Groundtruthing of solid waste management law across landfill sites in coastal Uttara Kannada

Landfill with no proper compaction and grading to prevent
infiltration during monsoon in Bhatkal

Excerpts from “Around the Landfill Sites: A groundtruthing of solid waste management law across landfill sites in coastal areas of Uttara Kannada district, Karnataka”, prepared by Centre for Policy Research (CPR)-Namati Environmental Justice Program:

The Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules (MSW Rules) came into force in 2000 and laid down the rules to be followed by municipal authorities while collecting, transporting, segregating, processing, storing and disposing municipal solid wastes. These rules have been enacted under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. As there were several reports of impacts in the Uttara Kannada district in Karnataka due to waste disposal, a groundtruthing study was conducted to examine compliance with the rules and gauge whether the impacts were due to non-compliance.

Between July 2016 and May 2017, the Centre for Policy Research (CPR)-Namati Environmental Justice Program, along with the affected people of Uttara Kannada, initiated this community-led groundtruthing process. The study involved visiting all five coastal municipal landfill sites in Karwar, Ankola, Kumta, Honnavar and Bhatkal blocks.

All the municipal authorities in coastal Uttara Kannada have established integrated solid waste processing units and landfill sites, except in Kumta where the matter is under dispute in the National Green Tribunal, Chennai. With regard to the other four landfill sites, people have filed complaints, protested and approached the media, but the units are currently active and functional and in some cases without necessary approvals.

Compliance status of major rules of Schedule III, MSW Rules, 2000

Necessary permissions not taken

  • Rule 2: Selection of landfill sites shall be based on examination of environmental issues. The Department of Urban Development of the State or the Union territory shall co-ordinate with the concerned organizations for obtaining the necessary approvals and clearances.

Of all the landfill sites, only those in Kumta and Karwar had taken clearance from the SEIAA. Other municipalities had not taken clearance from the SEIAA, but had sought the Consent to Establish from the Regional Office of the SPCB. In the September 24, 2016 reply to an RTI application filed with the Bhatkal Municipality, it was stated that though clearance from the SEIAA had not been taken, the Municipality was operating the landfill site and the waste processing unit was under construction.

Disposal of bio-medical wastes not in accordance with rules

  • Rule 6: Biomedical wastes shall be disposed off in accordance with the Bio-medical Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998 and hazardous wastes shall be managed in accordance with the Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989, as amended from time to time.

Except for the Ankola landfill site none of the other municipalities are following Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998 and the requirement that hazardous wastes should be managed in accordance with the Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989. It was learnt from all the other municipal authorities that they sent their bio-medical wastes to the Ankola landfill site. However documentation regarding the same was not found during the study.

Unsuitable site locations causing negative impacts

  • Rule 8: The landfill site shall be away from habitation clusters, forest areas, water bodies monuments, National Parks, Wetlands and places of important cultural, historical or religious interest.

Through the groundtruthing study it was found that the landfill site in Ankola was located near habitation clusters. There were several families living within 20 m of the landfill site. Landfill site, Bhatkal Municipality Bhatkal waste processing unit under construction 16 17 The landfill was also located near the water stream of the village and it contaminated the drinking water sources during the monsoon. Villagers in Alageri, an affected village, had formed a protection group to fight against the improper waste disposal in their village. They had been trying to solve the problems since the last three years. As the landfill site was located within the village and the leachate was entering the river, villagers were asking to relocate the site away from the village. Villagers had filed complaints with the local Panchayatb , SPCBc , and District Commissionerd regarding the same, but no action had been taken so far.

Landfill site, Bhatkal Municipality

The Bhatkal landfill site was located slightly away from a habitation cluster, but near forest area and water sources of the village. In the absence of proper fencing around the site, both wild animals and cattle entered the area. There were farmlands beside the landfill site and the leachate collected from the site was directly released into the stream without any treatment. When this water was used for irrigation, it caused damage to farmers’ agricultural lands. In view of this, the farmers approached the Bhatkal Municipality for a resolution but had not got any positive response. In the year 2014, due to heavy rainfall, the leachate collected in the landfill site had even led to the contamination of ponds and wells used by schools and the Panchayat.

No buffer zones developed

  • Rule 9: A buffer zone of no-development shall be maintained around landfill site and shall be incorporated in the Town Planning Departments land-use plans.

This is an important rule to avoid developmental activities near the waste disposal site. However, none of the municipalities have complied with this condition. For example, in Karwar, near the landfill site there are several industries located which caused disputes between the Municipality and the public. People who worked and lived near the landfill site protested against the Municipality, saying that the landfilling was done at an elevation higher than their drinking water sources, leading to leachate from the landfill flowing down into these sources. Only Karwar Municipality constructed a leachate collection tank to treat the leachate as per the law.

Waste compactors not being used in all the sites

  • Rule 18: Wastes subjected to land filling shall be compacted in thin layers using landfill compactors to achieve high density of the wastes. In high rainfall areas where heavy compactors cannot be used alternative measures shall be adopted.

