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PMSPL’s Illegal Garbage Dumping Relocates from Kurumbapet to Karuvadaikuppam

April 11, 2011
Pondicherry's dumpsite at Karuvadaikuppam

Pondicherry's dumpsite at Karuvadaikuppam

I feared I wouldn’t survive to tell this story, riding through Pondicherry’s Karuvadaikuppam dumpsite in the cabin of a PMSPL compactor. Lumbering across the peaks and valleys of trash, the truck lurched, slid and swayed violently. Seated precariously between me and the driver, one of my companions exclaimed, “This truck is gonna have a short life!” The driver, wearing a handkerchief over his nose and mouth, wrestled with the steering wheel to keep the vehicle from toppling. As the truck went into a nose dive, I braced myself against the dashboard and fleetingly pondered the odds of compactors being equipped with airbags. From the sweltering, fly-infested cabin, I peered through the grimy passenger window – closed to keep out the dump’s suffocating smoke and stench – at the noxious ocean of smoldering garbage that we appeared to be sinking into. Into his cellphone the driver impatiently shouted “Tell me where to go!” to a man in a yellow construction helmet beside a distant backhoe, barely visible through the haze.

I was accompanying two colleagues to Karuvadaikuppam dumpyard to document illegal dumping of mixed municipal waste by Puducherry Municipal Services Private Limited (PMSPL), a joint venture between Puducherry Urban Development Agency (PUDA) and PUDA’s co-conspirator, Kivar Environ, a Bangalore-based waste hauling outfit. Last week, PMSPL was ordered to stop dumping mixed garbage at Kurumbapet, after protests by students and faculty of the nearby Rajiv Gandhi Veterinary College. Rather than bring their waste management practices into compliance with government regulations that mandate recycling and composting, PMSPL instead predictably chose the cheaper option — relocate their illegal dumping operation to Karuvadaikuppam.

When I jumped down from the compactor’s cabin, I was greeted by a tribe of Gypsies who reside at the dump and earn their living by collecting and selling recyclable trash. The sudden inflow of approximately 275 tons of trash per day at Karuvadaikuppam is keeping them busy. They posed briefly for photos before descending upon the detritus being extruded from the compactor I’d arrived in.

PMSPL's compactor dumping 7 tons of mixed municipal waste in Karuvadaikuppam

PMSPL's compactor dumping 7 tons of mixed municipal waste in Karuvadaikuppam

Gypsies begin picking over the fresh load

Gypsies begin picking over the fresh load

A soda bottle is recovered

A soda bottle is recovered

A boy salvages a bottle of toilet bowl cleaner

A boy salvages a bottle of toilet bowl cleaner

A girl picks through the load

A girl picks through the load

The children search for plastic, metal and food

The children search for plastic, metal and food

A bottle of Pepsi is finished

A bottle of Pepsi is finished

For the Gypsies, it’s a race to rummage through each load and extract sellable waste before the next compactor arrives and dumps. In the intense sunshine, the heaps of waste soon catch fire from methane created during decomposition.

Veera found an orange

Veera found an orange

Urvasi (wearing pink blouse) with leaping boy

Urvasi (wearing pink blouse) with leaping boy

Urvasi found a Diet Coke can

Urvasi found a Diet Coke can

Urvasi pauses from her work

Urvasi pauses from her work

Little Veera's shirt says, "I Ooze Coolness"

Veera's shirt says, "I Ooze Coolness"

Gayatri pauses from her work to pose for a photo

Gayatri pauses from her work to pose for a photo

Fire reduces the waste to charred residue, which Coromandel Fertilizer is exhuming, sieving and marketing to farmers as “organic compost”.

The previous day's garbage smolders

A previous day's garbage smolders

Coromandel Fertilizer markets Pondicherry’s trash ash to farmers as “organic compost”

Coromandel Fertilizer markets Pondicherry’s trash ash to farmers as “organic compost”

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. niranjan permalink
    April 11, 2011 1:56 pm

    Great job brooks. You are photo’s are amazing. no words for pmspl job.

    • Brooks Anderson permalink*
      April 12, 2011 1:18 am

      Hi Niranjan,

      Thanks much for visiting the site and commenting. It was a frightening and disturbing trip.

