While the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) Pune bench has slapped a show cause notice to Pune municipal corporation (PMC) for not addressing the Uruli Devachi garbage issue, the villagers have decided to take a firm stance against the civic body by planning an agitation from August 2.

The bench of justices Sonam Wangdi and Dr Nagin Nanda asked the PMC to deposit a bank guarantee of Rs 2 crore to the Maharashtra pollution control board (MPCB). The bench has given two months to the PMC to come up with a plan and act upon it, failing which the amount will be seized.

However, the villagers are in no mood to wait for another two months. With the onset of monsoon, the issue has become more severe and is affecting nearby settlements.

“We have been waiting for so long and we no longer want promises. As per reports, the 43-acre site holds around 2.5 lakh metric tonnes of garbage and is like a live bomb, it can explode any time. We demand immediate action and our demand is to close down the depot and move it elsewhere,” said Bhagwan Bhadale, a resident and president of Kachara depot hatav sangharsh samiti.

“If PMC had solution to this issue, they would have submitted it earlier, but they do not have a plan to address the issue and severely lack political will to deal with it. They have turned our village into a huge open garbage dumping yard and have left us to suffer,” Bhadale added.

Interestingly, Uruli Devachi and Phursungi villages were merged in PMC last year in July, but even after a year nothing has changed.

When HT team visited the spot, they were welcomed by strong stench and thousands of flies from the garbage. Trucks after trucks were making rounds and dumping loads of garbage at a particular spot. With the help of tractors and JCB machines, the PMC workers were pushing the heaps of garbage to lower land. The area was filled with waste pickers who were trying to find something valuable in this mammoth open dustbin.

Around 40 PMC workers work in two shifts at the site, and once or twice in a day they spray chemicals on the garbage to get rid of the flies.

“These flies are spread over a large area in nearby settlements. It is not just the residents of Uruli Devachi and Phursungi who are troubled with flies, but also residents of Loni Kalbhor. During monsoon, the number of flies increases several folds,” said a PMC worker.

“Not just flies, but the residents are facing several mosquito-borne ailments, like dengue and chikungunya ,” added the worker on condition of anonymity.

No segregation of waste

According to the PMC by-laws, it is mandatory to segregate wet and dry garbage and make provisions to dispose solid waste by setting up vermiculture plants within the premises of the societies. However, no such rule is applied at the garbage depot, as trucks just unload the garbage and return to the city for another trip.

“They do not have an effective system to separate the wet and dry garbage. They collect it from residents separately, but in the end, it all gets mixed up here,” said a waste picker.

Visit the site at least once

The villagers of Uruli Devachi have urged the residents of Pune to visit the garbage depot at least once.

“Punekars are least bothered where their waste goes and what happens to the area where it is dumped. We genuinely request every resident of Pune to come here and visit the site and realise the seriousness of the situation. One cannot tolerate the garbage for more than three days and they start complaining to the civic body. We have been living with the garbage for the last 27 years, you can only begin to imagine our plight,” said the villagers.

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