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How Srinagar’s lone garbage dump takes sheen off ‘Smart City’!

12:00 AM May 27, 2024 IST | ARIF SHAFI WANI
how srinagar’s lone garbage dump takes sheen off ‘smart city’
Photo: Mubashir Khan/ GK

Srinagar’s lone garbage dump at Achan in Downtown is giving a tough time to residents of Old City due to emanation of unbearable pungent smell with rise in temperature. Achan garbage dump has come a long way from a wetland to wasteland, politics to bureaucratic hurdles in the last over four decades.


Till 1985, garbage generated in Srinagar was dumped in open land at Noorbagh locality on the banks of river Jhelum. Plastic in the garbage was used in brick kilns. Subsequently the Government transferred state land measuring 517 kanals at Syedpora Achan to Srinagar Municipal Corporation for dumping of city’s garbage vide government order No 102 of 1985. The Achan Land fill site started in 1986 with open dumping of solid waste.


With increase in generation of solid waste, Achan garbage dump operated in violation of environmental laws evoking massive outcry from residents. The aggrieved residents, who faced health hazards due to open dumping of garbage, took to streets and launched an agitation.


They prevented entry of garbage-laden trucks in the garbage dump. Besides teaming garbage, especially leachate inflow into Anchar lake posed serious threat to its flora and fauna.


After facing massive outcry, the then Government finally decided to convert the open dumping site into the Sanitary Landfill Site in tune with regulations. The project was allotted to Jammu and Kashmir Economic Reconstruction Agency (JKERA) in 2008.


Initially JKERA too faced massive challenges to start the project as it had a mammoth task to brave tons of dumped garbage and stink. Finally work on the first phase started in 2009. It constructed cell-1 with a capacity of 1.74 lakh metric tons.


The waste was sandwiched between geo synthetic liners with the top layer consisting of vegetative soil and vegetation. ERA developed measures to scientifically dispose of leachate, made buffer zones.


Subsequently cell 2 and 3 were constructed. As per JKERA, the construction of Cell-3 was designed for the period of one year only as a breathing time for SMC to find alternate arrangements for solid waste management.

Subsequently, SMC took over the management of Achan garbage dump. In 2017, the Government proposed to set-up a waste-to-energy plant at Achan to reduce load on its cells. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had fixed an 18-month timeframe to establish the facility. However, despite the passing of seven years, the project is yet to take off.

Presently with over garbage of more than 500 metric tons on an average per day, overloaded Achan garbage dump has become a health hazard especially for people living in Downtown Srinagar. Pungent smell emanating from the garbage dump has made the lives of people in its adjoining areas, including Downtown, miserable.

“It was a horrible sight to see excavators sifting garbage at Achan garbage dump a kilometer away at the level of third floor of a ward of Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS). The stink from the garbage dump is so strong and unbearable that it forces patients to wear masks in the hospital. This mocks at the objectives of the Smart City mission,” rued a prominent social activist MM Shuja.

Aghast over unscientific dumping of municipal, bio-medical and plastic waste at Achan, a Kashmir based noted environmental activist Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat recently filed a petition with NGT.
NGT in its comprehensive order noted that the Achan landfill site is the only dumping ground in Srinagar.

“It has been pointed out by the counsel for the applicant that a canal passes by the side of the landfill and joins the Anchar lake, which ultimately forms part of the Dal Lake. It was stated that the applicant’s stand is that almost 450 metric tons of waste are dumped every day at the landfill site, which is spread over an area of 75 acres and located in close proximity to human habitation. The grievance of the applicant is that the dumping of waste at the landfill site is done in violation of the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, the timeline set in the Action Plan for Municipal Solid Waste Management,  Jammu and Kashmir, 2018, Biomedical Waste Management Rules, 2016, and Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016,” the order states.

The NGT’s Principal Bench, comprising Justice Prakash Shrivastava, Chairperson, and Dr. Afroz Ahmad, expert member, said the application raises substantial issues relating to compliance with environmental norms and implementation of provisions of scheduled enactments.

The NGT issued notice to the respondents and directed them to file an affidavit of service at least one week before the next date of hearing on August 30, 2024. It directed the constitution of a Joint Committee comprising experts in various fields and its visit to the Achan garbage site.

It has been tasked to ascertain correct ground position and extent of pollution caused by the illegal dumping at the landfill site, consequential health hazards created by it. The committee has been asked to suggest remedial measures including setting up waste processing facilities to reduce the landfill to zero.

Being an eco-fragile area dotted with water bodies, Srinagar needs a comprehensive scientific garbage disposal mechanism. There has to be segregation of waste at source and proper disposal as per latest scientific techniques at Achan.

It is the responsibility of all stakeholders to ensure better sanitation of historic Srinagar city. Efforts should be made to make Srinagar litter free zone and achieve zero-garbage status. Let us all join hands to make Srinagar cleaner and greener and pass and preserve it for future generations to cherish its natural beauty

Author is Executive Editor, Greater Kashmir