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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

Garbage Dumping Polluting Giri Ganga River – A Drinking Water Supply Source of Shimla

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Giri Ganga River pollution in Shimla

Shimla– The Gumma Nagar Panchayat in Kotkhai, Shimla district, like most of the other rural areas, lacks a proper solid waste management system. As a result, the usual method adopted here is dumping daily solid waste down the hill in an official dumping yard.

The locals from the panchayat wrote to Himachal Watcher regarding the adverse effect the dumping site in Gumma causing.

Gumma dumping yard in Shimla district 03 (2)

Overflowing dumping site in Gumma

They said the panchayat has allocated the site shown in the photo above to dump their garbage. This garbage is mostly left unsorted. 

With the growing population and increasing number of shops, the hillside is now overflowing with rubbish. This overflowing waste from the dump finds its way down to the Giri river water. 

It not only looks unsightly but also emits a foul smell. Moreover, the half-burnt rubbish flies in all directions, mostly downhill into the water.

Gumma dumping yard in Shimla district 3

The office of the Assistant Engineer, IPH Subdivision Gumma, is located near to this location. Still, the issue is being ignored. 

“Interestingly, the Department of Irrigation & Public Health is sitting above the location, blind and oblivious to it all,”

Devanshe Chauhan Lidgley, a local told Himachal Watcher.

IPH Office in Gumma

Office of the Assistant Engineer, IPH, Gumma

She further added,

“Complaints have been made to the Gumma Panchayat Pradhan who showed helplessness since it was a decision made by higher officials,”

The panchayat pradhan of Gumma told HW that, indeed, the area is facing a problem with daily garbage. There are five wards in the Nagar panchayat, and villagers do not have any common dumping ground. 

“The villagers have found suitable spots near their habitats where they dump their daily garbage,”

Tara Chauhan, the Pradhan of the panchayat told HW

“The dumping site shown in the pictures is particularly created to accommodate daily waste generated by shops in the market. The market has about 300 shops, and the daily waste is transported through pic-ups to the dumping site,”

she added.  

Gumma dumping yard in Shimla district 03 (1)

A Pick-up dumping Gumma Market’s daily waste downhill

She also accepted that this dumping site is now overflowing as the amount of waste dumped is increasing. The issue has been brought to the attention of district administration of Shimla, she said, adding that the administration has asked the panchayat to find a new location for the creation of another dumping yard. However, it’s hard to procure land for it as no one would allow the creation of dumping site on private land, she said. 

“Earlier, we used to set the garbage ablaze when dumping reached on the verge of overflowing. However, now, we have directions not to burn garbage as it causes air pollution,”

Chauhan told HW. 

Gumma dumping yard in Shimla district

As a matter of fact, the said dumping site is overflowing and, in monsoon, a lot of waste is likely to find its way into the Giri Ganga. 

Giri Ganga is one of the main sources of drinking water supply to Shimla, and there is no need to say more why it requires immediate intervention of the district administration and the state pollution control board to prevent water pollution.

In the past, Shimla has already witnessed instances of jaundice outbreaks due to contaminated water that had killed about two dozen people.  However, it appears, we are waiting for another catastrophe to happen before appropriate action is taken.  

The garbage dumped here needs to be removed regularly and disposed of properly before the next truck of garbage is dumped. 

“Is the ‘Swaacch Bharat’ campaign only on papers? How can the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) succeed if the sources of Ganga are being polluted?”

asked the local.

It is a matter of concern that the district administration is still stuck at creating dumping yards, which is not a proper way to dispose of solid waste. At the same time, the villagers are left at their own to deal with the daily waste they generate. The State government needs to provide a solid waste treatment facility in rural areas.  

However, there are reasons to believe that the government is hardly concerned about this gigantic environmental issue. The only waste treatment plant that was supposed to convert Shimla town’s municipal waste into energy, is lying defunct. Instead, the locals allege, the plant has been turned into a dumping yard, which was on fire last month. The fire kept smouldering for over a week. 

A similar example was witnessed in Kenduwal of Baddi in Solan district where the Municipal Council and the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh Development Authority (BBNDA) were supposed to construct a solid waste treatment plant. They had obtained the clearance for the same on August 13, 2015, and were allotted 42 bighas and 13 Biswas of land in Kenduwal. 

However, the plant never came up and the two responsible authorities created a huge dumping site by violating a number of environmental laws and guidelines. Not only they created this site on the flood-plains of Sirsa river but also ignored human habitat located at a distance of 30 meters from it.  The families living in this habitat had to approach the state High Court to get relief from the hellish conditions created by this illegal dumping site. 

 

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Neglecting Warnings of Environmental Groups, Studies, HP Govt to Sign MoU for 5 More Hydro Power Projects

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Five more SJVNL hydroproject in himachal Pradesh

Shimla-Ignoring the appeals of the environmental groups and studies indicating devastating effects of hydro power projects on Himalayan ecology and on the lives of the locals, the State government of Himachal Pradesh has decided to allocate five more projects.

An Environmental group Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective had in June 2019 released their report titled “The Hidden Cost of Hydropower” to highlight the risks associated with hydro power construction, especially in Himalayan regions like Himachal Pradesh.  Echoing the fragility of the Himalayan region due to geological instability and climate change-related disasters like flash floods and cloud bursts, the report had highlighted the role of construction activities that accentuate this fragility.

However, in a meeting Chaired by the Chief Minister Jairam Thakur on July 6, 2019, the government has decided to sign 5 MoUs with SJVNL.

“Proper memorandum of understanding (MoU) would be signed for five hydro power projects most likely in the month of August, this year, which have been allocated to the SJVNL,

Chief Minister said.

