Birendranagar plagued by waste mismanagementThe garbage being dumped at Tarebhir inside the Shree Krishna Community Forest is causing hazardous pollution, affecting humans and wildlife.
Environmental pollution has affected the quality of life of Birendranagar residents ever since the Birendranagar municipality started dumping garbage in Tarebhir in the fiscal year 2016-17.
Tarebhir falls inside the Shree Krishna Community Forest in ward 1 and is about three kilometres west of Mangalgadhi Chowk.
The garbage dumping has affected the settlements abutting the Tarebhir area the most. Out of the 16 wards in the municipality, waste from 12 wards is dumped at Tarebhir which has affected almost 160 households in the area.
There are 16 wards in the Birendranagar Municipality, and nearly 12 wards of the municipality dump their waste in the Tarebhir.
“The environmental pollution caused by the garbage disposal at Tarebhir has robbed us of clean air, roads, and even our water supply,” said Khad Magar, a resident of Tarebhir. “The stench from the garbage is so overpowering that we can’t even breathe freely.”
A landfill site is under construction in the community forest area. The process of acquiring land for the landfill site started in 2010 and the preliminary environmental assessment and detailed project report (DPR) were completed soon after. However, so far only the excreta management and segregation centre have been constructed.
In the absence of a proper landfill site, the garbage generated by the municipality finds its way to Tarebhir where the garbage is left unmanaged. It is not only the human population that is at the receiving end of unmanaged garbage disposal but also the forest and wildlife in the area, says Padma Thapa, chairman of the community forest.
“The garbage trucks leak and the dirt roads leading to Tarebhir area from Mangalgadhi chowk are covered in leachate. This has posed a serious threat to the health of the locals and that of plants and wildlife in the forest,” said Thapa. “The garbage trucks don’t go all the way to the under-construction landfill site and dump the garbage halfway. They sometimes burn the garbage but that is not a long-term solution. It only contributes further to environmental degradation.”
According to Thapa, burning garbage piles sometimes leads to forest fires and has in the past displaced several wildlife species dependent on the forest. “This practice has affected every living organism in the area. This must be stopped,” Thapa said.
The forest users have stopped going into the forest to collect wood, fodder, and graze cattle.
Ichchha Bahadur Fouja of ward 1 says insects, mosquitoes and flies have become a nuisance in the area even during the colder months because of the practice of haphazard garbage disposal. “The stench from the garbage trucks when they pass through settlements is unbearable,” he said. “We can smell the rotting garbage from miles away.”
The pollution has affected the children and the elderly the most, says Lilaram Puri, a resident of Tarebhir. “We can’t send our children to play outside because the air is hazardous to health. The elderly already living with health problems can’t step out because the pollution will affect their health further,” said Puri. “Dengue is becoming an epidemic with polluted areas turning into breeding grounds for mosquitoes.”
Paediatrician Dr Navraj KC says that burning garbage to avoid spillage and leaks from garbage piles is a dangerous practice and stands to affect the air quality. “Children and the elderly are at risk of health hazards caused by unchecked pollution. Inhaling toxic fumes can cause severe lung dysfunction, breathing problems and asthma even among children. Children are more likely to catch diseases compared to adults,” said KC.
There are a few water springs flowing through the area. The locals of Sirjantol and Solighopte in ward 1 and those of Gairighat in ward 2 of Barahtal Rural Municipality rely on these water sources for drinking water. However, waste has polluted these water sources depriving the locals of the much-needed drinking water source.
Clean Nepal, a private company, oversees waste management in wards 1 to 4 while the municipality is in charge of managing waste in wards 5 to 12 and some settlements in ward 13. Waste collection and management is yet to reach wards 14 to 16 because of geographical remoteness.
According to Prakash Paudel, a senior officer of the municipality, the municipality has also made procedures for waste management and according to the procedure, the waste produced by the municipality has increased at the rate of seven percent annually.
Poudel said that the municipality is looking for investors to spend Rs340 million in the waste management project. “The municipality is looking for resources and so far Rs20 million has been spent for the construction of a faecal management plant. Similarly, the City has spent Rs3o million budget on the construction and upgrade of access roads. The municipality allocates Rs10 million annually for waste management,” he added.
According to Mayor Mohanmay Dhakal of Birendranagar municipality, the local unit is making maximum efforts in waste management. “It may seem that the municipality is doing nothing about waste management but in reality we have been doing everything possible. Currently work is being carried out to manage the access road in the landfill site area,” said Dhakal.
Jagat KC of the Environment Improvement Society, said various associations are also working together in waste management in Birendranagar—organisations like Clean Surkhet-Green Surkhet, Environment Improvement Society Surkhet, Association of Industry and Commerce, and Lions Club. “They have joined hands in the municipality’s plan to clean and beautify Birendranagar but have not shown any result yet,” KC said.