Ludhiana, April 27
The National Green Tribunal Oversight Committee, headed by (Retired) Judge Jasbir Singh, visited the tragic site of a hut fire near the main MC dumpsite on Tajpur Road near the village on Wednesday. of Kakka.
Seven family members – a couple and their five children – were charred to death after a fire broke out in their ‘jhuggi’ located just next to the MC’s main landfill.
While noting suo motu a media report regarding a hut fire (jhuggi) and the accumulation of 20 lakh metric tons of waste on the landfill, the National Green Tribunal had requested the oversight committee to provide a situation report factual regarding the cause of death, persons responsible for the failure, remedial action, including action, to prevent such incidents in the future. A notice was also sent to the Secretary General.
Today the chairman of the panel, Judge (retired) Jasbir Singh met the deceased couple’s son Rajesh, who is the only survivor as he had slept in his friend’s cabin that night. Rajesh told the panel chairman that he suspected their ‘jhuggi’ had been set on fire that night by someone. He also expressed suspicion about a person and showed the suspect’s photo in a cell phone. Rajesh claimed the suspect left his bike there. The president then asked police officials to look into the allegations. A senior police officer then instructed relevant personnel to retrieve the bicycle.
Meanwhile, police told the NGT panel that they are investigating the hut fire incident. However, the exact cause of the tragic fire in the hut has not been established. The question arises whether the fire started due to a short circuit in the hut, whether someone set fire to the hut or whether the hut caught fire due to the burning of rubbish in the nearby MC landfill.
The fire started at the MC dump about 13 days ago, but has not been extinguished to date. Smoke was billowing from various sides of the landfill when the NGT panel visited today. Right next to the site of the hut fire, smoke was still rising from the burning waste at the MC dump.
MC officials shut down
Large mountains of legacy waste appeared at the landfill because the civic body failed to provide waste treatment. Judge (retired) Jasbir Singh challenged MC officials over the huge accumulation of rubbish at the landfill. He also checked various slum sites along the landfill and questioned officials on how the slums formed along the landfill. He asked officials to take the necessary steps in this regard.
He expressed his disappointment after seeing the dilapidated state of the waste treatment plant which remained closed for a long period. He asked officials why they weren’t paying attention to the resumption of operations at the waste treatment plant.
The NGT panel then held a meeting with the MC, district administration and PPCB officials at PAU. The committee ordered the municipality to take measures to deal with the waste inherited from the main dump. The civic body was also commissioned to build a boundary wall around the landfill.
Sources said the panel chairman also questioned the location of secondary garbage collection points along the roads. He arrested civic body officials for failing to sort waste at source. The panel set deadlines to improve the solid waste management process.
MC officials have been arrested before for mishandling solid waste and failing to provide source separation of waste in the past, but they haven’t taken the matter seriously.
Meanwhile, members of the Public Action Committee met with Judge (retired) Jasbir Singh. PAC members submitted details to the president regarding “unauthorized dumps” set up in the city by the civic body. After seeing the dumps at Old GT Road, near Gulzar Motors and on Kamla Lohtia College Road, the President questioned the operation of the Ludhiana MC.
Environmental campaigner Colonel (Retired) JS Gill has suggested that there should be no storage of flammable materials, whether rubbish bags or plastic bags or rag pickers’ shacks lined with highly plastic flammable, near the dump to avoid fires.
The follow-up committee would submit its report to the NGT.