This rule is a major one with respect to reduction in the volume of the wastes. While the Karwar Municipality had installed a functional landfill compactor, all the other municipalities had not followed this regulation.

  1. Uncovered wastes polluting water sources and farms
  • Rule19 Wastes shall be covered immediately or at the end of each working day with minimum 10 cm of soil, inert debris or construction material till such time waste processing facilities for composting or recycling or energy recovery are set up as per Schedule I

In terms of prevention of waste dispersal to the nearby areas, this is one of the most significant rules. However, none of the municipalities had complied with it. It was due to this that most of the problems and disputes occurred. The CPR-Namati Program started working in Kumta in 2014. The landfill site here had been in under dispute for many years and because of violations of the law by the Municipality, villagers in the surrounding areas were suffering. One of the main problems for the Siddanabhavi villagers nearby was the dispersal of light waste into their village. The waste was not covered as per the law after the landfilling. These wastes entered their water sources and farmland which caused damaged to their daily life.

Open dumping at the Kumta municipal landfill site

Further, in the monsoon, these uncovered wastes mixed with rainwater and contaminated drinking water sources. In view of this, a training programme for the Siddanabhavi villagers about the MSW Rules, 2000 was conducted, along with a meeting with affected people and government officials. As result of this meeting, the Forest Department cleared the waste dumped by the private party on Muroor hill. It also placed a notice board at the site, stating that the area was forest land and dumping of unauthorised wastes was prohibited, and if found out was punishable. It even started patrolling the area to prevent the dumping. At the Ankola landfill too, wastes were not covered after the landfilling.

In this regard, villagers had filed complaints with the Municipality several times. Unlike the Kumta landfill site though, the Ankola site was located very close to human habitations and uncovered wastes entered the houses and drinking water well of the villagers. Villagers had also witnessed the death of several cattle who consumed plastic wastes while grazing on the forest land. Wastes were not covered after their disposal at the Bhatkal landfill as well.

These wastes were available to cattle for grazing and birds for feeding. Due to this open dumping of garbage, street dogs frequented the villages looking for meat and other wastes. Also, the villages of Kasalagadde and Belalkanda, including the school in the latter, had to bear unpleasant odour throughout the year.” As both Honnavar and Karwar have landfills located slightly away from human habitations, no complaints had been registered so far even though wastes here were not covered after each day of landfilling.

Unchecked runoff during monsoon causing various kinds of contamination

  • Rule 20: Prior to the commencement of monsoon season, an intermediate cover of 40-65 cm thickness of soil shall be placed on the landfill with proper compaction and grading to prevent infiltration during monsoon. Proper drainage berms shall be constructed to divert run-off away from the active cell of the landfill.

Violations of this rule in the landfill sites had contaminated the drinking water sources and agricultural lands on several occasions. During the monsoon, drainage from the landfill sites mixed with rainwater and reached villages, agricultural lands and various water bodies such as streams, ponds and wells. In the villages of Kasalagadde and Belalkanda near the Bhatkal landfill site, the leachate during the monsoon contaminated the agricultural land and farmers’ irrigation sources.

Open landfilling at the Ankola site

Similarly, at the Ankola landfill site, the leachate and rainwater mixed during the monsoon and accumulated in the ponds situated beside the landfill. During heavy rain, the water from these ponds also contaminated the nearby drinking water sources. Villagers had filed complaints against this with several authorities.

Specifications for final cover of the landfill not met

  • Rule 21: After completion of landfill, a final cover shall be designed to minimize infiltration and erosion. The final cover shall meet the following specifications, namely:
  1. The final cover shall have a barrier soil layer comprising of 60 cm of clay or amended soil with permeability coefficient less that 1 x 10-7 cm/sec.
  2. On top of the barrier soil layer there shall be a drainage layer of 15 cm.
  3. On top of the drainage layer there shall be a vegetative layer of 45 cm to support natural plant growth and to minimize erosion.

The study revealed that none of the landfill sites among the five were following this rule in the process of landfilling. However, since habitation near the landfill sites in Honnavar and Karwar was less, there were not too many disputes with regard to the violation of the said rule. Due to the violation of this rule at the other three landfill sites, nearby villagers have experienced problems related to health and livelihood. At Bhatkal it was observed that landfill waste was never subjected to a final cover or any other protection measures.

As a result of this, stray animals were affected. Also, the openly dumped garbage dispersed to nearby agricultural fields during strong winds. So far, villagers had not filed any complaints regarding these problems, but for more serious ones such as the intrusion of leachate into agricultural fields. Similarly, in Kumta, the Municipality was dumping garbage in open places without any fencing or protection. Coupled with the absence of a final cover, animals and birds freely entered the landfill. People from nearby villages used this land as grazing land for their cattle and many times the cattle was seen eating plastic at the dumping site.

An animal husbandry official shared that on several occasions the consumption of plastic had led to the death of cattle. In Ankola too violation of this rule was noticed, but according to the villagers having the landfill site in between villages was the only violation of law. The violation of this rule did not matter to them and all they wanted was for the entire unit to be relocated away from the villages.

Click HERE for the full report

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