Measuring the smell of landfills

The Hindu , Tuesday, April 04, 2017
Correspondent :
CPCB drafts guidelines for management of odour monitoring and management of landfills

As anyone living in and around Mandur, Mavallipura or HSR Layout knows, the persistence of the stench of waste processing sites and landfills nearby make daily life unbearable.

While issues of water pollution and groundwater contamination can be tabulated, how does one address or understand the suffering caused by stench? For perhaps the first time, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has drafted guidelines for management of odour monitoring and management of landfills catering to waste generated in urban areas. The guidelines are in the draft phase, and will be finalised only after the window for public objections ends on April 10.

Among the key points of the guidelines are the standard protocols laid out to “measure” odour intensity — to be enumerated on a scale ranging from 0 (no perceptible smell) to 6 (extremely strong). Anything above three (a distinct smell) would lead to unbearable persistent stench in the area.

Despite the plethora of complaints received by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) about the stench from six waste processing sites and other landfills, officials said there had been no way to quantify this smell. “There are no standards to measure odour, which is a result of numerous gases (methane, hydrogen sulphide, among others). And then, there is the problem of variation in day and night. When these standards get finalised, we can start monitoring of the landfills in the city,” said D.R. Kumaraswamy, Chief Environment Officer - 3, KSPCB.

The guidelines recommend continuous monitoring of odour in these landfills (in the same vein as being done for air, noise and water pollution) which allows regulatory bodies — such as KSPCB — to suggest methods for containing the odour.

However, those living close to these plants believe odour monitoring or other management solutions will not work. “For the past three years, KCDC (Karnataka Compost Development Corporation plant at HSR Layout) has been an experiment ground for various odour management techniques. All have failed, and we continue to suffer. There is no odour management for sites such as these where people live nearby,” said AnisPadela, a resident of HSR Layout and part of the local Residents’ Welfare Association that is spearheading the protests against the plant.

The group also has little faith in action from regulatory bodies even if odour monitoring is undertaken. “Odour is dismissed, but even complaints of air pollution in the area, which have been tested and proven, have not resulted in any action. What is the point of monitoring if there is no action,” he said.

Managing odour

The guidelines also propose scientific ways on managing odours, including optimising the area in which garbage is unloaded; use of masking agents and surfectants and neutralisers; and even ways on turning over piled garbage to

ensure aeration. “The contractors at these waste processing sites are supposed to turn these piles regularly such that new surfaces are exposed and aeration happens. But this is not being done as the contractors claim they do not have earthmovers or diesel or such excuses,” said N.S. Ramakanth, member, Solid Waste Management Committee, BBMP.

Similarly, an SWM activist called the contractors’ handling of waste “criminally haphazard”, with little scientific principles being used.

Selection of sites

The CPCB guidelines emphasise scientific selection of potential landfill sites. Apart from designing these landfills for the needs for the next 20 years, these sites should be clubbed with urban development plans to prevent expansion of city close to this; buffer zones designed by scientists and environmentalists; and at marked distances from habitations and highways (500 m) and airports (20 km). Currently, none of the city’s current crop of waste processing plants can claim to have followed these steps.

Lingadeeranahalli Plant at Banashankari VI Stage is built within a Bangalore Development Authority Layout; Seegehalli and Kannahalli are in their respective villages; while, Karnataka Compost Development Corporation site abuts high-rises and dense settlements at HSR Layout.


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