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Health hazard haunts Shimla city as garbage collection heads towards total collapse

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Shimla SHEB Society Strike

Then-Mayor, Sanjay Chauhan, had criticised the sanitation workers for their demand of hike saying they were being paid maximum wages as compared to entire India. Surprisingly, now he supported the striking workers and said the MC should accept their demands. 

Shimla: The Shimla Municipal Corporation has issued a notice warming the striking workers of the Shimla Environment, Heritage and Beautification (SHEB) Society to resume the work by Sept 21.

Otherwise, it cautioned the workers, the door-to-door garbage collection work will be outsourced. A proposal regarding the same was floating in the MC House recently. The decision was taken in a meeting of governing body held on September 19. 

On the other hand, the workers said they will prefer mass resignation than ending the strike. President of the SHEB Society, Jaswant Singh, warned the drivers who are still collecting garbage from collection points will also join the strike from Thursday. 

Shimla MC hardly has any backup plan to deal with such a situation, which can worsen the sanitation situation of Shimla. It would imply that no garbage would be collected even from collection points. 

This situation could lead to sanitation crisis and health hazards related to poor sanitation. 

The residents were hopeful that the sanitation workers would end their strike after the seventh annual general meeting (AGM) of the Society on September 18. The Urban Development Minister, Sudhir Sharma, had presided over AGM after the civic body had said he would take the final call over the demands of the striking workers.

The minister gave nod to only 10 percent hike with an assurance that a proposal for a policy recommending 10 percent annual hike in wages will be sent to the government for an approval. 

The civic body had expressed its inability to hike their wages due to financial crunch. SMC said it is earning much less than it is spending on SHEB Society. 

However, the workers continued their strike as the AGM failed to satisfy them to resume work. 

 

What do SHEB Workers Want?

After seven years of formation of SHEB Society and implementation of door-to-door garbage collection service, the capital city is still struggling with management of solid waste. Though Shimla city did not remain free from littering, the service had proved beneficial in waste management. 

The workers are on strike again and the public is feeling free to burn or throw their garbage in forests or in nullahs. The garbage is scattered on roadsides raising a stink. People are not convenient in carrying their garbage daily to collection points.  

Unfortunately, as the MC had declared the city as ‘dumper free’ and removed most of the dumpers claiming the door-to-door service was working at 100 percent efficiency, and that there was no need of dumpers.

After a while, the SMC had to place dumpers at some places, and as the current circumstances suggest, MC might need to bring the “dumper method” back.

People, from one locality or other, always complained irregularity in the working of the SHEB Society workers.

However, since 2015, SHEB workers have gone on strike several times over their demands regarding regularization under Shimla Municipal Corporation, as promised to them. The SHEB workers also demanded the corporation to provide them information regarding the recruitment, ESI, Employee Provident Fund accounts etc.

The SHEB Society had alleged then Mayor of Shimla, Sanjay Chauhan, and Deputy Mayor, Tikender Singh Panwar, of harassing the workers by not regularizing them under the MC.

In 2010, a door-to-door garbage collector was receiving Rs. 3300 as monthly salary. In 2015, the salary was increased to 7,700. With this hike in their wages went up the cost of service for the residents and clients who fall under 20 categories like dhabas, tea stalls, hotels, restaurants etc. These charges were between Rs 50 to Rs 1,000 per month depending upon the category.

These allegations were rubbished by then-Deputy Mayor. He had explained that the workers do not understand that only state government is eligible for taking such decisions.

SHEB workers had also alleged the SMC and the Urban Development Department ignoring their health. They had alleged the civic body did not provide them with gloves, proper carry-bags, raincoats etc. The president of the society said 19 workers have died and several others are suffering from jaundice. However, he said, they have not received any relief from the civic body. 

In 2015, the SMC had to issue a warning to the workers to join their duty back or face termination under Essential Services Maintenance Act. Notices were also issued to several workers.

Then-Mayor, Sanjay Chauhan, had criticised the sanitation workers over their strike regarding the merger in the MC as regular employees. He had said the workers were being paid maximum wages as compared to entire India.

He supported the striking workers and said the MC should accept their demands.

In 2017, the workers again went on strike multiple times, which lead to the creation of ugly scene as garbage heaps and littering increased. 

This tug-of-war between the civic body and the workers continues in September 2017 too. The workers have locked horns with the SMC over their demands which include a minimum wage of Rs. 10,500 per month.

The workers say they are currently receiving Rs 6,700 per month, which is not sufficient to meet ends.

If the government can increase the salaries of officers and ministers by 50 percent or even 100 percent, why it does not make a 10 percent hike for poor like us who do menial jobs,

said workers in a statement to media.