  2. April 12, 2011 5:51 am

    Dear Brooks

    Fantastic pictorial documentation. Worth making a case in a court ( though I donot know who would do it for the public health and environment).

    The pictures tell the sordid story of MSW in Pondicherry and things are not much different in other cities as well.

    Best Regards
    Sanjay

    • Brooks Anderson permalink*
      April 12, 2011 6:41 am

      Dear Sanjay,

      Thanks very much for visiting the site and for your comment. Indeed, Pondicherry’s struggle with solid waste is a struggle that is underway in every locality. Glad to learn about your work with Waste Ventures.

      Best wishes,
      Brooks

  3. April 13, 2011 6:28 am

    It’s depressing to realize behind so many positive logos there is a smoking pile of waste. Keep documenting and keep them on their toes!

    • Brooks Anderson permalink*
      April 13, 2011 8:07 am

      Thanks, Rachel, for visiting the site and commenting. Pondy’s solid waste saga is becoming difficult to distinguish from an episode of the Sopranos. I, for one, would much prefer some Law and Order.

      Cheers,
      Brooks

  4. April 19, 2011 12:07 am

    are you on linkedin?

    • Brooks Anderson permalink*
      April 19, 2011 2:05 am

      Yes, I’m on LinkedIn.

      Brooks Anderson

  5. May 25, 2011 3:11 pm

    Superb documentary photography! You have some very moving portraits of the people who are forced to live in this apocalyptic landscape. Especially the photo of Gayatri: unexpected beauty in these surroundings.

    • Brooks Anderson permalink*
      May 26, 2011 2:50 am

      Bjorn,

      Thanks for visiting the site and commenting. “Apocalyptic” is the right word for such dumpsites.

  6. Pushpalatha permalink
    July 24, 2011 11:57 pm

    Fantastic photography documentry. Where is the Coramandal Fertiliser processing located in Pondicherry? (photo). I hope it is not Coramandal but PASIC (Pondicherry Agro Service and Industries Corporation) a quasi government organisation which processess municipal waste and makes compost at Kurumbapet (behind KVK, farm)

    regards
    Pushpa

    • Brooks Anderson permalink*
      July 25, 2011 1:50 am

      Hi Pushpa,

      Thanks for your comments.

      Coromandel is sieving scorched waste at Karuvadikuppam, beside Pondy’s airport, just inland from Lawspet.

      They package and sell this trash ash to farmers as “Black Gold Organic Compost”.

      It’s possibly the most shocking and nefarious fraud I’ve ever encountered.

      Brooks

  7. SUDHAGAR.B permalink
    February 1, 2012 6:18 pm

    Sir,Its fine. O.K. What is the solutions?

    • Brooks Anderson permalink*
      February 3, 2012 10:34 am

      One solution would be for PMSPL to comply with the Government of India’s municipal solid waste management rules. You can learn much more at the website of Exnora Green Pammal: http://www.greenpammal.in

  8. Jyothi permalink
    May 3, 2012 6:23 am

    Brooks,
    Please help PMSPL get the necessary clearance to build a processing plant, so that unscientific dumping in stopped
    Jyothi

  9. H.SATHYASEELAN permalink
    July 24, 2012 3:59 pm

    good ducumentaion… friend. i need scientific evidences about mismanagement….

    • July 25, 2012 3:12 am

      Hi Sathyaseelan,

      Thanks for your comment.
      I think you’ll have no problem finding scientific evidence of waste mismanagement.
      First, the handling of waste in Pondy violates the practices mandated by India’s Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000. Biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes are to be collected in separate containers. Biodegradable waste is to be composted, and non-biodegradable waste is to be recycled as much as possible.

      The environmental damage caused by mismanaged waste in India has been very well documented.

      Can you be more clear about what information you need?

      Brooks

      • H.SATHYASEELAN permalink
        July 25, 2012 5:15 am

        Dear Brooks.

        i have a petition before National Green Tribunal – New Deihi for the misnmanagement numbered as 13 of 2012. so i need evidences. to prove quality of ground water, and bio-medical wastes and etc….

        thanks
        sathya

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