Banchare Danda, Sisdole locals say waste has turned their ‘paradise into hell’Amid locals’ protest, police escorted a caravan of garbage trucks to Banchare Danda on Friday.
Chandra Bahadur Balami was just 25 years old, had been married for a few years and was a happy man with a fulfilling life when the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) in 2005 began dumping garbage collected from the Valley in Sisdole. The agreement was that the area covering 750 ropanis (37.65 hectares) of land would be used only for three years.
When Kathmandu Valley’s garbage kept being dumped even after the agreed period, problems started piling up for the public as did the garbage in the gorge of Sisdole. Sisdole has three landfill sites called Valley 1, Valley 2 and Valley 3, all filled to the brim. Recently, the dumping was moved to Banchare Danda.
Over the past 18 years, the whole of Kagate village in Kakani Rural Municipality with around 1,100 households has faced much trouble.
Now Balami is a father of two sons aged 25 and 23 years, and the one thing that keeps troubling him is the marriage of his younger son. His elder son got married in his own village a few years ago. “But I am worried because everyone says that our village is diseased. People don’t like to send their daughters here because the area stinks, and is notorious as a dumping site of Kathmandu Valley,” rued Balami.
He said his younger son is pursuing his Bachelor degree in Kathmandu. He fears that his son may not return to his ancestral village because of the foul smell, and other problems caused by mismanaged garbage that comes from the Kathmandu Valley.
“Many youths don’t like to get back to the village because of this garbage problem,” said Balami.
Every day, the Kathmandu Valley generates 1,200 metric tonnes of solid waste. Nearly 60 percent of it originates in the Kathmandu Metropolitan City area alone.
Failed crop productivity, diseased animals, proliferation of flies, disruption in education at school due to the stench, respiratory problems and skin diseases are some of the most common problems the residents there have been living with for nearly two decades.
Earlier, the KMC had categorised more than 200 families with 1,200 members in total living close to the Sisdole dumping site as “highly-affected households”. Banchare Danda is just 1.9km west of Sisdole, and the locals say the problem is the same for the residents of the area.
“When the KMC started dumping garbage, this place was full of greenery, and we could breathe fresh air, we could cultivate crops and vegetables in our own land, but everything has got ruined,” said Balami.
Balami, who is also a former ward-1 chairperson of the Kakani Rural Municipality said due to the indifference of the authorities in Kathmandu, their village that once was like heaven has turned into a hell, even though the dumping had moved to Banchare Danda last year.
After Balendra Shah was elected the mayor of Kathmandu in May last year, he had reached Sisdole to observe the situation. On June 4, Shah again visited Sisdole, as he kept waste management high in his 28-point election manifesto.
In the past year, there has been no improvement in the plight of the residents. Like last year, common people and elected representatives from Nuwakot’s Kakani Rural Municipality have once again started obstructing garbage trucks from reaching Banchare Danda, accusing the Kathmandu metropolis and the Ministry of Urban Development of failing to honour their commitments. Since July 18, they have allowed no truck to dump garbage at the site.
On Friday, Nepal Police escorted 150 lorries carrying garbage to Banchare Danda, but the residents say they will not let the authority dump garbage in their area until their demands are met.
“The police have forcefully taken garbage to Banchare Danda, warning of locking residents up. This is against human rights,” said Ghana Nath Bajagain, ward-3 chairperson in Kakani.
He said the protests would continue and garbage dumping at the site barred.
Sumitra Amatya, a waste management expert and town planner, says landfill sites are an outdated concept, which developed countries practised some six decades ago.
The present-day view is that waste should be segregated and recycled, Amatya had told the Post in her conversation last year. Dumping garbage into a landfill also means leachate production, which, mixed with a river, threatens the aquatic ecosystem.
The problem of leachate has been reported also from Banchare Danda where a new landfill site is in operation. Although the authorities have fixed the problem of leaking sewage from garbage trucks, they have yet to start working on preventing the landfill leachate from mixing into the waters of Kolpu Khola river.
“Now we can’t even put our legs into the river. These days, people do not take a dip after burning the funeral pyre on the river bank because it would surely cause skin ailments,” said Balami.
In June last year, the Kathmandu municipal officials and the representatives of Sisdole and Banchare Danda residents had reached an 18-point agreement. Before the deal, there had been a three-way agreement with the involvement of the Ministry of Urban Development.
Kathmandu Mayor Balendra Shah, Deputy Mayor Sunita Dangol, KMC’s then administrative chief Lok Nath Paudyal and four local representatives, two each from Kakani Rural Municipality and Dhunibeshi Municipality, had signed the agreement last year.
The KMC was supposed to start the process of providing health insurance to the residents of the affected area within a week of the deal. The beneficiaries of the insurance coverage would be the residents of Dhunibeshi wards 1, 3, 4 and Kakani wards 1, 2 and 3. Further, the City had announced plans to continue grants for further infrastructure development in those wards. But those promises remain unfulfilled, local residents say.
“We have provided health insurance coverage, and done many things for locals that were not done in the past 17 years,” said Bhoop Dev Shah, secretary to the KMC mayor Shah.
He said the City has given Rs30 million each to the Dhunibeshi and Kakani local units and offered a dozen jobs to the locals.
KMC officials blame the Ministry of Urban Development for the faulty design of the leachate pond. The ministry, however, has not spoken anything on the issue yet.
The Solid Waste Management Act 2011 states that the local governments should ensure the separation of solid waste into at least organic and inorganic matter at its source. However, the KMC has never been able to enforce this rule despite several attempts.
Beginning the garbage segregation programme in mid-July last year, Mayor Shah had asked Kathmandu residents to separate the waste at home. Speaking at a function organised to announce the waste segregation campaign, Shah had said that it was not a difficult task. He had explained that not mixing the biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste would solve the garbage problem, but the metropolis has failed to execute its own plan.
“We are working on it. Meanwhile, we have given equal priority to the demands of locals whom we are meeting on Sunday. Garbage has been a problem in the Valley for nearly two decades. We are resolving this issue gradually,’ said Shah.
However, Balami is not very optimistic. “The Nepal government and the Kathmandu Metropolitan City have destroyed our paradise. We want to live in a healthy and safe environment here,” Balami pleaded.