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Govt. indifferent as Thrissur stinks

By Our Staff Reporter

THRISSUR, SEPT. 19. The State Government is alleged to be remaining apathetic towards the acute waste management problem in Thrissur even as the city is reported to be on the verge of the outbreak of an epidemic as wastes remain unremoved for the last 11 days.

The disposal of waste from the city has been remaining suspended since September 8 following protests from the people of Laloor on the outskirts of the city against the dumping of untreated waste in their area.

September 8 was the deadline set by the office-bearers of the Thrissur Corporation to set up a waste treatment plant at Laloor and since the Corporation was not able to finalise the contract for the proposed plant by that date, the people of the area revived their agitation against the dumping of the untreated waste in their area.

The Corporation has not removed waste from the city since then and neither a Minister nor any representative of the Government has visited the city so far to conduct an on-the-spot assessment of the situation.

The Collector, Mr. T. O. Suraj, who represents the Government in the district has also not been able to do much on the issue for two reasons: first, as he conceded at the press conference today, the Corporation has not so far given him clear-cut idea on the date by which a plant could be set up at Laloor. Second his hands are tied down because of clear-cut directions from the High Court on the setting up of the plant.

It was the absence of rain that had come in as a relief from the problem, but as the dense clouds hover over the city everyday, the fear of the situation totally going out of control was fast gripping the city.

Some efforts are afoot to burn the combustible waste at certain points, and some of the waste was being dumped in open fields outside the city.

But these efforts are reported to be far below the requirements, considering the huge quantity of waste that was being generated in the city every day.

Interestingly, the Corporation had issued an order couple of days ago banning the people from dumping waste in public places.

With this, the people are now being forced to convert their houses, lodges, hotels and other establishments as store houses of waste.

HC order not complied with

The High Court had ordered the Corporation to set up a scientific waste treatment plant by June 30, 2000, following a petition filed by the Action Council Against the Pollution of Laloor (ACAPL).

Subsequently, the court gave an extension and directed the Corporation to set up a plant by March 3, 20001. Later, the ACAPL was given an assurance by the Corporation that the plant would be set up within 100 days. However, none of these deadlines were met.

Now the Corporation has approached the High Court with a request to get an additional extension of deadline for setting up the plant.

But the Court has instead given a directive to the District Collector to submit a report within three weeks after inspecting whether the Corporation was complying with its earlier directives on the issue.

The High Court while setting the deadline of June 30, 2000 for setting up the plant, had directed the Corporation to observe several conditions in dumping the waste at Laloor till the plant was set up.

However, when the Collector went to inspect the trenching ground at Laloor on Wednesday as per the High Court order, the people of the area drew his attention to the violations that the Corporation had been committing while dumping waste there.

Now one of the options that was left before the Collector is to issue a magisterial order directing the Corporation to remove the accumulated waste from the city citing health hazards it can pose to the people of the city.

But the immediate question is -- where to dump the waste, -- and the natural answer will be the Laloor trenching ground.

However, it is not clear whether he will be able to issue an order to dump the untreated waste at Laloor without getting into contempt of court cases, as the High Court had set a deadline for setting up the treatment plant there and the Court had already asked him to give a report on the issue within three weeks.

Also, the dumping of untreated city waste of so many days at Laloor may lead to serious health problems unless adequate precautions are taken.

Yet another option before the Collector will be to approach the Court seeking a directive on what could be done at such a juncture.

Past experience

The Corporation (it was a Municipality then) had entered into an agreement with the Excel Company first to set up a waste treatment plant.

Subsequently, that agreement was cancelled and a new deal was struck with the Opal Se Neg of Bangalore for the plant. This was also cancelled later and the present idea is to work out a deal with the Aluva-based Techno Group. But this has also run into rough weather because of the numerous procedural flaws that had been committed by the Corporation, and corruption charges.

The infighting within the ruling UDF was the main hurdle in the execution of all these agreements and now the Opposition has also openly joined the issue.

The city has been witnessing numerous protests, some of the peaceful and others with violent overtones, on the waste issue for the last 11 days.

The tense situation that had been prevailing in the city has now come to such a pass where the Mayor, Mr. Jose Kattukkaran, can now travel only with strong police escort.

At one occasion, the police had to remove even councillors from within the council hall during a debate on the issue.

The people of Laloor are now unlikely to take notice of any promise from the existing Corporation leadership on the setting up of the plant.

The only solution will be to entrust the construction of the plant to an external executive agency comprising the representatives of the people of Laloor, and representatives of various social and political activists in the city, with the financial input from the Corporation.

But being an elected body, the Corporation can be persuaded to accept such a solution only through a Court order.

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