These projects include Luhri stage-1 (210 MW), Sunni Dam (382 MW), Dhola Sidh (66 MW), Luhri, stage-2 (172 MW) and Jangi Thopan (780 MW).

“These five hydro power projects have the potential of investment of Rs. 15,000 crores and would provide employment to around 8,000 people,”

he said.

He also suggested that the Chenab river basin would also be developed as it has a capacity of 3000 MW hydro-power generation. The five projects allocated in the Chenab basin have been cancelled and now the government would consider the viability before further allocation of these projects and providing concession to the investors, he said. 

The Chief Minister termed the decision as best possible efforts to boost investment in the hydro power sector. He claimed that this sector is not only an engine of growth but also has immense potential to provide employment. He said the government would expedite the pace of execution of power projects, which had slowed down during the last few years.

The above-mentioned report of the Himdhara Collective had also found that over the last few years, increasing evidence has emerged that hydro power production may not be so ‘clean and green’ after all.  This report, that compiled primary and secondary pieces of evidence of the impacts triggered by underground construction for the run of the river (ROR) hydropower projects, highlighted the issues of environmental hazards and risks involved.

The Report had also mentioned that there are severe environmental hazards linked to the construction of these projects, which the government was not ready to admit. As a result of this deliberate neglection, the villagers, rivers, local water sources, farming lands, local wildlife etc. were suffering. Houses of people were destroyed due to seepage of water from tunnels of hydropower projects and they were forced to evacuate.

The Report had also said that the Ministry of Power had issued an order in March 2019 recognizing hydro power projects with a capacity of more than 25 MW as ‘renewable’ source of energy, thus eligible for further subsidies. Himdhara’s report, however, had brought out that hydro projects do not deserve the ‘green’ tag and the government should stop further subsiding the sector, especially large projects.

You can read the complete Report Here

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Forest Fires – NGT Issues Guidelines for Effective Implementation of Action Plan for Control

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NGT Guidelines for controlling Forest-fires-in-himachal-pradesh

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh is the storehouse of biodiversity and animal life, which exists in perpetual threat of forest fires. Out of total 45,000 species of plants found in the country, 3,295 species (7.32 percent) are present in the state. More than 95 percent of flora species are natural to the state and characteristic of Western Himalayan flora, while about five percent (150 species) are exotic introduced over the last 150 years.

Forest department records show 22 percent, or 8,267 sq km of the total forest area, particularly in the mid and low hills, is fire-prone. Majority of the fires are reported from pine forests since, during summer, the trees shed pine needles that are highly inflammable for their rich content of turpentine oil. The pine forests are found up to an altitude of 5,500 feet.

Official figures show that 2018 was the worst year with 2,469 fire incidents reported — the highest in eight years — that consumed 25,300 hectares of forest across the state. In 2012-13, the second-worst year, pine forest fires consumed 20,773 hectares with a total of 1,798 cases.

There are 196 forest ranges in the state, of which 80 are most sensitive and fire-prone.

Recently A Coram of Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson), J. and S.P. Wangdi (Judicial Member), K. Ramakrishnan (Judicial Member), JJ. and Dr. Nagin Nanda (Expert Member) in Rajiv Dutta v. Union of India laid down guidelines for effective implementation of the action plan for controlling forest fires.

Tribunal in one of its interim Orders had sought a report on:

  • Fire alerts
  •  Mapping of forest areas which are critical and vulnerable
  •  Steps for fire line cutting as preventive measures for forest fires

Further, in the same order, a direction was made to prepare “A National Policy” periodically, and keep it updated under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

Section 5 of the Act envisages Forest Fire Management Plans, Crisis Management Policy, plans for relief, rehabilitation and restoration, financial resources, manpower, transport, fire-fighting equipment, community involvement, including 2 involvement of Panchayati Raj Institutions, Van Panchayats, satellite-based forest fire alert system in collaboration with the National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) and the Forest Survey of India (FSI), use of media for information, dissemination and awareness, having a nodal officer to oversee fire prevention and control at Head Quarters to coordinate with different Government agencies, dissemination of best practices and experiences, network of automated surveillance or watch towers/observation posts at strategic locations, mock drill exercises, capacity building at various levels.

The Hon’ble Tribunal, on the basis of the said report submitted by MoEF, gave the following guidelines:

  1. Though a comprehensive action plan had been duly adopted, its implementation required a robust institutional mechanism in view of the increase in the incidents of forest fires.
  2. Institutional mechanism for preventing and controlling forest fires may comprise of representatives of the MoEF&CC, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Wildlife Institute of India, National Disaster Management Authority, Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE), Forest Survey of India (FSI) and the National Remote Sensing Centre representing the Central Government on one hand; and the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests of all the States/Union Territories on the other hand.
  3. The Central Monitoring Committee will be headed by the Secretary of MoEF with seven members mentioned in point no. (ii) above. The Secretary would be free to add any member or expert, apart from special invitees, if any.
  4. Central Monitoring Committee must meet once in three months and address all the issues arising out of forest fires, including the effective implementation of NAPFF.
  5. The Tribunal also noted that from the NAPFF, a national level database must be developed for burnt area assessment on a yearly basis.
  6. Standardized protocols and procedures must be developed by ICFRE and FSI to facilitate the reporting of the area affected and losses due to the forest fire.
  7. ICFRE was also directed to assist in designing and organizing adequate training programs for forest officials at various levels.
  8. The Secretary, MoEF&amp may issue directions for the constitution of an appropriate institutional mechanism at State levels also.

 

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