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Dumping Politics

Monday, February 08, 2016
By Prashant Hamine

The week that passed by left a “stinking smell” in our body polity as fire raged over the Deonar dumping ground in the heart of the city. A political fire also raged over it with a section of the media trailing our civic fathers on their so-called study tour of the Andaman islands. Even the national capital of New Delhi felt the stench of it. The issue is not only political, administrative but social as well.

For aeons now our only answer to sewerage and solid waste disposal or its management has been to dump it somewhere. Whether we discharge it into deep sea attracting big fish to the shore in the process or dump it in dumping grounds like Deonar beyond this we have not made any progress.

The only progress that we have made is to segregate garbage into dry and wet garbage, industrial and medical waste. The notion of e-Waste or electronic waste has only come into the picture after we have embraced technology and the information technology revolution.

And we still do not have an industry that deals with disposal of discarded computer and electronic items that have even more deadlier chemical components. Forget about the fire that raged on at Deonar, similar fires are lit to burn this dangerous, harmful garbage in Mahim and slums of Dharavi. After the nightmarish deluge of July 26, 2005 that hit Mumbai, we came to know how badly we have abused and polluted the only river, the Mithi. Again after the initial euphoria again things are back to square one in terms of polluting the Mithi river.

Although we have made grand policies on sewerage and solid waste management, the implementation of it has left a lot to be desired. The garbage and waste recycling industry at Dharavi is in itself an industry by itself with spin-offs in the form of slum tourism. Even Danny Boyle could not stop himself from making Oscar winning movie “Slumdog Millionare” out of it. The rag pickers at Deonar dumping ground have no protection against the harmful gases emanating from the decomposing garbage or the chemicals and stuff they handle. Modernisation process of garbage disposal is at the mercy of the municipal workers unions who are reluctant and late in accepting any modern means of waste disposal.

And the response to all this controversy is to fast track the process of shifting the dumping ground to Taloja nearby Navi Mumbai. Having witnessed the harmful side effects of the toxic Deonar fire, the villagers have predictably begun opposing it. Instead of finding alternate ways of disposing garbage, the government is scouting for alternate sites for the tonnes of garbage that Mumbai and other cities in Mumbai Metropolitan Region produce. Why is no attention ever being paid to the proposal that has been on the backburner for decades now, that of producing electricity out of garbage. At least it will solve our growing demand for power.

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