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When Panchayats Themselves Flout Waste Disposal Rules

THE Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) has decided to act against the Arambol panchayat for its failure to dispose of solid waste according to the Solid Waste Management Rules and gross violation of environmental norms.The action is being taken against the panchayat following a complaint lodged by the Goa Waste Management Corporation (GWMC). A recent inspection by the GWMC of the panchayat revealed illegal dumping of solid waste and other waste by it in an open pit in contravention of rules. The inspection also found a series of violations by the Arambol panchayat other than unscientific disposal of the waste. Accordingly, the GSPCB has decided to enforce the “polluter pays” principle against the panchayat and impose fine on it for disposing solid waste in the open. Ever since the GWMC was formed and the Solid Waste Management Rules came into effect in 2016 the state government has directed all the local self-governing bodies in North Goa to transport the collected and segregated waste to the state of the art treatment facility at Saligao. The Arambol panchayat is one of the 27 local bodies that have been directed to send the waste for disposal at the Saligao facility.

Dumping of waste in open pits has been one of the oldest forms of waste treatment, but it has been found to be unscientific and a potential health hazard. According to the Solid Waste Management Rules, biodegradable waste should be processed, treated and disposed of through composting or bio-methanation within an entity’s premises as far as possible and the residual waste shall be handed over to the waste collectors or agency as directed by the local authority. However, dumping of waste in open pits can be carried out in designated areas only after carrying out formalities for systematic process of managing waste and getting approval of the GSPCB according to the state rules. The land where the Arambol panchayat has been dumping its waste has no approval from any authority including GSPCB and hence the operations there are in contravention of rules. Like the 26 other coastal local bodies the Arambol panchayat should have got its waste treated only at the Saligao waste treatment facility. By resorting to hazardous waste disposal the Arambol panchayat is playing with the health of the local residents and tourists.

Disposal of solid waste has been a major problem in the state for the last two decades. The issue first cropped up in 2005 when the Bombay High Court at Goa shut down the dump at Curca-Bambolim. A major victim of the High Court order was the Corporation of the City of Panaji which was using the facility at Curca-Bambolim to dump the waste generated in the city. The CCP had to work out an alternative. It decided to set up 100 composting pits to take care of the wet waste. This decision helped contain the solid waste problem in the capital city to a certain extent but other places have been struggling to manage the ever-increasing solid waste. The government decided to set up two model solid waste management plants, one at Saligao (for North Goa) and other at Cacora (for South Goa). While the Saligao plant became operational, the Cacora one is yet to see the light of the day. Various measures to tackle solid waste have failed to yield desired results with the local bodies failing to create smooth systems in their areas.

It is time the authorities at all levels understand that poor waste management can accelerate the degradation of environment, trigger adverse effects on the health of the people and impair the reserves of natural resources. Springs and rivulets can be affected by waste. The problem is going to be more acute as the population of the state has been increasing as it would lead to generation of more solid waste. The authorities need to come up with ideas for effective solid waste management, which should be easy to implement. The government notified Solid Waste Management Rules in 2016 replacing the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules of 2000 for effective solid waste management but their implementation appears to be poor. Though the new rules empower local bodies to charge for waste collection and disposal along with spot fines for littering, hardly has anyone been penalized for violations of the rules. Collection of waste from houses has been slack despite allocation of funds for engagement of waste collectors. The regulatory bodies should maintain vigilance over the municipalities and panchayats in order to make them responsible and uncompromising on scientific waste management.

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