States say local land issues are holding up waste disposal plans

States say local land issues are holding up wastedisposal plans

Protests by local villagers, who fear an environmental fallout, have stymied efforts by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) to set up a hazardous waste disposal facility at Dobbespet, 45km north of Bangalore. The state generates 71,600 tonnes of hazardous waste every year.

“There was a delay due to opposition from local villagers. The facility is being built with police security and the first phase of the project will be completed by December," says H.C. Sharath Chandra, chairman of the Karnataka board.

A monitoring committee appointed by the Supreme Court reprimanded the state severely for its failure to set up the facility.

Hyderabad-based Ramky Enviro Engineers Ltd, which has invested Rs52 crore, is building the public-private project, with the state providing 93 acres of land.

As Mint reported on 26 July, 18 states are yet to set up facilities despite directions from the Supreme Court in 2003.

Until the facility comes up, the industries that generate hazardous waste in Karnataka have been advised to keep them at a storage facility within their factory premises, said Chandra. However, other officials maintained that constant monitoring was not possible.

“There are about 1,800 hazardous waste generating units in the state and we have a field staff of 200 people. We can probably monitor once in six months," says an official, who did not wish to be identified.

Similar land disputes have also affected Haryana’s plans to set up a facility. It generates almost 20,000 tonnes of hazardous waste a year.

The land allotted by the state, is claimed to be already leased to a mining company till 2015. “We have identified 31 acres for a facility, but a mining company here claims that their lease is still applicable," says S.C. Mann, a senior scientist at the Haryana board.

The board says the area was notified back in the late 1990s, but no work has commenced yet. On being questioned why some other area in the state cannot be identified, Mann says that villagers in most areas protest at such proposals.

In the case of Uttar Pradesh, which generates 117,000 tonnes of waste, it does appear that the facility has been set up, after the monitoring committee report was submitted in March this year. The state had proposed setting up five such facilities.

C.S. Bhat, member-secretary, Uttar Pradesh SPCB, claims that the facility at Village Rooma, near Kanpur, has been operational for the past six-eight months.

The West Bengal Pollution Control Board has implemented an integrated treatment, storage and disposal facility at Haldia—an industrial town about 80km from Kolkata—in collaboration with Ramky Enviro Engineers Ltd.

“We did have illegal dumping earlier," admits D. Roy, member secretary of thepollution control board. It generates 236,000 tonnes of waste annually.

K. Raghu in Bangalore and Sanchita Das in Kolkata also contributed to this story.