Waste Management/Segregation Still a Distant Dream

Door-to-door garbage collection service that now covers not only 38,000 residential buildings but also the beneficiaries who fall under 20 categories like dhabas, tea stalls, hotels, restaurants etc. in all 34 wards, is best suited for a hilly region like Shimla.

Majority of houses are not connected to roads in Shimla city, therefore, garbage collection is not possible through vehicles.

The SHEB society was formed in 2010 after the High Court had directed the civic body to make proper policy for collection and segregation of non-biodegradable and bio-degradable garbage at the household level.

Back then, the citizens were given a yellow dustbin for non-biodegradable waste, i.e. plastic, metal, stone etc. and green dustbins for bio-degradable waste, i.e. raw and waste foodstuff, paper etc.

In 2017, waste segregation remains a distant dream as the civic body is not even able to collect garbage. Eventually, now there is a great probability that the door-to-door garbage collection work will be given to a private contractor or some NGO.

Neverthless, till the things come back on track, residents should support the corporation by not taking it for granted to dispose of garbage in forests or nulluhas or burn it to pollute air because door-to-door garbage collectors are on strike. To keep your own city clean and prevent the health hazards, try to carry the garbage to the collection  points to make it easier for the corporation to transport it through vehicles.

If it is not picked up from these collection points, then there is every reason to criticise the civic body.   

Here is the list of ward-wise list of contact numbers of the Nodal Officers appointed by the MC to look after the removal of garbage from various collection points: 

 

Ward                   Mobile Number

Bharari                  8679773967

Ruldbhatta          9418233114

Kaithu                   9816588002

Annadel               9459148055

Summerhill         9459153459

Totu                       9419090195

Majhyath            9418376919

Boileauganj        9817151277

Kachhi Ghati       9459743003

Tutikandi             9418344254

Nabha                   9318727372

Fagali                     9418627780

Krishna Nagar   8894126752

Ram Bazaar         9418029908

Lower Bazaar     9418014593

Jakhu                    888810728

Benmore             9459753722

Engine Ghar        9418016782

Sanjauli Chowk   9817222688

Upper Dhalli        9418064474

Lower Dhali         9418608263

Shanit Vihar        9418038021

Bhattakuffar       9418044534

Sangti                    9418780891

Malyana               9418458702

Panthaghati         9418474747

Kasumpti             8679637396

Chotta Shimla    9418092015

Vikasnagar           9418090790

Patiyog (पटियोग )9816316754

New Shimla        9418062620

Khalini                   9418486558

Kanlog                  9816035624

 

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Environment

Baddi MC and BBNDA first create illegal dumping site, now trying to cover it with mud

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Baddi MC Dumping Site

Solan: The State Government had been bragging about environmental conservation in announcements and speeches. In papers, the status of waste management has improved during the first year of the new Government. The Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur says his government is committed to promoting Swachh Bharat campaign as it is the flagship initiative of the current government.

However, on the ground level, the insensitivity and indifference of the government towards environmental protection is only growing. More startling is the way in which the State Pollution Control Board (PCB) and district administrations respond to public complaints regarding illegal dumping of waste.

Rather, the government bodies are violating laws to create illegal dumping sites.

Related Story: Baddi MC turns site of Rs 9.7 crores proposed Waste Management Facility into illegal dumpyard

For the last two years the Municipal Council, Baddi, and BBNDA have openly been dumping municipal waste of Baddi town in Kenduwal village which has become a potential health hazard and nuisance for the residents of nearby villages. Since the last four months, the villagers, distraught by the illegal dump, have been petitioning several authorities to stop the dumping.

Now, the BBNDA, instead of cleaning up and ensuring scientific disposal of the garbage, is covering the illegal dump yard with mud and soil. JCB machines are simply grabbing mud/soil from nearby and throwing it on the dumped waste with an intention to bury it.

Last week we met with the BBNDA officials and asked them to stop putting the garbage there. Not only are they continuing to dump the garbage but also put piles of mud to cover the stinking heaps of garbage during the last five days. We are being told that the area will now be turned into a shed and our problem will be solved

said Ghulam Nabi a resident of Kenduwal in front of whose home the piles of garbage has come up.

It needs to be noted that the BBNDA had proposed an Rs.9.7 crore Integrated Solid Waste Management facility in the area in 2012 and obtained a clearance for the same in 2015. But for the last three years, it made no move to set up the plant and was dumping in violation of the Solid Waste Management guidelines 2016 as well as the environment clearance conditions.

Related Story: Families living in inhuman, hazardous conditions due to Baddi MC’s dumping ground

On August 12 and 13, the Sirsa River flooded and the dumping site, which is adjacent to the river became waterlogged making the rotting garbage stink badly. The boundary wall was then broken to release the water from the dumping site and the contaminated water eventually made its way into the Sirsa River.

