MARGAO: When the High Court on April 12 last directed the Margao Municipal Council to ensure that fire management arrangements are in place at Sonsodo within one month as undertaken by the civic body, hopes were raised that a fire-fighting system to fight raging fires will soon become a reality at the waste dumping site.
For, the High Court had observed that such fires are extremely dangerous and the people from the area have suffered enough as the raging fires have been a serious health hazard.
Sonsodo waste management shed sees a number of fire accidents
Since April 12, the Sonsodo waste management shed has witnessed a couple of fire incidents, exposing the Margao Municipal Council’s failure to comply with the High Court’s directions to put the fire management in place.
Thursday’s fire incident at the Sonsodo waste management shed once again brought to the fore that all isn’t well at the shed, prone to fire incidents due to the generation of methane gas. In fact, when the fire and smoke started billowing from the Sonsodo waste management shed on early Thursday morning, the Margao fire brigade rushed to Sonsodo to extinguish the fire.
Take note, the fire team led by Fire Officer Gill D’Sa managed to bring the fire and smoke under control by using around 12,000 litres of water, but the MMC’s fire-fighting plan was nowhere seen around, even as the incident has thrown up a host of questions for the Margao Municipal Council to answer.
Consider this. The Margao Municipality had made a submission to the High Court at one of the recent hearings that the civic body would periodically churn the 10,000 metric tonnes of piled up waste stacked inside the waste management shed to take care of the generation of methane gas.
The above submission was made by the civic body against the backdrop of the direction issued by the Director of Municipal Administration that out of the 10,000 metric tonnes of matured waste, 5,000 metric tonnes lying in the MSW shed shall be removed and shifted at the ground floor at compost storage area of the shed immediately to avoid fire incidents.
How was the waste inside the shed engulfed by fire?
The question that now remains unanswered is how come the waste inside the shed was engulfed by fire on Thursday if the stacked up waste was regularly churned by the civic body. That’s not all. When the fire brigade started the fire-fighting operations, they realised that the piled up waste inside the shed was dry in nature, facilitating the generating of methane gas and the resultant fire.
This has thrown up another question, why the civic body has failed to keep the piled up waste inside the shed wet by constant spraying of water over the mound.
When this question was posed to an engineer, monitoring the situation at Sonsodo as per the High Court directions, he was candid in admitting that spraying wet waste has only given rise to another problem of sorts – generation of leachate. Though the MMC has claimed to have put in place leachate tanks at Sonsodo, officials say that continuous spraying of water over the wet waste mound will choke the leachate tanks in the absence of mechanism for disposal of the leachate from the tanks.
Calls for probe into repeated fire incidents
The Shadow Council for Margao has called for an investigation into the repeated fire incidents at Sonsodo, but wondered whether these incidents are timed with the High Court matter hearings.
Making a scathing attack on the MMC, SCM convener Savio Coutinho alleged that the repeated fire incidents are to coerce the High Court into agreeing to the dubious schemes proposed by them at the cost of crores of rupees from the public exchequer.
Council repeatedly giving timelines for execution of works at Sonsodo
Coutinho stated that the Council has been repeatedly giving timelines over execution of works at Sonsodo, but they have failed to fulfill the deadlines. “Fire hydrants were to be installed at Sonsodo, till date nothing has come through. The SCM has time and again called for handling of the accumulated waste departmentally at a much lesser expenditure. We have even volunteered to assist the Council without any benefits in return,” Coutinho said.
He, however, said the Council is desperate in going for a tender for remediation of the piled waste for the third time after spending over ₹4.50 crore on the previous two jobs of remediation of accumulated waste inside Sonsodo shed.