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Daruthenga, July 17: After a lull of almost eight years, the villagers of Daruthenga on the outskirts of the state capital have risen again in protest against the district administration for continuing to use the village as a dumping yard.
When tippers of Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) approached the village carrying the city’s garbage July 13, the villagers put up a resolute show of resistance and stopped the tippers from entering the village and dumping the garbage there.
A fire at the dumping yard in January, caused due to methane gas generation from decomposing garbage, had got villagers worried massively. “For three days, black clouds hovered over our houses and people would cough black mucus,” said Kabiraj Bidar, a villager.
Since 2008, around 500 metric ton garbage collected from across the city daily gets dumped at Bhuasuni dumping yard in this village. With the ever rising piles of garbage now starting to endanger the surrounding ecosystem, including ground water, and a nearby wildlife sanctuary, voices of protest from the affected people are becoming sharper.
Solid waste generated by the 57 wards of BMC is lifted every day from four transition centres in the city and dumped together at Bhuasuni dumping yard in Daruthenga village. Around 50 tippers employed by three companies working with BMC – Jagruti, PMR and Ramky – make at least 300 trips a day, passing through jungles and eight small villages, including Daruthenga, to the dumping yard.
Sprawled across 62 acres amidst open fields, agricultural land and tribal villages, the Bhuasuni dumping yard has no pucca road connecting it to the National Highway passing barely 100 metres southwards. Apart from Daruthenga, villages bearing the brunt of the decomposing garbage are Jujhagarh, Bhuasuni, Krushnagar, Chudanga, Shyamsunderpur, Tulsideipur and Alasua.
Until 2008, garbage generated in the state capital used to be dumped at two sites near Sainik School and Badagda in the city. In the beginning of 2008, a resident of Sainik School area, Siba Narayan Panda, filed a writ petition before Orissa High Court contending that the dumping of garbage had caused spread of several diseases in the area.
The high court had rapped BMC and the district collector over the issue, saying the authorities had been negligent to the residents’ genuine grievances. The court asked the authorities to find an alternate dumping site soon and shift all the garbage there. The government had responded by telling the court that a new site at Daruthenga had been identified and was found suitable for dumping.
Selection of the site was made allegedly without the consent of the local residents. “Till now, Daruthenga Gram Sabha has not given an NOC to the dumping yard. We were never consulted on this,” said sarpanch Prashant Routray, who was then a political activist, to Orissa POST. The villagers, he said, had learnt about the government’s decision only after officials from BMC, the district administration and the state revenue department started visiting the village to take measurements and building boundary walls around the site.
The villagers had chased away all government officials entering the village, prompting then BMC Commissioner Aparajita Sarangi to submit before the court that the corporation was unable to shift garbage from the Sainik School site. Then, though the DCP appeared before the court and assured of protection to BMC officials, the villagers continued blocking roads leading to the village and protesting against selection of the new site.
By the middle of 2008, the high court finally appointed its registrar to visit Bhuasuni dumping yard and submit a report. “This is where the authorities tricked us. They knew the roads where we had been sitting on protest. So police took the registrar through a different route, bypassing all villages, straight to the dumping yard site,” said Routray.
The HC registrar said in his report that no population resided in the vicinity of the site selected for the dumping yard. So the court put its seal on Bhuasuni under Daruthenga gram panchayat as the new site for the dumping yard October 30, 2008 and ordered the district administration to stop dumping garbage at Sainik School and Badagada.
The villagers’ protest, however, continued. A joint team of police and civic officials, including the then BMC mayor and commissioner, met the villagers and pleaded to allow dumping of garbage there for 15 days so that the government could identify a new site.
Routray said the villagers gave their oral consent to this 15-day condition and resumed protests against the dumping of garbage after 15 days. This led to the then BMC sanitary inspector lodging a complaint against villagers with Chandaka police and the subsequent arrest of several protesters.
Then the authorities came with the proposal of a solid waste treatment plant to be built in the area soon so that garbage would not lie in the open any more. “They also said the district administration will build new roads, playgrounds and schools in the area if we allowed construction of the waste treatment plant,” said Dhanudhar Sundaray, a member of Daruthenga gram panchayat. Dilip Pradhan, another villager, recounted how the BMC officials had said the treatment plant would also create job opportunities for villagers.
With the promise of the treatment plant, the villagers relented and dumping continued at Bhuasuni unhindered till 2012. But the `215-crore treatment plant project being pushed by Zee Media Group has so far not come into existence. “Forget creation of jobs and construction of roads in the village, the government has not planted even a single tree here so far to compensate for the continuous contamination of the local eco-system,” said Routray.
After becoming sarpanch in 2012, Routray had filed a series of RTI applications to the forest department and Orissa State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB). Not a single reply has come yet.
When contacted, city forest officer PK Mishra told Orissa POST that the Bhuasuni dumping yard does not fall under forest area and that it lies under the revenue department. “It needs no clearance from the forest department,” he said. Hadibandhu Panigrahi, regional officer of OSPCB, said the site has clearance from the board.
Following the fire in the dumping yard in January, the villagers had blocked the road and stopped BMC tippers from arriving there. BMC convened a meeting with 20 Daruthenga villagers led by the sarpanch February 23 at the circuit house, where the villagers proposed the neighbouring Tulasideipur and Krushna Nagar to be considered as alternative dumping sites.
BMC asked the villagers to allow dumping of garbage at Bhuasuni dumping yard for another two weeks till the process of identification of an alternative site was over. However, the dates just got pushed on and on. The sub-collector told the collector February 27 that the government has identified Tulasideipur as a rehabilitation centre for forest dwellers and Krushna Nagar is close to areas declared as eco-sensitive zone.
The last meeting held with the villagers was at the circuit house March 14, and it was attended, among others, by the MLAs of Bhubaneswar (Central) and Bhubaneswar (North) and culture minister Ashok Panda. The collector was once again urged to look for another site for the dumping yard. However, the narrative then changed as the authorities started using the word “additional site” instead of an “alternative site” during the series of next meetings that yielded little positive outcome.
Mayor Anant Narayan Jena told Orissa POST that now there is no question of shifting the site of the dumping yard. “BMC will continue negotiating with the villagers on the construction of a treatment plant there,” he said.
Sarpanch Routray said he would not attend any more meeting on the issue. He demanded that the authorities must come to the Gram Sabha to hold discussions. The villagers, he said, will continue opposing the government’s plans to inundate the village under piles of solid waste generated by the capital city.
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