Satish Reddy, Bommanahalli MLA, accompanying the protestors near KCDC. Pic: Rakshith G V 

Residents of Somasundarapalya in Bengaluru have been protesting against the stench emitted by the  Karnataka Compost Development Corporation(KCDC)’s composting unit at HSR Layout. However Saturday's (May 24, 2014) protest was different: They had the MLA of Bommanahalli, Satish Reddy, to back them.

Outside KCDC’s second gate, located next to Somasundarapalya lake, residents from the nearby apartments and houses gathered. They complained to the MLA about the smell, and claimed that their children are falling ill.

The MLA claimed: “The stench is causing health problems for the people. We had taken action in the past and stopped it. Now again we will take action.”

He alleged that the KCDC is taking the cover of court order and continuing the processing. He claimed that the court asked KCDC to take only 50 tonnes of vegetable waste but they have been accepting 500 tons of mixed waste. He also alleged that KCDC encroached some part of lake.

'Residents cannot object'

In 2012, when the city was flooded with garbage and villagers of Mavallipura and Mandur protested, many PILs were filed in High Court on Municipal Solid Waste. High Court too took it up suo motu. On  November 22, 2012 the HC bench comprising Chief Justice Vikramajit Sen and Justice B V Nagarathna passed the historical order, that mandated segregation of waste at source.

Along with this, it allowed KCDC to come back in action when they showed willingness to accept 75 to 100 tonnes a day. Accordingly the agreement was signed between BBMP and the KCDC. “The Karnataka Compost Development Corporation Limited has in its letter dated 17/11/2012 has mentioned that out of 9,65,363 tonnes of garbage received, the said Corporation has processed 8 lakh tonnes leaving a balance of 1,65,000 tonnes, the processing of which, is in progress at the rate of 200 tonnes per day. Despite this accumulation, it has expressed its willingness to accept 75 to 100 tonnes per day, of segregated wet waste on certain conditions, mentioned in the said letter. We expect the B.B.M.P. to respond to the letter with the urgency that it deserves,” said the court in its order.

However, KCDC is now accepting 140 tonnes of waste per day, which is 40 tonnes beyond the agreed amount, and exceeds its processing capacity. The backlog of garbage stored at the KCDC premises over the years was ordered to be processed soon by way of working in three shifts. Regarding the objection by residents to KCDC, the court clearly said:

“It is made clear that Karnataka Compost Development Corporation Limited was established in that area in the year 1975. It is only over the years, the people have constructed houses near the plant. Therefore, they cannot prevent this unit from working which in effect is only processing the garbage of the residents including those persons. At any rate till this backlog of garbage is completely processed, the said residents have no right to object.”

The KCDC later submitted to court that it can function only in two shifts, which was accepted by the court.

He said, “We will file a PIL if they do not stop the work. We are ready to fight. Everybody is ready to fight.” The crowd supported Satish Reddy.

Pollution causing skin problems?

One of the residents from Reliable Pride, Ansuman Tripathy showed his hands to the MLA that had some sort of rashes. He claimed that it was the result of the pollution caused by KCDC.

Satish Reddy demanded that KCDC shift from that place in next six months. “Let only vegetable garbage come, if needed we will appoint a committee to monitor the activity,” he said, claiming that his motive was to protect the Somasundarapalya lake and make residents free from the foul smell.

Apart from health hazards, residents are also showing concern over pollution of lake caused by the KCDC. Rakshith G V, a resident, claimed that the quality of groundwater has been so much deteriorated that the hardness level is equal to 999 ppm (Parts Per Million).

On October 2013, one of the residents tested the borewell water quality with Ion Exchange laboratory recognised by Karnataka State Pollution Control Board. The report showed the level of calcium, chloride, nitrate, magnesium and Alkalinity content as higher than the standard. Research considers water having Total Dissolved Solids more than 500 ppm as highly contaminated water.

Parameters

Result (ppm)

Standard (ppm)

Calcium

357.9

300

Magnesium

25.4

75

Chloride

685.9

250

Nitrate

7.1

4.5

Alkalinity

334.8

200

Turbidity

2.3*

5*

Total Hardness

999.6

300

Total Dissolved Solids

2752

500

* Unit = uS/cm

G S Krishnamurthy, President of People for Cleaner India added that HSR Layout has become a dumping ground and mosquito attacks have also been increased.

After this, the residents and the MLA demanded that they meet the Managing Director of KCDC L Belvanik. KCDC advisor Venkoji Rao who stepped out to meet the MLA, had to go back as people stressed on meeting the MD. On his way back, the residents encircled him and asked him to stop the work going on at KCDC. Sensing the problem, the police immediately rescued and escorted him to his office.

When the MD didn’t turn up immediately, MLA Satish Reddy ordered the JCB to dig the road that connects the main road to gate-2 to stop the garbage trucks from entering the site. Local Congress corporator Hasina was also present on the occasion.

MD Belvanik and BBMP Commissioner later appeared in front of the crowd. Belvanik promised that the KCDC will not accept mixed garbage henceforth. Satish Reddy asked the residents to monitor the trucks to see that only segregated garbage enters KCDC. BBMP Commissioner was also present.

Talking to Citizen Matters, the MLA said, “Five years ago, we had requested BJP government to stop KCDC as it was polluting lakes. Purely on public demand it was stopped. Then in a PIL, KCDC agreed to accept only vegetable waste. Their people reported to court that there has been no smell. As a result KCDC re-opened.”



JCB digging the road that leads to KCDC. Pic: Rakshith G V 

Will not close KCDC: Commissioner

Over a decade now, Somasundarapalya has seen a lot of development. Most of the buildings have more than four floors. Residents also wonder how did BBMP give approvals near KCDC.

Residents stated that when they bought apartments, KCDC was non-functional. Many claimed that they were told that a park would come up there in few years.

A KSPCB official explained the inability of KSPCB to taken action. “KSPCB is just a regulatory body, we cannot initiate action. People should complain to the Commissioner of BBMP or to the Principal Secretary of Urban Development Department,” he added.

BBMP Commissioner told Citizen Matters, “Municipal Solid Waste rules and the direction of Court both say that maximum waste should be processed and minimum waste should be sent to landfills. The only objective of KCDC is to process the waste. There may be some difficulties for the residents, but KCDC has been set up there since 30 years.”

When we reminded Commissioner that the apartments came up only after the approval from BBMP, the Commissioner agreed that BBMP has given approvals, but he added: “The residents knew where they were about to settle. They knew there is composting ground near by. I am not going to shut the KCDC down. I don’t want to step back and again send waste to landfills and move away from segregation. It is not good for the environment.”

Commissioner admitted that there was some amount of mixed waste being sent to KCDC, quickly adding that KCDC has the facility to process it. He said, “If KCDC needs help to set up extra machinery to process, BBMP will help them.” He also promised to complete the long-pending project of putting shed over dumped garbage at KCDC soon.