Garbage burning a threat to Hinjawadi

Neha Basudkar
Sunday, 13 January 2019

For more than a year, residents are suffering from the smoke of garbage being burnt illegally. Despite several plaints, no governing body is doing anything

Hinjawadi is burning and those living there are coughing their lungs out. The smoke is unbearable, but it is not persistent like New Delhi. The smoke from all the garbage burnt in open spaces, sometimes in quantities so small that it goes unnoticed by many, and sometimes on such a large scale that it blocks the sunlight of a sizable area - is suffocating the people living in posh housing societies, home to a dedicated IT workforce that lives there.
Hinjawadi, located in the western part of Pune, is the city’s IT hub where some of the top software companies have set up palatial offices.
No wonder, when on January 1, 2019, black dense smoke rose as high as 20-25 feet in Phase 3, the residents readied for another battle with Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) and the Gram Panchayat of Maan village. 

With no governing body ready to take responsibility for ending indiscriminate garbage burning, or taking steps towards waste segregation and management, the residents’ organisations have decided to knock on the doors of National Green Tribunal (NGT) for some relief.
Till now, their plea for setting up a waste processing plant has seen little progress.
Illegal garbage dumping

Illegal dumping and burning garbage in open spaces of the Rajiv Gandhi IT Park led to the formation of a citizens’ group - Hinjawadi IT Park Residents Welfare Association (HIRWA) and launch of an online petition LiveableHinjawadi, to improve the livable index of Hinjawadi.
Ravindra Sinha, an active member of HIRWA, said, “Due to unplanned infrastructure, the air pollution has increased considerably in Hinjawadi. The key contributor to the air pollution is ineffective waste management as there is no waste treatment facility, resulting in burning the garbage openly or dumping in rivers, streams or on open spaces almost daily - even at nighttime.” He said they have reported this issue to Gram Panchayats, MPCB, MIDC and PCMC.

Many residents are unaware of the illegal act of garbage dumping and burning, resulting in health problems. 

Anshul Gupta, a resident of Megapolis Township and member of HIRWA, said, “Garbage generated here is increasing as there is no waste treatment facility and commercial activity in Hinjawadi IT park is going up. Recently someone has dumped garbage in the open space near Maan village towards Pirangut road.”

Dr Javed Shah, a general physician from Hinjawadi, said, “From last four to five years, respiratory diseases have been increasing. 60 to 70 per cent of the patients are coming to get treated for respiratory diseases, which includes young and old people alike.”

Nailing the culprit?
Somehow, no one wants to name the person responsible for dumping the garbage. The mystery culprit is said to be a scrap collector. 
Blue Ridge Society’s resident, Rohit Halbe said, “Since tonnes of garbage is dumped and burned, we are left with nothing but just questions of who must have done it and why?”

His society has an Air Quality Index (AQI) monitoring system installed recently and the air quality measurements for Hinjawadi ranges from 300 to 450. Halbe said, “On January 1, the AQI was 444.” He was talking about the day when Hinjawadi Phase 3 crossroad saw smoke emerging from an empty space where stuff like rubber, plastic and foam was set on fire. 

GR Kartikey, tweeted about the incident: “(I am a) resident of a society that is 300m away from the site of fire. The whole evening rooms in our homes smelled like burnt plastic.”

Vilas L Apte also tweeted: “We are dying a slow death every day with huge spikes in air pollution crossing the maximum danger levels “n” number of times in the last 3 to 4 months.”
Which raises an important question, where did this garbage come from and who dumped it? 

Not the contractor who collects household garbage in the area, according to Tulsiram Raykar. He is the Gram Vikas officer for Hinjawadi Phase 1 and revealed that daily 16 to 17 tonnes of wet and dry garbage is collected by the contractor there and then taken to PCMC’s Moshi plant for processing.

Waste management plant
Sinha said the MIDC had suggested that waste management is the responsibility of the IT companies. MIDC has, however, agreed to set up a waste treatment plant by the end of 2019 but only to cater to waste generated by companies within their jurisdiction.  This will leave out waste generated by 1 lakh residential population of the area.
Nilesh Modhave, MIDC Executive Engineer said that the file of the waste treatment plant for the IT companies is still pending for approval. “We have space to set up a waste treatment plant for the residents as well but it will be thought about later,” he said.

The Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority (PMRDA) gave a timeline of 3 to 5 years for the Development Plan of the region to consider a waste treatment plants. Kiran Gitte, PMRDA Commissioner, said, “We have a plan to decentralise waste treatment plant for the whole city by next year.”

Sinha concluded that there are over 200 paying guest /hostels which house more than 20,000 IT workers. Their untreated sewage is disposed of directly into drains polluting the Mula river. Over hundreds of small eateries and restaurants also contribute to the garbage. He believes there are too many players involved in this region and there is a lack of cooperation and coordination among them resulting in no single ownership and accountability to resolve this problem.

“We are going to carry out community movement and take further follow-ups with the authorities. And if there is no positive approached from the governing bodies then we will finally approach the NGT to get a proper judgment on the same,” Sinha added.

Till then, Hinjawadi will have to wait for a saviour. 

The spots
Areas where garbage burning incidents took place in last one year 
Phase 1

  • Near petrol ump intersection of Sakhare Vasti Road and Hinjawadi Road
  • A godown west of Blue Ridge Society
  • Roadside opposite Hotel Gateway/ Xion mall
  • Next to Hinjawadi police station
  • Various locations in Hinjawadi to Bhumkar Chowk near the residential area
  • Road and empty plot near Hotel Radisson Blu
  • Abandoned construction site next to Mercedes Benz School
  • Industrial waste burning and chemical waste release to the atmosphere from unknown industrial location west of Blue Ridge Society
  • The auto shop next to Blue Ridge School
  • Hinjawadi Chowk near Power House Gym
  • Garbage burning by food vendors, opposite Cognizant

Phase 2

  • The road opposite to Quadron Business Park
  • Vacant land next to Karol Bagh restaurant 

Phase 3

  • Megapolis Circle, next to EON Homes, before the fire station.
  • Symphony new project of Megapolis on hills
  • Megapolis Circle, Nala of Megapolis Mega Market
  • Hinjawadi-Pirangut Road patch between TCG real estate to Bapujibua temple
  • Blue Ridge Society’s Air Quality Index (AQI) monitoring system recorded air quality measurements for Hinjawadi in the range of 300 to 450. 
  • According to Col Shashikant Dalvi (Retd), Pune Branch District Manager of Climate Reality Project on Pune’s Air Quality Index, there are two parameters of AQI, firstly there is no minimum level to count the AQI, the air quality which suited the health of the people is considered as the best air quality of the region whereas if 450 AQI is registered in Hinjawadi then it is the worst level of air quality registered. When any garbage is burnt or crackers burst the AQI of that area increases depending on the type of garbage and crackers.”

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