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After eight years of hearing a case against the degradation of the Deepor Beel wetland, the National Green Tribunal expressed disappointment at the solid waste management procedure of the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC).

The tribunal, in an order passed on April 28, said that “in spite of monitoring by the tribunal for a long period, no satisfactory progress has taken place so far”.

The NGT order came in response to an application filed by activist Rohit Chowdhary in 2014 against degradation of the Deepor Beel wetlands near Guwahati by actions in violation of Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000 (now MSW Rules, 2016) and Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010 (now Wetland Rules, 2017).

Chowdhury, in his application, stated that discharge of untreated sewage from the now old dumping site at Pachim Boragaon and commercial exploitation of the area surrounding Deepor Beel has led to reduction of migratory birds and disturbance of fishing activity.

Assam govt approved Rs 172.5 crore for biomining of legacy waste at Pachim Boragaon

The Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) in a recent affidavit filed with the NGT mentioned the present status of management of the legacy waste. The corporation informed that over 2 lakh MT (metric tonne) of legacy waste from the Pachim Boragaon site has been treated.

“The Guwahati Municipal Corporation has stopped the transfer of solid waste to the old site at West Boragaon with effect from June 28, 2021. The said site was locked and no any solid waste has since been transferred or dumped at this site,” GMC informed.

“The treatment of old legacy waste has started in January, 2021. The content with high calorific value is supplied to cement factory. It is a continuous process,” it added.

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The Guwahati Development Department (GDD) of Assam government has already been approved for Rs 172.5 crore for biomining of the legacy waste accumulated at Pachim Boragaon old site, tender for which has already been floated.

Guwahati generates approx 600 TPD of waste; disposes only 7.5 TPD

NGT held that the estimated waste generation of Guwahati is said to be 600 TPD (tonnes per day). GMC, in its affidavit, informed that a total of 7.5 TPD (tonnes per day) of waste are treated at the bio-methanation plant at Chatribari (5 TPD) and at the organic waste converter plant at Bhangagarh (2.5 TPD). While the Chatribari bio-methanation plant is a waste to energy plant, the Bhangagarh plant converts waste to compost.

Extensive planning by GMC to manage city’s waste

GMC is planning extensively to establish a solid waste processing plant. One compost/ RDF plant (refuse derived fuels) will be established in the first phase with a capacity of 150 TPD. The solid waste processing plant will be set up at the HouseFed land measuring approximately 56 bighas; Rs 35 crore has been accorded for construction and implementation of composting and RDF plant at Belortol.

“The corporation will acquire some patta lands adjoining to this land. It is further stated that earthen embankments have been constructed around the land so that there is no seepage outside the site. The corporation has been developing this land by construction of road, boundary wall and providing of electric line upto the land. The corporation has further issued orders for laying of rubber membrane over the land,” it stated.

Additionally, Assam government has approved land for garbage transfer stations and decentralized plants at Old Jail Campus at Fancy Bazaar (2.95 bigha) and at Purabi Dairy at Sixmile (2 bigha) in Guwahati. The garbage transfer stations will be designed to segregate the solid waste with trommels, shredder machines to derive compost. The residue of the mixed waste will be transferred to the landfill.

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Similar plants will also be set up at Adabari (5 bigha), Mathgharia (2.9 bigha) and at Udalbakra (2 katha) in Guwahati.

Disposal procedure of Guwahati not scientifically managed nor legacy waste remediated: NGT

“It is seen that solid waste is not being scientifically managed nor legacy waste has been remediated. Capacity of proposed integrated waste management plant has not been specified. There is also no water quality monitoring programme of the wetland. In spite of monitoring by the tribunal for a long period, no satisfactory progress has taken place so far,” held the National Green Tribunal in its final order.

The tribunal ordered that there is a need to work in a mission mode by GMC to remediate the legacy waste, scientifically handle current waste, speedily set up plant of adequate capacity, regular monitoring of the water quality of the wetland and other measures which stand identified.

No ongoing project should disregard the environmental safeguards: NGT

Furthermore, no ongoing project should disregard the environmental safeguards and should proceed further only after addressing the concerns set out in various orders of this tribunal, ordered NGT.

“Needless to say that the wetland has to be protected as per mandate of the Wetland Rules. Waste is to be handled as per statutory rules. Eco Sensitive Zone is to be declared to give effect to the precautionary principle of environmental law to prohibit and regulate activities which adversely affect the eco sensitive zone,” it concluded.

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About Barasha Das

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Barasha Das is a journalist working in Northeast India region.

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