In their pursuit for clean air, the residents of Govandi and Deonar are one step closer to victory. For long, they have blamed the city’s only biomedical waste treatment plant in Deonar, run by SMS Envoclean Pvt Ltd, for causing health hazards in the neighbouring areas. Finally, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has issued a notice for an environmental public hearing for shifting the facility to Khalapur. The move was announced last year by state environment minister Aaditya Thackeray.
On August 13, the MPCB will hold a public meeting for all stakeholders, including residents and environmental groups, and invite suggestions and objections.
SMS Envoclean has also been appointed by the BMC to deal with Mumbai’s Covid-19 biomedical and associated waste. Since the beginning of the lockdown last year, the residents have filed several complaints against the plant for allegedly violating environment norms by releasing black smoke through its chimneys into residential areas.
On September 11, 2020, a legal notice to MPCB, issued by advocate Saif Alam and signed by 100 residents from Govandi, Mankhurd, Deonar and surrounding areas, alleged that repeated complaints between July and September last year went unnoticed and that the pollution board did not conduct any investigation. The notice further alleged ignorance by the pollution regulator about residential and slum areas in the vicinity of Envoclean breathing ‘poisonous air’ and ‘having skin ailments’, even as one of the slums had witnessed 8.9% fatality rate due to Covid-19.
As a response to the notice, MPCB Mumbai’s regional officer AN Harshwardhan directed Envoclean to divert 50% of the treatment carrying capacity of Covid-19 waste to Mumbai Waste Management Ltd in Taloja. He further stated that black smoke was emitted after incinerating personal protective equipment (PEE) kits and highlighted that the plant was complying with air quality emission standards.
Following these aggravated concerns of air pollution, Thackeray had directed Envoclean to expedite the process of identifying an alternative site for its operations. The plant operators had then identified a three-acre plot at an uninhabited location around 70 km from the city in Khalapur, Raigad district.
Faiyaz Shaikh, a social activist and one of the complainants, said, “We have been waiting for the shifting process to be expedited. We welcome the move. This will be good for the residents of Govandi and Deonar who have suffered for long.