Udhampur drowning in its own garbage mess


There is little doubt in the minds of people of Udhampur city that for 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyan' 'to work, Udhampur first needs to solve its waste management problem. Under environmental laws, it is mandatory to have Effluent Treatment Plants (ETPs), Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETPs) and Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) in every Municipality. Be it solid urban waste, sewage or chemical and industrial waste, every waste is mismanaged. In the absence of the permanent landfills site, disposal of waste in populous sites and at places, the source of the drinking water supply was a common and easy activity of Municipal Council contributing a lot to health hazards that had been witnessing peoples protest frequently. For this act and violation of NGT directions, the Udhampur Municipal Council stand fined Rs. 1.39 crore by National Green Tribunal (NGT) as Environmental Compensation for illegal and unscientific dumping and disposal of solid waste at forest compartment No.64 (U) Khari-Jakhani on the hill slopes alongside NHW.
On 22 December 2019, Eco-friendly 'Kill Waste, Fuel Free Solid Waste Disposal System' (A system that doesn't require fuel or electricity to work but it compresses the air and works with the magnetic process) was installed in Udhampur with much fanfare. But Alas! the administration of the time and Municipal Council Udhampur would have proceeded with a foresight as to the volume of the waste generated on daily basis and the capacity of the disposal plant, as well as its location than to get tagged as first district in the state to establish such system, we would have an efficient plant in working condition. But nothing such was conceived, the volume of the waste generated on a daily basis in the city surpassed 10 times more than the treatment capacity of the disposal plant.
The people of the area became victims of adverse impacts of climate change. Their lives became miserable due to the dumping of the garbage as such the people of the village 'Sui-Sambal', the location of plant, started protest demonstrations seeking the removal of the treatment plant from the area and these protests were mainly for the reasons that rules were not being followed and huge hillocks of the garbage came into formation due to the site converted to dumping station of carcasses of dead animals, and dry and wet garbage. Later on as to meet the capacity of disposal plant in comparison to volume of the waste generated on daily basis, the authorities decided to expand the plant but the villagers from the adjoining Panchayat areas also came in rebelling mood opposing the move and now joint protests have incapacitated the municipal council and administration to maintain balance between turning the city to a garbage site and to provide a eco-friendly atmosphere to the people of the location of waste management plant. If authorities do not solve its waste management crises then the city will drown in its own garbage mess. In between, the municipal council in a helpless way, disposing the waste in certain old locations at odd hours to avoid people noticing it and to attract wrath of the nearby residents but this has been strongly objected by the people of the concerned area resulting therein those huge piles of garbage within prime locations of the city such as: Meat Market, Sabji Mandi, main market, business houses, hotels, main crossings, busy Chowks etc, have virtually turned Udhampur town to a city of garbage and a pomander of bad smell as health hazard.
Another aspect that is much talked and in resonance and contributing towards the bad plight of Udhampur city is: Devika project started in 2019. Alas huge amounts were spent as compared to ground reality. Who has pocketed the money? Need a thorough prove? The project also includes the construction of three sewage treatment plants, a sewerage network of 129.27 km, small hydropower plants and three solar power plants but these have no physical presence. But the laying of sewerage pipes in the city has surpassed all the limits as the whole town has been dug up to lay sewerage pipes (easy money minting activity) and left un-repaired adding fuel to the problems people are facing.
Every now and then locals from different locations including social as well as business organizations are protesting against it and discussing with the municipal authorities, who are mute spectators to the emerging problem. At its core, the issue of a clean environment is a matter of public health. The city is supposed to be groomed by the elected body forming 'Municipal Council' but the town has never witnessed any efforts by council to take the city to the next level. We have witnessed councils meeting ending on 'Tu Tu Mein Mein' on petty issues without any positive decision regarding development of the city. The Council is a silent spectator and behaving like a hapless umpire to the acute problems of the city. Why is it so? The root cause lies in its imprints from the day one when it came into formation.
It was not free will of the voters to have the existing Chairman heading the Council but a choice of power lusty politicians and manipulation of vested interests to keep Udhampur city in its hold. Resulting in 2020 declaring the Chairman Municipal Council Udhampur as missing in posters during Corona period (May it be a move of those who don't want him as President), resignation of the President exhibiting his helplessness on the grounds that bureaucracy don't listen to him including Minister and administration, and recently a no-confidence motion against President claiming of no faith and confidence in the working style of the MC President by 11 councilors (including some BJP camp). All this speaks of the non performance of the council as a whole and the voters who have mandated these councilors to manage the city affairs feel cheated and betrayed who are compelled to live in a city transforming to a city of Garbage.
(Views expressed are personal.)

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