A few meters from the stinky garbage dumping site on the banks of Wular Lake, siblings Ishfaq Ahmad Para, 32, and Bilal, 27, on the veranda of their two-storey house are neatly arranging green vegetables into stacks.
According to the brothers who are in the vegetable business, the stench from the dumping site, “forces us to send away our kids to maternal home”.
In a nearby house, Mushtaq Ahmad Lone, 57, has the same story to tell. He ensures that his grandchildren stay away from the dumping site.
The Asia’s largest freshwater body, the Wular Lake is a designated protected site under Ramsar convention.
Locals say the dumping site has destroyed the green pastureland, known as Zalwaan, which is also being used as a playing ground by youth. “This dumping site has been here for last 58 years,” locals said. “I would say that this dumping site is solely responsible for the damage of the Wular Lake,” Lone said.
“The toxic chemicals from the dead carcasses, faecal matter and other harmful waste, enter the lake via a stream. The rains and floods also wash off the garbage into it. This site has become a haven for dogs and other animals,” Lone said.
Ghulam Mustafa Lone, a shepherd said that several animals have died over the years due to feeding on the garbage site. “At least 30 bovines have died in recent past.”
Locals alleged that several vehicles with “Save Wular” painted on their bodies dump the garbage along the Lake site every day.
The conservation authorities (WUCMA) have also been criticized by the locals for their “failure” to improve the condition of the lake. Though the site, as per the officials has been “slightly” shifted, the locals say that it is a mere “eyewash” as the garbage eventually lands into the lake.
Executive engineer, Municipal Council Bandipora, Mushtaq Ahmad Mir said: “An estimated 450 metric tons of garbage are dumped at the site every month which excludes the waste floating from Sumabl and Hajin areas through river Jhelum into the lake.” He said that the waste is increasing with passing time.
According to the officials, the Municipal Council Bandipora (MCB) collects the garbage from 17 wards of the town.
To help garbage collection and disposal, the Wular Conservation and Management Authority (WUCMA) formed in 2012, which is responsible to conserve the lake, has “donated” 7 cubic metric ton capacitor vehicle and 45 composite dustbins, the officer said.
Besides, 86 sweepers, 2 tipper trucks, 1 JCB are pressed into service to collect the garbage from the municipal area.
An official of the MC Bandipora admitted that the waste is not disposed of properly at the site as “the garbage is not segregated”. He, however, rejected reports of the animals death at the site due to feeding on the garbage. “We spray disinfectants and phenyl on the garbage and the stench doesn’t spread that much, and according to my reports animals have not died due to it (the garbage site) and the carcasses are properly buried at the site”.
According to the officer the MC is planning to fence the dumping site. He said, “We have been searching for the alternative but haven’t found any and we are still searching. The lake site garbage disposal is happening from 1962.” The locals, however, near the dumping site said that despite promises, no work has started on the fencing of the site.
The officer, however, said that there was an alternative site in Sumbal, which was approved earlier. He said the site was also proposed to have a segregation plant. “The proposal was approved but no funds have been received for the construction yet. It is in the active mind of the government.”