A Mountain Of Manure


CCP must sell compost from its waste facility to farmers
The huge fire that broke out at the organic waste treatment facility in Panaji has exposed chinks in the armour of the Corporation of the City of Panaji in dealing with fire hazards. The absence of safety measures at the facility was appalling. Luckily the incident took place when there were no workers at the site. Built at a cost of over Rs 3 crore the facility lacks firefighting equipment and has no spaces for easy movement of firefighting equipment. There are no aisles between windows. Though it is mandatory for every waste treatment facility to have a fire alarm system and sprinklers, including temperature sensors, they were not installed by the CCP at the facility. The facility also does not have CCTV cameras, which could have helped them trace the cause of fire. As the CCP does not know how the fire started, they would not know how to prevent another if it erupts. The CCP authorities have blamed unknown elements, but the fact is that the gates of the facility were locked when the incident took place.
The fire incident has opened a can of worms with allegations and counter allegations. While the CCP management has blamed negligence on the part of the security personnel deployed at the site and foul play, the truth that has come out is that safety of workers and preventive measures against fire hazards at the facility have never been a priority for the city fathers. The fire could not be easily contained and ended up gutting property worth Rs 50 lakh. The police should of course probe the role of unknown elements, but there is urgent need to look at the negligence of the CCP in preparedness for fire hazards. Though rules provide for safety gears to be provided to civic body employees they are hardly adhered to by the local bodies.
The concerned government departments must make the CCP follow the rules of safety for the lives of workers who are forced to work without proper safety gears, be it gloves, safety shoes or face masks. CCP workers handling solid waste and other duties can be seen all over working without safety gears and could easily be victims of accidents and diseases. In the absence of safety equipment the workers are exposed to various health hazards, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxides emitted during the process of waste treatment, which can cause a host of respiratory diseases. The workers are at risk as they could slip while working on the leachate-ridden floor that flows freely in the plant. In the absence of odour control agents, the workers at the plant also have to bear with the strong stench from the rotting solid waste which forces them to skip their lunch. There is no data to indicate whether any employee has been victim of health hazards at the plant or any other such facility in the city but there is possibility that given the way they discharge their duties without any safety protection they are prone to suffering as a consequence.
The CCP has failed to make proper use of the waste treatment facility. The facility produces good quality compost from solid waste, which is supposed to be sold at Rs 2 to Rs 4 per kg. The CCP has not been able to sell compost even free of charge at times because of lack of awareness about its availability and quality among people. Hundreds of crates of compost are lying unsold and unused, while the compost sold in market fetches Rs 20 a kg. Selling compost will help the CCP in reducing the height and the bulk of the mountain that can catch uncontrollable fire. While the CCP authorities must wake up and install safety measures at the facility and for the workers to prevent any fire incident in the future or human casualty, they must also make some officials responsible for marketing the compost produced at the facility. These officials should talk to and establish links with farmers associations and farmers’ clubs with the purpose of distribution of the compost produced. Goa’s farmers use natural manure and the CCP must attract them to buy its quality compost.