Kerala High Court (HC) sticks to an uncompromising position in connection with the fire in Brahmapuram wasteland near Kochi, and the resultant poisonous pollution Kochi and parts of neighbouring districts and the adjacent rivers and waterbodies suffer.
The court will examine waste management mechanisms in the State, and three amici curiae will be appointed for this assignment. One each for Ernakulam and Thrissur districts and a third for the other 11 districts. Court warned that if the waste management is not done efficiently, it (HC) will have to venture into cutting down the salaries of the concerned officials.
HC Division Bench, consisting of Justice S V Bhatti and Justice Basant Balaji, also asked the State Pollution Control Board to collect the samples of the earth and groundwater from the Brahampuram surroundings and from the adjacent Kadambrayar river in 24 hours and get them tested. The waste treatment at source should be strictly followed in consultations with the officials at all levels, including Local Self-Government Departments. People should not be pushed into further fatal issues. Ernakulam District Collector should give an answer to these questions on March 17.
HC was shocked to see the pictures of the Brahamapuram plant. It opined, it looked like a factory abandoned three years before !!! Court criticised the Pollution Control Board in sharp words. The additional Secretary of the Local Self Government Department requested for ten days’ time before proposing a permanent solution.
HC asked the Municipal Corporation of Kochi how many fund they have parted with for waste management. Corporation Secretary answered that Rs 31 crores had been spent in 7 years. Secretary added that (controversial) Zonta Infratech did not do a good job.
Division Bench observed that it is better to train 1,000 children than enlightening the entire Kochiites. Justice Bhatti said that even though the fire and fume are put out it (HC) would keep on overseeing the procedures in Brahmapuram. A Website would be launched to collect information.
District Collector said that even though fire and smoke are put out, half the fire units would stay back. It is too early to state that Air Quality Level (AQL) is satisfactory.
When HC held the session on March 14, it grilled the authorities again. The court expressed absolute dissatisfaction with the contract, Kochi Corporation, ruled by CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF), had signed with (controversial) Zonta Infratech. Court asserted that a better contract could be seen even in the case of the purchase of a small plot of land. The court observed that the contract keeps mum about the penalty if breach of contract takes place.
Court was considering the suo motu case it registered in the wake of the Brahamapuram fire. Kochi
Division Bench asked to examine the AQL and other aspects in 24 hours and hand over the reports to it (HC). District Collector should, as a citizen, answer the latest status in Brahmapuram after the fire.
HC demanded a total and holistic scheme, for the waste management, under the leadership of Local Self Government Departments (LSGDs). The bench asked the Additional Chief Secretary to draw the attention of the Chief Minister to this issue. A notification should be issued in a week to plan action plans, on the basis of the Disaster Management Act, to face the Brahamapuram-like crises. Secretaries should be trained in effective waste management methods. The additional Chief Secretary explained that such a workshop had been organised for April 5. Court said children should be trained.
Division Bench congratulated the Fire Brigade men for their 24 x 7 service in Brahmapuram for about a fortnight. HC ordered the State Government to felicitate them.
In the meantime, National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) Observation Committee has reported that Kochi Corporation failed to comply with the orders of the Tribunal (NGT) and the proposals of the State-level Observation Committee. The report has been submitted by the Committee Chairman, Justice A V Ramakrishna Pillai. The Committee was appointed by the Chennai Bench of the NGT to observe the waste management activities taking place in the LSGDs and to submit the report. This is the 4th fire since the Committee was formed in 2018. The concluding paragraph of the 27-page report says Corporation authorities know that after every fire, some hue and cry will be heard here and there, and they will die their own natural deaths afterwards hence the negligence of responsibilities like this. The report says the existing waste mountains should be mined on war foot and treated scientifically; otherwise, similar fire would occur again. There were no facilities, despite the earlier proposals from the Committee, in Brahmapuram to put out the fire. The fire occurred in four consecutive years: January 22 2019, February 18 2020, March 5, 2021, and January 18 2022.
While the issue is still scorching even after putting out the fire and elimination of the poisonous smoke, the political atmosphere in the State is getting hotter day by day. The other day, Opposition members (BJP & Congress-led United Democratic Front aka UDF) could not enter the Council Hall to attend the Council meeting. As they had taken stand that they would not allow Mayor Adv Ailkumar to preside the meeting as he is alleged to be involved in the corruption in connection with Brahampuram wasteland, they tried to stop the Mayor from entering the Hall. Police unleashed brutal atrocities against the opposition councillors. In the push and shove, three women councillors sustained head injuries. Puddles of blood were seen on the floor.
Now, former Kochi Mayor and Congress leader Tony Chammany alleges that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had met the MD of Zonta Infratech during his visit to the Netherlands. He showed to the media men a picture of CM, taken abroad, to buttress his allegation.