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The Sad Story of Margao ‘s Garbage Dump

Wasted Opportunities, here Rubbish Policies

Editor’s Note: As part of Goa Streets’ #KeepGoaBeautiful initiative, sildenafil we are running stories about waste management in the state, and what’s being done to solve Goa’s enormous garbage menace. This is the latest instalment in our series.

The huge mountainous garbage dump in Sonsoddo, Margao carries 40 years of accumulated waste.

For the past three years, arriving new garbage has been segregated and treated. But to date, nothing has been done to deal with the rubbish of the previous four decades.

The smell is overwhelming. The ground water is contaminated. The flies ubiquitous.

A new landfill is being dug for garbage at the site, but the mud from the digging was surreptitiously used for a bypass road rather than to cover waste as originally intended.

An idea to treat the rubbish mountain with “scientific capping” – covering it with soil and turning it into a kind of garden – has been hamstrung by lack of funds and inefficiency.

In the meantime, authorities during the monsoons just cover the mountain with blue and yellow tarp, which is easily ripped away by stray dogs. The stench travels for a kilometre. And the people suffer.

“During the rainy season there are a lot of flies in the house. Sometimes it makes the consumption of food unhygienic and with the percolation of water in the soil in that area, it has contaminated the ground water and people can’t use the water from their wells” says Antonnette Coutinho, a local resident.

To be sure, the work at Sonsoddo and the rest of Margao is not without merit, considering the Goa-wide garbage scourge that is defacing the countryside, hurting tourism and damaging people’s quality of life. Two years ago the Margao Municipal Council started door-to-door collection of garbage. Every day, the Sonsoddo solid waste management plant receives 25 to 30 trucks containing 50 tonnes of assorted mixed garbage, which is treated and turned into compost. There is segregation of wet and dry waste (though no longer at source, as officials had hoped), and the people of Margao have been given dustbins.

And yet compared to Panjim, which is something of a success when it comes to garbage management (relatively speaking), the situation in Margao is dire. Plans to improve the dump and plant at Sonsoddo have repeatedly come to nothing – another example of Goa’s failure to deal effectively with the estimated 400 tonnes of waste generated every day state-wide, some 50 percent of which is non-biodegradable plastic.

The treatment plant at Sonsoddo was started in 2012 by the public-private venture ‘Fomanto Green’. Besides the solid waste management plant, the hill is being excavated as a landfill.

Whatever’s left over from the solid waste treatment was supposed to have been placed in the landfill, “but the work is pending as the locals have demanded to stop this activity,” says a top official at the plant who asked to remain anonymous because he was talking about problems at the entity he manages.

When asked about this problem, one of the residents, Geraldo Reveredo explained, “They started excavating the hill without an order from the concerned department, so we demanded a stop to the project. Also, loads of mud were taken by the trucks from the excavated hill and supplied for the construction of the Nuvem- Arlem bypass.”

One of the problems with the dump, which is meant to deal exclusively with waste from Margao, is that people from outside the city throw their garbage there, including on the roads leading to it (and sometimes onto the property of adjacent houses). To curb the practice, the group ‘Citizens of Sonsoddo’ have organized to keep the area under surveillance.

And now with the monsoons approaching, the race is on to cover the mountain. “Every year we cover the garbage heap with tarpaulin and we spend a large amount of money on the façade. We are going to start with work at the end of this month” says Viraj U. Arabekar, the Sanitary Inspector of the Margao Municipal Council.

One of the biggest issues is what to do about the garbage lying on the lower part of the dump, making up the bulk of the heap. Lots of hopes have been pinned on the so-called scientific capping – a plan proposed two years ago without any significant action taken to date. Scientific capping requires a drainage system atop the heap and at the sides. “We had suggestions from the consultant about this project. It’s landscaping which will be turned into a garden just like the dump in Gorai, Mumbai, but this project requires lots of funds,” said Arabekar.

Because the plant treats only garbage collected from Margao homes and not the new piles brought to the area by outsiders, the heap is growing rapidly. Meanwhile, workers at the plant struggle to keep up with the daily arrivals from the trucks.

“Though we have provided dustbins, people don’t segregate their garbage properly. Once it reaches to the solid waste management plant, the workers separate the garbage as wet waste and dry waste, which is another task,”Arabekar said.

Garbage collection around the world is generally a government undertaking, along with education, health care, infrastructure and policing. However, in Goa it’s clear that solving the garbage menace requires full cooperation from ordinary citizens, who must separate dry waste from wet, avoid littering and learn the appropriate measures for garbage removal in their respective areas (and one that avoids the burning of garbage, especially plastics, which is the biggest source of air pollution in Goa). Keeping Goa beautiful starts at home.

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