Now they are just burying the garbage and the leachate will contaminate the groundwater too

, said Ramanathan of Himdhara Collective a watchdog group that monitors environmental issues in Himachal.

The State PCB has sent about five notices to the Baddi MC, which were not entertained at all. Despite that, the PCB never proceeded to take action and continue to supply notices.

Through an RTI application we have learned that the Regional Office of PCB in Baddi has served five show cause notices to the Municipal Council in this regards but no further actions were taken,

he added

The BBNDA, in a statement in a newspaper on September 19, has claimed that it has finally identified the firm from Ludhiana for setting up the Solid Waste Management facility.

If they have identified a company to set up the disposal plant why did they cover up the garbage, rather than letting the company take care of it. This is not a solution and neither is it in compliance with the guidelines of solid waste management,

said Ramanathan.

While BBNDA has gone into damage control mode, it still seems least concerned about the laws or the demands of the people.

Our demand is clear, we want this nuisance removed and a proper waste management plant should be set up in an appropriate location. Not near the river or in front of people’s homes,

added Nabi

The Solid Waste Management Rules have clear criteria regarding the selection of a site for waste management plants and landfills, which cannot be on floodplains or near habitations.

Municipal Solid waste has become a serious nuisance across the state of Himachal and a National Green Tribunal appointed committee has recently asked all states to formulate their waste management plans in compliance with SWM rules within a month,

said Manshi Asher of Himdhara Collective.

Long-term solution of solid waste requires an integrated approach involving resident welfare associations of municipal areas, waste pickers and municipal bodies. Decentralised segregation and disposal at source would help to reduce the quantum of waste,

Asher added.

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After NGT orders, Govt forms Special Task Force to check pollution in Ghaggar tributaries

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stf for ghaggar river pollution

Shimla: Bound by the orders passed by the National Green Tribunal on August 7, 2018, the Himachal Pradesh Government has constituted Special Task Forces (STFs) at the state and district levels to check discharge of effluents in into the tributaries of river Ghaggar.

The National Green Tribunal, in its order, had directed the chief secretaries of Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh to form STFs to deal with the pollution in the said river within a month.

It’s pertinent to mention that the neighbouring States have been blaming unlawful discharges of effluents from the industries established in Kala Amb into Markanda river. The pollution in the tributaries is reaching alarming levels. The court had to take Suo motu cognizance in the matter and pass orders to the state governments.

The NGT had also given directions regarding the officials to be included into these STFs. The will of the government in this entire process was completely missing.

The District level STF will identify the persons responsible for discharging of industrial and municipal effluents causing water pollution in river Ghaggar and its tributaries and will submit a monthly action taken the report to the State level STF, the government informed.

It said the State level STF will furnish a quarterly report or an action taken report to the Central Pollution Control Board. These reports will be uploaded on the websites of the State PCB as well as the Department of Environment, Science and Technology.

The state-level special task will include the Chief Secretary, Additional Chief Secretary (Environment, Science and Technology), Additional Chief Secretary (Urban Development), Member Secretary, H.P. state pollution control board as the Member Secretary of the State Level STF.

The officers in the district Level Special Task Force for Solan and Sirmour will include concerned Deputy Commissioners, the nominee of the concerned district and Session Judge, concerned Superintendent of Police, executive officer of the local bodies of concerned district, Regional officer, State Pollution Control Board of the concerned district.

Ghaggar river originates from the Shivalik Hills and passes through Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan before entering Pakistan.

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Satluj environmental impact report still not complete, but Himachal continues granting clearance to more hydropower projects

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Luhri hydropower project in rampur

Shimla: As per the Scientific American – the leading and one of the oldest science and technology magazine of the United States of America, the country has decommissioned as well as removed at least 1,000 dams so far, and several others are under the process of decommissioning. The removal of dams is costing the US a gigantic amount of money, but still, it is taking the pain to do the needful.

The reason was simple – the adverse and irreversible environmental damages of these dams. The Hydropower Reform Coalition (HRC), a joint platform comprising of 150 environmental groups, had been advocating the removal of the dams due to their impacts on the environment including the aquatic life.

On the other hand, in the State of Himachal Pradesh, blessed with five perennial rivers including the longest Sutlej, in addition to already operational projects, the government is trying to sell over 700 projects by inviting private investors.

The government argues that hydropower projects have given the state economy a boost along with creating employment opportunities. After agriculture and tourism, hydropower is the biggest contributor towards the state economy. Moreover, hydropower is ecofriendly.

