The absence of scientific landfills is not only an issue that Kashmir valley is facing but this is a serious issue for Jammu region as well. I am of firm belief that the Government won’t be able to acquire land for creating a new landfill site for Srinagar city at least, because of the non availability of a huge chunk of land in Srinagar and adjoining districts of Budgam and Ganderbal. The landmass in Kashmir valley is shrinking day by day as population is on rise and land is acquired for developmental projects like highways, railways, residential colonies, shopping malls, flyovers etc. According to Municipal Solid Waste Rules (MSW Rules of 2016) the specifications for creating a scientific landfill site are as under:
I) The area has to be 100 meter away from the river, 200 meter from a pond, 200 meter from Highways, Habitations, Public Parks and water supply wells.
II) The area should be 20 km away from Airports or air bases. However in a special case, landfill sites may be set up within a distance of 10 and 20 km away from the Airport/Airbase after obtaining no objection certificate from the Civil Aviation Authority/ Air force as the case may be.
These rules make it clear that Budgam district is not a feasible place for setting up a bigger landfill site by Srinagar Municipal Corporation-SMC as the airport and air-force base is located in this area. Ganderbal has a lot of wetland on its western side.We can’t transport waste to Baramulla, Kupwara or Kulgam? So we have no other alternative than to clear a space at Achan landfill site in Saidpora area of Srinagar through Bio-Mining & making waste to energy plant operational as per the directions of the National Green Tribunal (NGT). If this is done we will have enough space cleared and the same can be used for the next 20 to 30 years.
We can also reduce load on landfill site by treating kitchen waste within our house premises. Organic waste consists of 70-80 percent of the total waste generated in our houses. After proper training and awareness of the households the sanitation staff should not lift organic waste from the houses who have enough space (5 marlas land or more) . I have written about this in the past and have been requesting the Govt also to make in-house composting of organic waste compulsory. I personally have been doing this for the last 8 years and this way I reduce at least 50 to 60 kgs of waste every month as my family generates 2 kgs of organic waste daily. The said organic waste gets composted in a pit and the same is used in my own kitchen garden after it gets decomposed. Imagine if one lakh households start processing wet waste in their kitchen gardens, we can reduce 1 lakh kgs of waste every day as every household generates 1 kg of waste on an average per day. In addition, if small incinerators are provided by Govt to residential colonies and panchayats, the diapers and sanitary pads (hazardous waste) can also be disposed of scientifically as well.
Bird hits around Srinagar airport
Technically there should be no garbage dump site in district Budgam because most of the villages in the district are located within 10 kms aerial distance from the airport. Unscientific waste disposal around many areas of Chadoora is a very serious issue. People dump waste around water bodies, nallahs, open plots and state land which not only invites dogs but birds as well. The new landfill site set up around Nagam-Hyathpora road in Chadoora Budgam should be scientifically managed as lots of birds can be seen around that area and their number will increase day by day if the waste is not transported to this site in a segregated manner as per MSW Rules 2016. Lots of birds, especially bats , eagles can be seen in Nowbugh, Kultreh Karewa. These birds like to fly around the warm air near brick kilns. Bird strikes usually occur when an airplane is flying at low altitudes, so the most favourable conditions for a bird strike are during take-offs or landings. The most dangerous form of bird strike is one in which a bird is ingested into the aircraft’s engine, this is referred to as a jet engine ingestion (since the bird is ‘ingested’ by the engine).There is lot of waste accumulated around Chadoora -Bugam and Nowbugh road which can be threat to the flights landing and taking off from Srinagar airport. In-fact I brought this issue into the notice of the senior officers of Airforce Station Srinagar recently who assured that they would take up the matter with Divisional Commissioner Kashmir and Deputy Commissioner Budgam. Unscientific waste disposal around Srinagar airport especially between Pulwama to Srinagar airport area which passes through many areas of Chadoora is not only an environmental hazard but it may lead to plane accidents also if we show non seriousness towards it. There have been some bird hit cases between 2014 to 2018 around Srinagar airport already, with no casualties, but we can’t take any risks.
Over 180 people aboard a SpiceJet plane SG 160 had a narrow escape on April 29th 2015 when the aircraft suffered a bird hit while landing at the Srinagar airport. The plane was grounded for the rest of the day. In September 2017 Delhi Srinagar Indigo flight suffered a a bird-hit case. A bird hovering in the sky had struck the plane, causing it to violently shake in mid-air. On landing at the airport a relieved crew of the plane told the passengers how lucky they had been that there wasn’t much damage to the plane or else the worst could have happened. In October 2018 Air Asia flight suffered a bird hit while landing at Srinagar, but again there was no casualty reported. But this doesn’t mean that there are no casualties during bird hits. A report published in The Print on August 8th 2019 said that bird hits contribute to 10 % of the fighter jet accidents in India. The spate of bird-hit incidents at major air bases alarmed the Indian Air Force, so much so that it filed a complaint with the district administration of Ambala in Haryana about the increasing population of pigeons near the air base.
Safety Audit around Srinagar airport
A detailed report published in Hindustan Times on April 22nd, 2019 revealed that Indian airports have recorded a steady increase in the number of bird hits and aircraft run-ins with stray animals over at least the past five years. In 2018, the number of bird hits and animal strikes was 1,244, compared with 1,125 in 2017, 839 in 2016, 764 in 2015 and 719 in 2014. These details were provided by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in response to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by Hindustan Times. At a time when we have 45 to 50 flights landing in Srinagar daily, and the same number of flights taking off, authorities at helm need to undertake a safety audit outside the airport premises as well.
The Airport Authority of India (AAI), Indian Air Force, representatives from villages located around Srinagar airport and District Administration Budgam must sit and hold a brainstorming session on this issue. The waste management on scientific lines should be prioritized around the villages located near Srinagar airport especially in villages like Kultreh, Nowbugh, Sarai, Hyathpora, Kaisermullah, Awanpora, Daulatpura, Hanjigund, Wathoora, Buchroo and Lalgam. The funds available under SBM Gramin -II, PRI grants will be utilised for this. The Indian Air Force, Airport Authority of India (AAI) can also support these initiatives. Budgam district has to be waste free on only for environmental reasons but for air traffic safety as well.
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow. He is Founder & Chairman Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.