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Goa Must Awaken To Risks From Scrap Yards

Illegal scrap yards are becoming a major problem for villages and towns of Goa. On Sunday, the issue of illegal scrap yards agitated people at the Colvale gram sabha, forcing the panchayat to investigate how electricity connections were given to them. The Colvale villagers were more indignant as there was a fire at an illegal scrap yard recently. There is a growing air pollution caused by burning of scrap, which could be a health hazard. The Colvale panchayat has decided to write to the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) to verify the extent of air pollution caused due to burning of scrap in the village. Illegal scrap yards have mushroomed in the state with the blessings of local politicians. Despite assurances they have not been removed, nor has any regulation been enforced against them. They pose danger to the health of people, with chemical waste, condemned gas cylinders, used oil cans and such things dumped.

Scrap is produced when objects become of no use, but there are standard ways of managing the scrap, not the way it is being allowed across the state, exposing men, women and children to pollution and health risks.  The management of scrap yards in the state is poor. The state government has failed to frame a law that is enforceable to regulate their functioning and ensure that they do not cause social or health hazards. They have the potential to create health hazard with everything from containers to drums being dumped which can collect water and abet mosquito breeding. The containers used to store chemicals and other hazardous items pose dangers to life and property in case they burst due to fire or heat. There have been scores of incidents of fire at scrap yards. Scrap yards should first of all not be allowed close to human habitation. They should be permitted only at isolated places and with all safeguards in place.

Now and then the authorities keep talking of shifting them away from the areas of town and residential areas but except for a few they have not been able to do much. By the grace of Providence no major tragedy has taken place so far but that does not mean that incidents of major fire or explosion would never take place. As no major tragedy has taken place owing to the risky location and poor management and absent regulation of scrap yards, people living close to them have not started agitating for safety measures and disallowing location of scrap yards within certain limits of residential areas. As a result scrap yards have proliferated. The state must frame a policy to regulate scrap yards and set up an enforcement mechanism so they operate in accordance with the rules. Those who have set up scrap yards should be made to obtain permissions from all the agencies that look after the safety aspects: police, fire and health departments and the Goa State Pollution Control Board. Scrap yards should be periodically and randomly inspected to oversee that they do not flout the rules and put the lives and health of people living in the vicinity at risk. Most of the workers at scrap yards are migrants with poor health and living standards. The authorities should make it mandatory for the owners of scrap yards to set up amenities such as toilets for use of their staff to prevent them from defecating in open spaces.

With no authorities to regulate the functioning of scrap yards there is no official count available of their number in the state. According to unofficial estimates, there are nearly 300 scrap yards spread across the state. It should be remembered, however, that though scrap yards are a nuisance, their existence has helped in keeping the state clean and tidy to a great extent as most of the junk that is left to rot along the roads and in open spaces are cleared by ragpickers and scrap collectors. There has been a demand raised by different quarters to close down all the scrap yards. In case the authorities decide to close down the scrap yards they should create a robust system as an alternative that would collect every item dumped along the roads or in the open spaces and drop it at designated yards. Rather than closing down scrap yards the authorities should relocate them at designated places away from residential areas and make them operate according to regulations and norms.

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