NGT threatens to prosecute Meerut's municipal commissioner over illegal dumping of waste in a neighbouring village
In spite of notices issued by the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board, tonnes of waste remains illegally dumped by the Meerut Nagar Nigam at Ganwri village on the bank of Kali river, a tributary of the Ganga.
On July 3, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) came down heavily on the Meerut Nagar Nigam for having "failed to perform its statutory duties" and held it "responsible for damage to the environment and to the public health" due to illegal dumping of waste in Ganwri village, about eight kilometres from Meerut city. The NGT has also ordered the nagar nigam to pay Rs 24 lakh as compensation for environmental damages, as demanded by the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board.
In its recent order, the NGT's principal bench at New Delhi cited an April 2019 inspection report of the state pollution control board that had recorded the dump site at Ganwri was "operated in violation of conditions of environmental clearance". The tribunal noted that the municipal corporation had not taken any consent under the the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 for dumping of waste and the proposed waste processing plant at Ganwri. No authorisation was taken under the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, too.
Illegal dumping of waste in Ganwri village on the bank of Kali river, has caused both a health epidemic and an environmental disaster, allege local people.
"Since 2015, the nagar nigam is unscientifically dumping mixed waste at Ganwri village. It had purchased land from the farmers to set up a waste processing plant and had promised to provide employment to the local people. But rather than setting up any such facility, the municipality has been mindlessly dumping waste in the village," Naveen Kumar, who filed the petition in the NGT against the Meerut Municipal Corporation and others, told Gaon Connection.
"After purchasing over nine hectares land from the farmers, the municipality dug the area about 18-feet deep and started dumping the waste, which included hospital waste and all discarded electronics items. Our entire groundwater is contaminated due to leachate of Meerut's waste," complained Kumar. According to him, diseases such as skin problems, water-borne ailments, breathing disorders and cancers have increased in the village. The petition alleges that 22 deaths and over 200 sick patients in Ganwri are due to waste-related diseases. The stench of putrefying waste is unbearable, but villagers have no choice. A large number of local people depend on the deep tubewells to meet their water needs.
Apart from causing health concerns, the waste dump site at Ganwri is right on the edge of the Kali river. Villagers allege that during the monsoon, waste and leachate directly flow into the river.
"Rains cause havoc in the area as waste flows all over. Apart from Ganwri, other neighbouring villages, such as Jalauddin and Masoodpur, are also facing wrath of the dumped waste," said Akash Vashistha, advocate of the petitioner. "Even during the non-rainy season, leachate from the dump site continues to contaminate the groundwater and flows into the Kali river," he added.
Kali river is over 300-km long and joins the Ganga at Kannauj. The Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 clearly specify that "the landfill site shall be 100 meter away from river, 200 meter from a pond, 200 meter from highways, habitations, public parks and water supply wells, and 20 km away from airports or airbase." The rules further add that "the landfill site shall not be permitted within the flood plains as recorded for the last 100 years, zone of coastal regulation, wetland, critical habitat areas, sensitive eco-fragile areas."
"At Ganwri village, the only thing separating waste dump site from the Kali river is a boundary wall," said Kumar.
Since last year, villagers have been approaching concerned authorities to seek redressal. Last September, they wrote a letter to the state pollution control board bringing to its notice the illegal dumping of waste in their village. The pollution control board immediately issued a letter to the Meerut Municipal Corporation asking it not to dump the waste there. But, the dumping continued. Petitioners also approached the secretary of urban development department to intervene in the matter.
In February this year, the state pollution control board conducted an inspection of the site and filed a report. It reads: "Solid waste was found dumped at the site in unscientific and un-hygienic manner and a foul smell was observed near the dumping site… Plant and machinery for handling of solid waste is not installed at the site. The waste is handled manually in un-hygienic manner and not segregated before dumping." The report also noted that "there is no arrangement for leachate collection and treatment of leachate."
Both the Lucknow office and the regional Meerut office of the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board issued notices to the municipal corporation, but "no reply has been given by Nagar Nigam, Meerut".
Sunita Verma, mayor of Meerut conceded to Gaon Connection that Meerut's waste was causing a huge problem. "The city generates 1,200 tonnes solid waste daily. Since there is no facility for processing of waste, it gets dumped at various sites and villagers are angry," said Verma. But, she pushed the blame on the state government. "We have written several letters to the state government bringing to its notice the waste crisis in the city. But, we haven't received any help or direction," she complained.
Since early this year, Ganwri and neighbouring villagers have been protesting against the waste dumping. A couple of months back, villagers sat on a dharna for 10-12 days and refused to let any trucks dump the garbage in their village. "Since then, no waste is coming to Ganwri, but the existing heap of mixed waste is a ticking time bomb," said Kumar. He informed that the municipality was now dumping waste at another site along a nullah, which eventually flows into the Kali river.
In the prayer, the petitioners have demanded removal of waste from all along the Kali river in Ganwri village. "Villagers also do not want any waste processing facility to come up at the dump site, which any case is in violation of the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016," said Vashistha.
In its July 3 order, the NGT has given a month's time period to the Meerut Nagar Nigam to take remedial steps to comply with the law. If latter fails to do so, the NGT order notes, "there will be no other option except to direct prosecution of the Commissioner, Nagar Nigam, Meerut and take other steps, including a civil imprisonment, in execution of this order." The tribunal has also ordered the municipal commissioner to be present in person along with the compliance report on the next date of hearing on September 16.
Gaon Connection tried getting in touch with Arvind Kumar Chaurasia, municipal commissioner of Meerut, but he was unavailable for a comment.