Maya Krishnan narrates the story of a village, which has been in a fight for the right to live for the last 60 years. It becomes the stinking issue in the political, social and cultural arena of a State known to be as ‘God’s Own Country’ and the said village is nowhere but in its Cultural Capital.
“Culture is the cry of men in face of their destiny”, Commented Albert Camus, years before the Clean Kerala and Go Green missions kick start their break-neck plies throughout ‘God’s own country’. Tourism promotions here are on the up and up. Come here, see and experience ‘the culture’ as one which is roughly ‘anything we do and monkeys do not’.
We need to see the kitchen and the bathroom to know how ‘cultured’ the residents are. This theory is applicable to all nations. As such Keralites keep their own houses and surroundings pure and clean, but their ‘surroundings’ end at the entrance to the road.
Media echo the cries from different parts of Kerala, mourning for the right to live in a hygienic and healthy ambience. Trichur, Trivandrum, Calicut, Kochi and like metros and their suburban stifle with the dumped wastes along the roadsides, markets, and every where around. Waste management is the most burning, (sorry stinking) issue in the current scenario here.
Lalur is an ill-fated village in Kerala incurred to bear the excrements of the ‘cultural capital’ city of the State. Lalur has been carrying the loads of stench since the rule of Cochin Kings (before the formation of the Kerala State). After the king’s decision to change his residence to Trichur, he asserted to dispose the entire wastes and dirt from the road sides, at Lalur, the near by village in order to make the royal routes to the temple (Sree Vadakkunnatha Temple) clean. Thus the wastes from the ‘royal sights’ had been removed and plunked at Lalur.
For the last 60 years it had been a usual practice in Trichur to dispose the garbage of the entire city at Lalur. Residents of Lalur started mild agitations against this even under the royal kingdom. It has got strengthened in 1983 and the residents filed a petition in the High Court but in vain. Then, under the maverick Communist whiz Mr.A.V.Aryan, the agitations echoed in the whole State, up to 1992, still evolved no proper solution. Instead, the agitators including their leaders were imprisoned.
Meanwhile, Lalur became the waste bowl of the city, with the solid wastes from hospitals around. Human organs scattered all along, stray dogs scuffled for the bigger portions, and filthy water seeped through the huge masses. The agitators picked the human organs in utensils and put it in front of the Municipal Office. Then High Court intervened and asked the Municipality to find a solution for this burning issue, within 6 months. That was in 1992. By that time Municipality has been promoted to Corporation adding the wastes of four more Panchayaths to Lalur. However, the High Court verdicts never made any move from the side of the authority.
At that time, 3 youths who while cleaning a well near the Lalur trenching ground were died of suffocation due to the contaminated ambit inside the well. This event fuelled the fire and the agitations once again started to fume. Then a conference was held by the District Collector, along with the DSP and the MLA. It was then decided to segregate the degradable and non- degradable wastes and to put the non-degradable waste somewhere else. But the implementation came to execute only in 2003 when 3 Orgaver machines (used to treat the bio-degradable wastes) had been installed at Lalur, which was pathetically scanty to work out when 185 tons of unsegregated waste reach there everyday.
Lalur is a village of around 2 Kilo metres of perimeter with around 20,000 permanent residents had been living there for years. More than 250 homes situated around the trenching ground including the Municipal quarters, Ambedkar Colony and Aziz Nagar.
After the traumatic death of the youths in the well at Lalur, the District Pollution Control Board in their inspection found out that 9 wells in the adjacent area were contaminated and useless. They reminded the public not to use the well water at any cost. Coliform Bacteria which sprout from human excrement had been spread out there, making the residents hard to get some drinking water. Air also has been polluted around 2 kms of Lalur.
When the Orgaver machines became non functional, the Corporation authorities set fire to the waste heaps and this made the arena more wretched. The last death happened in Ambedkar Colony was of inhaling poisonous gas emitted from the fuming garbage. Despite the incessant warning of the District Pollution Control Board, it is said that they never did take an action against the Corporation’s detached attitude. Again in 2008, they visited the site and reported the authorities that 40 more wells in the area had been contaminated and became out of use.
The global developments reached Trichur also, with women empowering programs and this has evolved out the Kudumbasree and Sevanasree units of self employed women. As a part of their working strategy they started to collect solid wastes from the entire city. At present Trichur is having more than 7000 flats each with an average of 150 apartments. As a by product of the declining joint family system, villas and independent homes mushroomed in every nook and corner of the city. The building constructions are being done with least botheration of the rules to be maintained for the provision of drainage and other things. So it became easy for the idle house wives of Trichur to pack the unsegregated wastes in plastic carry bags and hand over it when the Sevanasree workers knock the gate. Lalur became a dark and stench mine of garbage heaps.
When the Monsoon broke out in July 2009, water inundated the whole area and the small cabin made by the Corporation to put the garbage heap in the trenching ground, was also drowned. Filthy water oozed out of the garbage heap often stagnated near the plant spreading unbearable foul smell. In the onrush of the Monsoon the compound wall of the trenching ground collapsed and the decayed wastes seeped and spread out in the courtyards of the adjacent homes, making their wells filled with the filthy fluid. Skin diseases, wheezing and variety of allergies along with the epidemics like Dengue, Chikunguniya etc broke out in the area.
This made the whole residents furious against the authorities and they unanimously blocked the trucks which brought the garbage there. This turned to be a revolt which echoed every nook and corner of the city with mounds of garbage piled up emanating stink at everywhere around.
Only at this juncture the city which is always dogging on the gadget wheels realized what really Lalur was for them. Then staged a chain of programs in a war footing track as all-party meetings, awareness campaigns, visiting of foreign delegates, researches undertaken by scientists and techies, at last by the visit of the District Judge, before whom the desolated residents wept, which was louder than the slogans of the joint action council of the agitators. He could perceive the plight of the residents up to a certain extent. He was patient to hear what the residents and the joint action council had to say.
It is a fight for right to live. Here children are denied of fresh water and air. Corporation’s new suggestions of engineered land filling and capping of dumped waste water are not acceptable to them. They ask the authorities to remove the accumulated waste from Lalur and to make arrangements for the decentralization of waste management. Segregating waste at the source is another option. But the problem is, even if the orgaver machines could do with the degradable waste, what to be done with the plastic after the segregation? Another headache for the Corporation is the non availability of an alternative place other than Lalur to dump the waste.
Anyways, it is said that the Corporation has taken steps to install 9 biogas plants in various locations and had given strict instruction to health officials to ensure the segregation of waste at the source. Now the Lalur Samara Samithy has been on a relay satyagraha since December 14 asking the authorities to exorcise this village from the clasps of hazardous diseases. Their needs in loud to make the procedures supported by the ADB for the solution of the issues, transparent is also worth noticing. The hapless villagers are now adamant to tell aloud that they were not willing to bear the waste generated by a whole city any more.
(As Waste Management became a major issue in Kerala, we invite informative and pragmatic suggestions from our readers to solve this problem. Your Solution may sometimes be a role model for the entire State!)