·       Civic body continues to dump muck, spray heavy pesticides

·       ONGC pipeline endangered, mangroves chok

NAVI MUMBAI: Amid the devastating corona crisis, the controversial civic garbage dump on an ONGC pipeline and mangroves at Bori Pakhadi in Uran across Mumbai harbour has been on fire for about 10 days impacting the health of at least 3,000 people living in half-a-km radius.

Local residents and environmentalists are up in arms as the people at Bori Pakhadi and Hanuman Koliwada in particular have been facing breathing problems due to the smoke billowing out of the burning plastic, rubber, tyres and other muck, even as the mangroves continue to be choked.

“What makes the matters worse for us is the fact that the Uran Municipal Council (UMC) continues to dump garbage and spray pesticides in heavy quantities despite the continuing fire,” said local resident Samir Ashrit. “We wonder if it is not going to complicate the already existing air pollution in these days of corona scare,” he said.

The dump was set afire by some miscreants disposing off packets of potato chips with expired date on the last Wednesday and even since more than ten fire tenders belonging to the ONGC made trips to douse the flames. The police filed an FIR against three people under a relatively mild provision of section 336 of IPC that provides for a three month jail and/or a fine of Rs 250.

“Our protests have been ignored and we do not understand the officials’ mind-set in making us suffer like this,” said another resident Pritam Thakur. “We cannot come out due to the lockdown and the Section 144 in force and are unable sit at home due to the unbearable stink,” he said and pointed out that several elderly people are silently suffering.

Local residents and environmentalists have been fighting for 13 years for getting the dump shifted to a safer site. The revenue officials, following a series of complaints, have even filed an FIR against the Uran Municipal Council officials for damaging mangroves by dumping the city garbage, B N Kumar, director of NatConnect Foundation, pointed out, alerting the Konkan Divisional Commissioner and other revenue officials about the fire incident. The FIR apparently turned out to a mere eyewash, he said.

“Our complaint to the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board has so far been remained un-responded,” he said.

The High Court appointed Mangrove Protection and Conservation Committee has ordered CIDCO and Raigad district collector three months ago to clear the garbage, save the mangroves and find an alternative site for disposing of the garbage. Yet, the menace continues, he said even as he sent a fresh request to the Mangrove Committee to ensure that the garbage dump is move away as the environmental and health hazards are increasing by the day with the muck flowing into the sea and back with tidal waters.

He has also sent a series of alerts to Raigad District collector Nidhi Chaudhari on a daily basis.

Two consecutive inspections by the revenue-forest combine teams have confirmed the death of mangroves and the menace of the stinking garbage faced by the residents, yet the local administration did not budge. Apart from the garbage, even sewer water is being drained out on to the mangroves with utter disregard for the mangroves and public health, Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan, said.

Fed up with endless waiting and official inaction, the residents, including scores of women, filed a series of 80 identical complaints against the civic officials at the end of a protest march to the Tehsildar office under the banner of Uran Yuva platform.

The residents had even complained to the Prime Minister but the PMO closed the case on the UMC’s assurance that proper care would be taken while disposing of the garbage, said Samir Ashrit. “This assurance was never meant to be followed and we the residents continued to suffer,” he said.

Advocate Ratnadeep Patil, spearheading the Uran Yuva forum, said the law abiding residents agitating peacefully so far and that their patience should be tested too long. The citizen complaints pointed out that the existing garbage dump is less than 50 mtr against the norm of 500 mtr. Several people have been falling sick continuously due to the filth in their backyards, said Nishant Gharat of Yuva Uran forum.