Have you ever wondered where your carefully polythene wrapped garbage ends up? That old pair of slippers, your soft drink bottles, wrappers from the delightful chocolate you enjoyed last night… Where does it go?
For the 5000 odd residents of Goa’s Saligao Village, the answer is— ‘Our backyard’. What was once an empty laterite quarry has turned into a resting place for 30,000 tonnes of garbage. It has become an eyesore and the bane of the residents of the Community. Now, the government’s plans to build a garbage treatment plant on the site have created a further uproar.
Community Correspondent Sulochana Pednekar reports on an issue that is fast becoming one of the tourist hot spot’s worst nightmares.
“I started covering this issue because it exemplifies Goa’s battle with garbage. There has been a complete breakdown right from the Panchayat (village council) level where most Panchayats in Goa don’t want to take on the responsibility of segregating and collecting waste from residents. The funds they get from the Goan government usually go unused”, says Sulochana.
The land in question in Saligao was forestland till about 20 years ago. In 1987 the neighbouring Calangute Panchayat started illegally dumping garbage from the area onto the site resulting in severe degradation of the land. Several water sources, the nearest one being the world famous Salmona spring 300 meters away, have been polluted and are no longer fit for human consumption. Rabies and other epidemics are a constant health threat. One resident, Poonam Devukar says:
“We used to use this water for drinking, cooking etc. but now we only use it for washing… We stopped using it 10-12 yrs ago because the garbage leaks into it and smells.”
The residents of Saligao, who are an extremely socially active lot, filed a case to get the site cleaned up. In 2003, the verdict given by the High Court was in their favour. It ordered that after the government built a Garbage Treatment Plant for North Goa, the garbage should be cleaned up and the site should be returned to the Forest Department to rehabilitate it. In a decade, no action has been taken.
The community has tried to develop its own strategy to manage waste. A majority of the residents segregate their garbage, sell recyclables and give the rest to the Panchayat's Waste Management Committee for proper disposal at regular intervals. There is a specific point for disposal of e-waste and Tetrapaks. Under the villagers' "Clean Saligao" initiative, there are also a number of awareness programmes running in the village schools and at village awareness meetings. Things were moving along until…
The latest problem this community is dealing with is the government’s plan to build a bio-methanation garbage treatment plant on the spot. The decision was revealed to the community in September 2013. While in theory a great idea, the residents are opposed to it's location.
The community’s research reveals that the plant, inspired by a German design, will not meet the needs of the community as the nature of the garbage itself is very different from that being treated by the plant in Germany. They fear further pollution of their ground water tables and of the surrounding area should the plant come up. There is also the fact that this plant will require more land than the area currently occupied by the dump. The residents however agree that a plant is needed and have identified an alternative site.
“The alternative site suggested is 700 meters away and much better suited because of its safe distance of 500 metres from human settlement and any water sources”, says Dean D’Cruz, a resident of the area, actively lobbying against the location of the plant.
The suggested site has been visited by officials but no further action has been taken to shift plans. With the land acquisition process imminent, some residents are trying to create awareness within the community. They had planned to hold a special Village council meeting but were told by the Council head to get at least 1/5th of the total number of voters in Saligao, about 1200 residents.
Since then, they have been trying to organise small meetings to get their point across to residents. To this end they have recruited Community Correspondent Sulochana to make a video on the issue. This video was screened on 2nd December 2013 in a press conference where the community made their official stance on the issue known.
The challenge to dispose of waste responsibly is a global one. Whether or not you live in Saligao or Goa, you can definitely lend your support to the residents’ cause.
Call to Action: Please contact:
Mr Manohar Parrikar, the Chief Minister of Goa on 09822131213 or email@example.com
Mr Dilip Parulekar, the MLA of Saligao, and Tourism Minister on 9326103540 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr Eknath Oraskar on 9822388570 or email@example.com
Ask them to meet the five demands that the residents have put forth:
- Relocate the waste treatment plant to the safer alternate site
- Have a dedicated approach road to the plant instead of garbage trucks passing through the residential area of Saligao
- Completely clean the present dump site as per the High Court Order of 2003
- If the capacity of the plant is 100 tonnes, then it should only cater to Calangute, Candolim and Saligao
- If there is no segregation at source, then do not install such a plant on any hill in Goa
You can also sign the petition here.
Applauds for our Community Corresspondent Satya Banchor! He acted as a strong catalyst in bringing about this change in the lives of the poor tribals.