Bangalore: It is here, there. Everywhere. Garbage takes birth wherever a human being inhabits but not many people know its final resting place. The journey of all things unwanted has an anti-climax: most of it is getting disposed of in our own backyard.
This man-made quandary has become difficult to tackle across nations. With the current world population of 7.8 billion, the amount of garbage being dumped is staggering. According to statistics, by 2050, global waste-levels will reach 3.4 billion tonnes annually.
Garbage blatantly thrown in an empty area next to a main road. Hita Prakash/NSoJ
This urban issue is three-dimensional: garbage generation, collection, and disposal. Garbage management has become the biggest challenge for the citizens as well as the authorities concerned, as Bangalore generates nearly 6000 tonnes of waste every day. While people blame the BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) for not clearing up the mess, the authorities feel that the people show utter disregard for civic sensibilities.
Where does our garbage go?
Once the garbage is loaded into big trucks from the auto trippers, they are transported to dumping grounds, called landfills, chosen by the BBMP around the city. A landfill site (also known as a tip, dump, rubbish dump, garbage dump) is a site for the disposal of waste material through burial. Historically, landfills have been the most common method of organized waste disposal and remain so in many places around the world.
Entrance of the Malavallipura landfill, which was shut down a year ago due to protests from the neighbouring villagers. Hita Prakash/NSoJ
Since there is no scientific method of treating the solid waste, many unauthorised dumping grounds are cropping up regularly. Currently, there are six landfills on the outskirts of the city. Each day, it is estimated that more than 300 garbage trucks enter a landfill.
This trend of recognising an empty mass of land to dump it with over-flowing garbage seems to have become a normal routine for the authorities. Bellahalli and Mittaganahalli, near Yelahanka, are the landfill sites currently being used by the BBMP.
One might easily mistake the Bellahalli landfill to be a sandy hill amidst lush green paddy fields. On taking a closer look, a large group of kites and crows can be seen hoovering right on top of the heap. Also seen is a queue of 10-15 green-coloured trucks facing towards the hill, patiently waiting for their turn to enter the junk yard. “People living around this area have to bear the brunt of all this garbage coming from the big city. Our lives became terrible from the day this activity started. We feel helpless, this is my home, and I have nowhere else to go,” said Kamalamma, a home-maker.
Rows of garbage trucks line-up to enter the Bellahalli landfill. Hita Prakash/NSoJ
Geographically, these dumping grounds are usually surrounded by farmlands with rural people who are facing disastrous consequences. As the waste is unattended and untreated for long periods of time, the residue seeps into the ground causing soil and water contamination. This further poses a threat to the lives of people, livestock, and crop cultivation. “The foul smell from the dump has become unbearable. The water from the borewells and nearby ponds have become unusable. People are falling sick. We have protested many times and yet the government continues to turn a deaf ear to us,” said Ramesh, a farmer living close to the Bellahalli landfill.
Some of the villages affected owing to the dumping ground are Hosur, Mittaganahalli, Kannur, and Sonappanahalli. “The stench gets extremely difficult to bear on rainy days,” said another farmer.
Although this process of garbage disposal has caused immense damage to the health of hundreds of people, there seems to be no alternative to it as of now.