What’s that Awful Smell? Stink of Ineptitude in Electronic City
Residents protest against irresponsible waste management at Chikkanagamangala SWM plant.
Residents protest against irresponsible waste management at Chikkanagamangala SWM plant.(Photo Courtesy: Deepu Chandran and Nirupama Pillai/Altered by The Quint)

What’s that Awful Smell? Stink of Ineptitude in Electronic City

It was a few years back that Bengaluru’s municipal corporation – fuelled by protesting villagers at Mavallipura, a High Court order, and a burgeoning garbage problem –opened 7 Solid Waste Management (SWM) plants across Bengaluru. Unfortunately, the plants, meant to be run scientifically, are nothing more than glorified landfills. One of these – the Chikkanagamangala SWM plant – is located in the midst of villages, schools, orphanages, gated communities, and IT companies.

Residents protest against irresponsible waste management at Chikkanagamangala SWM plant.
Residents protest against irresponsible waste management at Chikkanagamangala SWM plant.
(Photo Courtesy: E-City Rising via Deepu Chandran/Nirupama Pillai)

Chikkanagamangala is at a stone’s throw from the Electronic City which houses companies like Infosys, Wipro, Tech Mahindra, Tata Solar, Siemens. Residing in this area offers easy access to these companies and those in nearby Sarjapur. However, the residents in and around the area have not been able to live in peace. They have been pounding the doors of the BBMP but in vain.

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The SWM plant has become a dump yard causing health hazards to the nearby residents.

“The waste that gets accumulated over time gets burned at the plant leading to the release of serious pollutants. Because of this, the smell is really bad there are harmful chemicals that linger in the air for long.”
Sajith CP, Resident 

The burning of dry waste can lead to the generation of dioxins and furans known as “persistent environmental pollutants”, are highly toxic, and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer.

Residents protest outside the Chikkanagamangala SWM plant against garbage menace. 
Residents protest outside the Chikkanagamangala SWM plant against garbage menace. 
(Photo Courtesy: E-City Rising via Deepu Chandran/Nirupama Pillai)

There was a ray of hope with the visit, in July 2019, of Justice Subhash Adi, Chairman, NGT State Level Committee to the SWM plant. Justice Adi made several observations condemning the functioning of the plant.

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Stench and Misery Pile Up for Residents

These included the acceptance of mixed waste by the SWM plant management. The mixed waste led to low-quality output from the plant which was not useful for farmers. Neither was the reject useful for cement factories as was envisaged initially.

The accumulation of treated and untreated waste that arose due to this led to the nauseating odour emanating from the plant. Justice Adi, slamming the management for the shabby running of the plant, also observed that the plant management had attempted a hasty clean-up of the plant prior to his visit.

For a few months, there appeared to be some respite. This was short-lived. Since September, the neighbourhood has been reeling under the stench. The waste dumped outside the plant also leads to the breeding of insects, flies and creates acute stench due to the biodegradation of waste.

Justice Subhash Adi, Chairman, NGT State Level Committee visits the SWM plant. 
Justice Subhash Adi, Chairman, NGT State Level Committee visits the SWM plant. 
(Photo Courtesy: E-City Rising via Deepu Chandran/Nirupama Pillai)

Sophieu, a resident of a destitute home nearby said:

”We entered this destitute home with the hope of spending the last days of our life in peace and spiritual solace. Ever since the BBMP began to run this SWM plant, our garden has been filled with nauseating odour and swamped by flies and mosquitoes. Thus, a subconscious fear has crept in that our end is approaching faster than expected.”

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Janice* (name changed), who stays close to the plant, said,

“Our house gets filled with flies if we leave doors or windows open. How can one live like this? All our complaints are falling on deaf ears. Our kids are afraid to go outside and play because of this. The BBMP should be concerned about its citizens.”
A photo shared by Janice shows flies in her compound.
A photo shared by Janice shows flies in her compound.
(Photo Courtesy: Janice via Deepu Chandran) 

Based on a complaint filed by Pranay Dubey of Ecity Rising, a citizen’s collective, the Deputy Chief Minister Dr Ashwath Narayan has directed the BBMP authorities to take appropriate action to mitigate the plight of residents. Sadly, the BBMP is yet to acknowledge the problem let alone address it even after incessant reminders and follow-ups.

In spite of multiple complaints raised, the BBMP SWM Special Commissioner Randeep D was quoted in The New Indian Express as saying that the plant will function as the court has given the directive to run it.

Children at Risk of Developing Respiratory Diseases

It is important to note that while the court did direct that the plant be operational, they also mentioned that it be run scientifically. A 2018 report by the Environment Support Group found the contrary – the plant in question does not have any odour control measures. (The Quint has accessed this report).

Dr A Pushparajan, who has been residing in the area long before the plant came into existence, remarked:

“Fresh air freely available before has all been contaminated now because of the plant. Our children are suffering from breathing disorders after the plant became operational.”

One wonders how many children must fall prey to respiratory diseases before the BBMP wakes up.

While the Karnataka High Court has been at the forefront in defining the future thinking approaches to waste management, implementation at the ground level has been extremely patchy, both in letter and in spirit.

The stench in E-City continues and it stinks of the ineptitude and callousness of BBMP officials.

BBMP’s Response to The Quint

My Report spoke to BBMP SWM Special Commissioner Randeep D about the complaints regarding waste rejects piling up at the plant.

“Processed rejects are moved to the landfill, but before that, they are stored at the plant temporarily. I’ve directed the plant manager to move the rejects quickly,” he said. He added that the compost will be moved as quickly as possible to a scientific landfill. For this, he gave a timeline of a week.

He also assured The Quint that the BBMP is acting on complaints and if there are any noted violations then they would correct those and thereafter run the plant.

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