Saturday, May 18, 2024

Trash at Sunrise

So the stand-off between Dimapur Municipal Council (DMC) and Sunrise Colony in Burma Camp has finally reached the National Green Tribunal (NGT). Yesterday, we were informed that the Eastern Zone Bench of NGT has directed Nagaland Government and other respondents, including DMC, to file their counter-affidavits within four weeks following an application filed before the Tribunal by Sunrise Colony. The residents are alleging that DMC is dumping solid waste and other wastes at the dumping site near their colony in complete violation of the Solid Waste Management Rules of 2016. Among others, they are alleging that the dumping site is ill-maintained and located in a low-lying area which percolates and contaminates groundwater resources; and that plastic, rubber and other toxic materials are being burnt openly leading to a toxic smell in the air ~ and the dumping site is located about 40-50 metres from human habitation, thus violating the criteria for selection of dumping site in accordance with the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016. As explained by the colony, they had approached the High Court in 2017 before knocking on the doors of NGT. After five years, on March 15 this year, the Kohima Bench of Gauhati High Court disposed of the PIL by giving liberty to the colony to approach the National Green Tribunal. The Court’s decision came after the State Counsel had argued that the subject matter of the PIL comes under the jurisdiction of NGT. It is worth recalling that in August 2017, residents of the colony had imposed a blockade on DMC trucks/vehicles carrying garbage collected from urban Dimapur to the dumping site. The latest development is simply a reminder that those who have had to endure urban Dimapur’s filth for years are not going to be assuaged so easily. Way back in May 2015, after repeated appeals, a Joint Council Forum (JCF) representing four colonies located in the vicinity of the dumping site ~ including Sunrise Colony ~ had served an ultimatum to the then DMC Chief Executive Officer for immediate shifting of garbage dumping site from July 1, 2015. This deadline was extended to December 31, 2015, after negotiations. Then on January 4, 2016, the Municipal Affairs Department wrote a letter to the JCF informing that it had identified a new dumping site at Kushiabill area and requested to extend the deadline till January 2016. To cut a long story short, the matter went unresolved and the deadline kept shifting till June 2017. Then on June 7, 2017, the State Government announced its inability to shift the dumping site and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Newwaves Bio Fuels India Private Limited to execute “solid waste management” in the area. The next month, Nagaland Government issued a letter stating that the site has been in use for more than 20 years and warned that disruption of the dumping site may “cause law and order problems”. The Naga Council Dimapur agreed to implement the MoU signed by the Government and amidst differences among the JCF constituents, Sunrise Colony disassociated from the forum. Since then, the colony has been waging a lone battle. Back in 2017, when the residents were protesting, the counter-argument was that dumping of garbage was already going on when those in the vicinity decided to settle there. There were open confrontations between the authorities and the residents. We do not know how the Tribunal is going to rule but the waste management problem of Dimapur is a legacy left by those who were in power earlier and did nothing close to finding a long-term solution. The filth on the streets of Dimapur cannot remain unattended forever, as it is an assault on the senses apart from a source of ailments. But what is at stake is the health and sensorium of the residents of Sunrise Colony and others in the vicinity who have every right to feel duped several times over the years. They have suffered enough of the filth and the disease emanating from a city whose authorities appeal least concerned about their health and wellbeing. They need environmental justice that arises from judicious management of the trash at the source.