Although Pune is very well known for its waste management strategies over the years, there are several protests that sprout almost every year when it comes to the waste dump and the management of waste in areas surrounding the city. Pune’s landfill lies on the periphery of the city, at Uruli Devachi in the Phursungi area.
The residents of these areas have faced many problems due to the accumulating waste. The accumulated garbage that results in the leachate run- off has contaminated the groundwater in the neighbouring areas of Phursungi and waste that catches fire in the hot, dry summer months leads to air pollution and thus, results in many respiratory diseases.
The citizens of the area have been on a prolonged fight to get the location of the landfill shifted. Protests have taken place in symbolic manners- like the burning of garbage in front of Pune Municipal Corporation Authorities adding to which several trucks that carry the city’s garbage have been prevented from entering the area. The residents of these areas claim that they themselves don’t dump waste in the Uruli Devachi landfill as it adversely affects their own health and the sanitation of the area they reside in. Land prices have also massively fallen. As the demand from the villagers to the civic authorities for changing the location of the landfill has been increasing, the Municipal Authorities of Pune have written to the state government to sanction another plot of land for Pune’s waste. However, the state government hasn’t got back to the Municipal corporation on this matter, and the case has been pending.
There have also been instances where wet waste is also being dumped in the landfill, which is posing a greater threat to the residents. Due to the accumulation of leachate over the years, the surrounding area cannot be used for farming due to the deposition of unwanted minerals and chemicals. 50% of the area cannot be irrigated, which has led to a massive drop in the land prices in the area.
Although Pune has strict rules for segregation of garbage at the household level and stringent laws at the society level for composting domestic wet waste and promoting vermiculture, some of the waste collectors in Phursungi say that there is no segregation of waste at the corporation level as the trucks dump all the segregated waste from the depot to the landfill and the waste ultimately gets mixed up in the landfill.
The PMC had promised government jobs for 57 people since they were rehabilitated in the 1990s, during the development of the landfill. Only 20% of them have received these jobs. Even after constant court cases with the National Green Tribunal in Pune, 70% of the city’s waste is still dumped in the area. Another solution that has been implemented in similar cases has been the installation of incinerators. However, many activists in Pune have not allowed it as the PMC fails to regulate the temperature, which might lead to air pollution.
The city authorities along with the civic bodies have spent more that 16 crore rupees in installing incinerators in 25 locations around the city, however, the plants do not have enough installed capacity and some of them are also out of order. Another area near Hadapsar is being considered for a new landfill sight.
In April 2017, "a fire at Phursungi’s garbage depot sparked an avalanche effect that is releasing simmering discontent, with villagers from the area as well as Uruli Devachi now hell bent on not letting any garbage from Pune Municipal Corporation enter their limits. With the agitation hiting its 10-day mark, villagers marked the occasion with a special Jagran Gondhal ritual (an all-night vigil) at a pandal outside the dumping yard" (1)l
One year later, "while the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) Pune bench has slapped a show cause notice to Pune municipal corporation (PMC) for not addressing the Uruli Devachi garbage issue, the villagers have decided to take a firm stance against the civic body by planning an agitation from August 2 (2018)".(2)