Residents staying in HSR Layout Sector-2 around Somasundarpalya, Haralukunte Village and Parangipalya in South Bengaluru have been dealing with foul and unbearable smell emanating from the waste composting plant belonging to Karnataka Compost Development Corporation (KCDC) located 2 km away. Some residents claim that the smell reached them even 3 kms away, though of course with less intensity.

At a meeting on Sunday, April 27th, 2014, with the KCDC officials, the Bommanahalli zone BBMP Joint Commissioner Muniraju and his team, and SWM expert Almitra Patel, BBMP Solid Waste Management Chief Engineer Yatish Kumar and others, the residents vented their grievances about the nuisance which is making it difficult for them to live in this area.

Residents face health hazards

Children, adults and senior citizens constantly complain of health problems due to air pollution in the area. Throat infection, burning sensation in eyes, headache, fever and other diseases are very common. Representatives from several apartment complexes in the vicinity complained that they had to keep all doors and windows shut for the greater part of the day. People often gag on the smell and have vomiting tendencies.

The unit was constructed in 1975. It was functional until 2008, but could not process the waste accumulated over the years. The unit planned to upgrade itself and the composting process started again. The problem has been particularly acute over the last five months (since December 2013).

The stench has been observed to be severe, especially during late evenings and early mornings. Some residents say that several petitions between 2005 and 2009 gave only temporary respite, as the stench is back now.

The residents pointed out the following issues:

a) The leachate from KCDC found to pollute Somasundarapalya Lake

b) Mixed waste was being accepted by KCDC

c) The waste that cannot be composed was being burnt along with the garbage on KCDC premises.

d)  A road built to give access for trucks to KCDC plant is reportedly being used by a lot of other people to dump debris and other waste. The road is not being monitored. There are also allegations that the road was built by encroaching lake bed.

The SWM Technical Committee members decided to discuss possible technical solutions. There was a meeting of the technical panel with KCDC and a few instructions have been passed on to KCDC on how to control the stench. The results would be visible in next two-three weeks.

The meeting also decided to reach out to KSPCB to get a mobile van for round the clock air quality testing at three different places in affected areas and get the data. The residents were advised to compile the details of the smell with time and date, at six different points for next three weeks.

Selected citizen representatives will work with BBMP officials present at meeting to get vans. A van will be posted on Hosapalya Road next to nursery, another at SV lake view compound wall on the road which leads to KCDC and the third van at Sobha Daffodil apartment which is 1.5 kms away from KCDC.

Residents feel trapped

The residents of HSR Layout and Somasundara Palya suggest the following measures:

1) Residual garbage should be cleaned up from the KCDC premises before accepting new pile of wet waste.

2) Checks and balances with the help of a monitoring committee, to accept only vegetable/ fruit/ organic waste into the KCDC premises, to stop mixed waste from entering the unit.

3) When the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board comes up with their report, residents around the KCDC should be educated about the health hazards if any, both short-term and long-term.

The residents are not clear about the operating perimeter of KCDC, as the dumping activities are seen even outside the barricaded area that belongs to KCDC.

They also wonder how the BBMP gave the permission for buildings to come up in the surroundings of KCDC, as the buffer zone for KCDC is 500 meter, after which humans can be allowed to live. With so many residential apartments built around the area, the residents feel trapped.