However, the government does not want to stop here and is targeting to harness 100 per cent of the total power generating capacity. During Congress government, it was officially stated that a hydropower potential of 27436 MW was identified in the state. The state was harnessing only 10351 MW.

During the tenure of the Congress government, Himachal had commissioned about 31 hydropower projects of 2067 MW capacity and had earned a revenue of Rs. 3345 crore from the sale of free and equity power.

The new Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, after coming into power, had said that the hydropower projects were facing difficulties in getting clearances. He had announced that all such hurdles would be removed under the new government. There were no words about the impact on the environment at all.

The environmental protection has never been a matter of concern for both Congress and Bhartiya Janata Party governments in the state. The leaders are completely visionless in this regard, which is why the environmental impacts of the hydroporjects remain absent from the list of major poll agendas.  

The latest project in making is the new venture of Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (SJVNL); the Luhri Stage -I hydropower project (219 MW) on the last free-flowing stretch of the River Sutlej.

The environmental activists and groups are up in arms against the construction of more dams for the projects. The feedback from previous projects has shown that these projects did have an adverse effect. The project is proposed downstream of the 420 MW Rampur Project in Shimla and Kullu Districts.

Environmental group reaches the Expert Committee of Ministry of Environment

Raising objections to the granting of clearances to dams on the last free-flowing stretch of the Satluj River, the Himdhara Collective, an environmental group, recently sent a submission to the Expert Committee of Ministry of Environment demanding Cumulative Impact Assessment for individual projects on the Satluj river basin.

The committee, in its meeting to be held on August 28, 2018, is to consider the grant of Environment Clearance for SJVNL’s Luhri project. It’s the same project that was dropped after the SJVN faced resistance from the locals. Earlier, there was a proposal to construct a 750 MW project with a 35 km long tunnel in this stretch.

It was due to the objections of the local community that the massive tunnel will disturb the geology of the region, already prone to landslides that the project was dropped,

the submission said.

Instead, the HP government has now allocated three dams, namely, Luhri Stage I and Luhri stage II (163MW) and Sunni (355MW) in the same stretch. The key objection raised in the submission is that the committee instead of studying the overall impact of the three projects put together was looking at each project in a singular way.

70% of land granted for the project is forest area

The total land requirement for the three proposed projects is 654.02 hectares, which is twice the size of the land required for the earlier proposed 750 MW project. Considering 70% of the required land falls in the category of ‘forest’, this would lead to more deforestation in the Satluj River basin which has already faced severe forest diversion, erosion and slope de-stabilisation.

The move to build bumper to bumper dams on a single river basin is destructive and this is the reason why we have been saying that the Ministry of Environment should look at the cumulative impacts of the dams rather than for individual projects,

the environmental group stated in the submission.

The Govt denies reply to RTI seeking information on the CEIA Report

In 2013, on clear directions from the Ministry of Environment, the HP Directorate of Energy had commissioned Cumulative Environment Impact Assessment (CEIA) studies for all the major river basins of Himachal Pradesh. The process for Satluj river basin was initiated first in 2013. A series of public consultations were held in Pooh, Rekong Peo, Rampur where local communities and environmentalists had filed detailed objections.

The group said the DoE had even appointed an independent Panel of Environmental and Social Experts, which had submitted a damning report to the HP Government in 2015, raising that the state government was apathetic to the adverse impacts these projects had on the lives of local communities. However, since then, there has been complete silence on the CEIA study of Satluj river basin.

In 2017 we filed an RTI to the DoE seeking the final report, but the matter was transferred to the Union Ministry of Environment who did not respond despite appeal in the Central Information Commission. The matter is now pending in the Central Information Commission,

Himdhara members said in the submission.

For the last three years, the Expert Committee of the ministry has been according to clearances to hydro projects on the Satluj without even as much as mentioning the Cumulative Impact study that it itself had made mandatory to be conducted.

The CEIA should have a bearing on the decision to be taken in the Luhri I, II and Sunni HEP, else the exercise (CEIA of Satluj river basin) itself will be rendered meaningless given that, in the middle zone of the Satluj river basin this is the last and the only stretch of the free-flowing Satluj river.

the group said.

The group has demanded that the CEIA of Satluj river basin should be first finalized, and till then, all projects on the Satluj river basin must be put on hold. The issue of dam building in the Himalayas has also now become a major concern amongst mountain communities and environmentalists given the threat of disasters like cloudbursts floods and earthquakes to the lives and economy of the region.

However, the SJVNL terms these arguments as a non-sense saying there would be no tunnelling for the project. The company, like the centre and state governments, has as nothing to say about the CEIA report. Why is the government not finalizing the report and making it public if there is nothing wrong with the construction of the new projects?

Read Complete Submission

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