Award-winning Udupi Municipality ignores hazardous waste2 min read
Udupi: “We are one of the few cities in the country which is honoured with the Green Leaf Award,” was the impromptu reply by Dr. Subramanian, Environmental Engineer of the Udupi City Municipal Council (CMC) when asked about waste management in Udupi city. “Narcissism at its best,” retorted Jai Ram, a local retailer, on hearing those words. Jai Ram owns an electronic enterprise based in Udupi that sells and repairs electronic products like televisions and refrigerators. Waste from such enterprises are classified as ‘hazardous’ and Municipality does not take the responsibility of disposing hazardous waste. Retailers like Jai Ram rely entirely on private establishments to collect their waste. However, when retailers also shrug the responsibility, roadsides and desolate areas around Udupi town become sites for waste disposal.
The Agricultural Products Marketing Committee (APMC) yard in Adi-Udupi is one such site. “Retailers and vendors dump their waste around the APMC yard which is not disposed by either the Municipality or the APMC management,” said Dr. Dinakar Shetty, ex-council president of CMC. The APMC manages only agricultural waste that it generates and not the hazardous waste that is dumped within its premises. The Municipality collects non-biodegradable waste like plastics but not e-waste and others that contain harmful chemicals. As a result, heaps of toxic garbage including bio-medical waste like syringes, gauzes and absorbents are spread around town. Such hazardous waste causes serious health problems; especially to rag pickers as they come in direct contact with decaying waste.
These heaps of garbage are not only breeding grounds for disease-carrying flies, mosquitoes and rats, but simultaneously harm the environment as well. If not properly disposed of by incinerators or landfills, hazardous waste can render the top layer of soil infertile. If burnt in the open, it spews out mercury and other harmful chemicals into the atmosphere– a dreadful sight to behold.
The Municipality argued that hazardous and non-biodegradable wastes are very difficult to handle and hence their disposal is left to private establishments under the supervision of the CMC. Moreover, waste within the APMC premises, even if toxic, is beyond their concern. Besides, residents are dissatisfied with the manner in which daily household waste collection is handled by the Municipality. “Their vans fail to cover all areas, and we have no other way than to rely on private establishments for getting rid of garbage,” rued Rajesh, owner of a grocery store in Adi Udupi.
In the last meeting of the CMC, Dr. Shetty had suggested that the Municipality bear all the expenses of waste disposal. The idea was however scrapped.
Sub-edited by: Garima Goel