provisioned another 120 acres of land in Phursungi in 2003 to meet the waste-disposal demands of Pune’s indiscriminate urbanisation. In just one instance, the two plants set up by Hanjer Biotech at Uruli Devachi with a waste-treating capacity of 1,000 tonne, was barely able to process 200 tonne of waste.


According to the PMC, Pune generated around 300 tonne garbage daily in 1991, a figure that has soared to nearly 1,700 tonne, of which around 950 tonne is ostensibly segregated.


The dumping in these villages has polluted the air and water while leading to a dramatic rise is diseases, severely afflicting the health of families there.


“Years of bureaucratic bungling and civic apathy have destroyed our village. We are firmly resolved not to allow the PMC to carry on dumping here,” said the sarpanch of Uruli village.


“The issue is a serious one and should not be politicized. The government ought to provide relief to villager sat once,” said Nationalist Congress Party MP Supriya Sule, on a visit to the dumping sites at Uruli on Wednesday.


However, barring lip-service, Ms. Sule’s party, the NCP, has done precious little to alleviate the villagers’ misery for 15 years when it helmed power in Maharashtra. Former deputy chief minister, Ajit Pawar, ignored the matter so far.


The waste crisis has already donned political garb, with the NCP posturing on the side of the afflicted villagers, much like the Bharatiya Janata Party had done before it snared power in the State after this election.


“We are concerned about the health of villagers. No party should make it political,” said the current Guardian Minister of Pune, Girish Bapat. However, he had controversially stated that the city generated not more than 1200 tonne garbage and that the figure was being inflated to benefit some people.


Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is expected to visit the site on Thursday in an attempt to break the deadlock.