Whose Garbage Is It Anyway: Will Chandrapur Become Another Boragaon?
Jennifer Shaheen Hussain
For the last two weeks, severe mass protests are being organised across Chandrapur a town in the suburbs of Guwahati.
The residents of the town with the support of pressure groups had to resort to road blockades and sit-in demonstrations in an attempt to stop the functioning of the new dumping site at Chandrapur.
Guwahati city nearly produces 600 tonnes of garbage per day that used to be dumped at Boragaon landfill.
However, based on petitions filed since 2014, followed by numerous hearings, the National Green Tribunal in April 2019 directed Gauhati Municipal Corporation to shift the Boragaon dumping site within two months.
Notably, the Boragaon landfill has been affecting the protected site of Deepor Beel wetlands and wildlife sanctuary.
In September 2019, a Memorandum of Agreement was signed between Assam Power Generation Corporation Ltd and Guwahati Municipal Corporation whereby APGCL had conveyed its no-objection to setting up an Integrated Solid Waste Management facility on its land in Chandrapur.
Fast forward to the end of June 2020, dumping in Boragaon was stopped and shifted to the Chandrapur site.
The State Government has identified four sites for setting up Integrated Solid Waste Management facility across the city. One of the sites is located in the area surrounding the Chandrapur Thermal Power Station of the APGCL that has been defunct since 2002.
Since June 28, security forces escorted garbage dumpers were being offloaded at Chandrapur.
Interestingly, in order to protect the dumping site, sources have stated since last week a base camp of 68th Bn of Sashastra Seema Bal has been set up near the dumping site.
The newly created alternative has caused much turmoil among the residents of Chandrapur pushing them to organize mass protests since the end of June.
Based on anonymity, one of the residents stated that “Since the waste management facility is yet to come up, the residents fear that the area will be used as a dumping site which will pollute Chandrapur’s ecology including Pobitora and Amchang Wildlife Sanctuaries alongside Kolong and Digaru rivers that merge with the Brahmaputra”.
The residents fear that Chandrapur will remain yet another dumping site. Moreover, they also fear land eviction as the expansion of the dumping site and the setting up of the ISWMF poses threat to the residents who may not permanently own the properties they have been residing at.
Also to much surprise where on one hand residents of the greater Chandrapur area have come forward to protest against the GMC authorities and the government, the residents living in close proximity to the dumping site including APGCL staff have chosen to primarily remain silent on the matter.
One of the residents said that prior to the lockdown the dumping had already started in 2020, however, as the recently concluded elections were underway the dumping was stopped.
“Now that the government is in power they have resumed the dumping activities,” the resident based on anonymity said.
On one hand, in the first week of July, the Assam government observed Bon Utsav, and to its contrary, the agitation stirred amongst the people implies that of an imbalanced equation between the government and the people.
With such an uproar, will the government take cognizance of the matter at hand? Will the government clarify to the people of the region if an ISWMF will really come up and be functional, or will Chandrapur transform into another Boragaon?