NUWAKOT, Dec 25: A small stream originated from the Himalayas looks reddish brown while flowing downhill from Sisdole, a landfill site in Nuwakot district where almost all the waste materials generated in the Kathmandu Valley are dumped. The water, which is severely contaminated with leachate of the landfill site, stands as a testament to the dire consequences the dumping site has had on the environment.
The stream eventually joins Kolphu River, which acts as a natural boundary separating Nuwakot and Dhading districts. The bank of the river in Bancharedanda between Chatradeurali-9 of Dhading and Okharpauwa-4 of Nuwakot is also a home to a new landfill site that is currently being constructed as Sisdole landfill site nears its life expectancy.
The new landfill site that spreads across approximately 1790 ropanis of land is just about a kilometer away from the existing dumping site in Sisdole. As the construction of Bancharedanda landfill site gathers pace, albeit sluggish, locals and other stakeholders are increasingly concerned about the impact that the new landfill site might have on the water sources and surrounding areas.
Ram Sharan Ghimire, 55, of Sisdole says he does not want to see the new landfill site ending up like the existing site. "Look around! Sisdole landfill site is a total mess of the environment and a health catastrophe," says the father of five.
"Outsiders won't know how it is like to eat lunch and dinner in the place filled with strong stench from the landfill site. We have to forcefully swallow our food despite having strong urge to throw out. Houseflies buzz around the locality even in the midst of cold winter," he said.
Ghimire said the existing landfill site is plagued with mismanagement. A quick walk around the site proves his point. Towering hill of garbage dumped without performing effective waste segregation, the unbearable stench brought to the nearby settlements through wind and contamination of local water sources among other problems are easily visible. But those are just the tip of an iceberg.
Another local, Ambika Ghimire, said they are used to becoming sick from pollution. "Nausea, diarrhea, and blocked nostrils from dust particles of the off road are common illness for us. We get little benefits from the landfill site, but the cost to our health is enormous," she said.
She also believes pollution to be the main factor behind the death of 400 chickens she once invested in. "All the chicks I bought for poultry farming eventually died before they could grow. They just didn't survive in the environment."
Ghimire and her family said they will not get rid of the bad odors even if the landfill site is shifted as their home lies between the two locations. "We can only hope that the new landfill site will be better managed unlike the existing one. We all care about the environment we live in although it is beyond our control."
A tender for the construction of Bancharedanda landfill site was announced around eight years ago in January 2010 while the Office of the Investment Board inherited the project 'Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM)' from the then Ministry of Local Development in March 2013 after the enactment of the Investment Board Act 2011.
The board is taking forward the project through public-private partnership model with two companies - Nepwaste Pvt Ltd and Clean Valley Company Pvt Ltd. The government is expected to sign contract with the companies in early 2018, after which it is expected to take two more years to construct the processing unit and landfill site before its operation.
The project requires a total investment of Rs 8 billion and aims to implement sustainable practice of 'reduce, reuse and recycle' in waste management, according to the board. Most of the collected garbage would be used to make composts, refuse-derived fuel and compressed natural gas, according to Subhanu Khanal, consultant for the ISWM.
He claimed that the project would be environment friendly and mitigates many of the environment hazards created by the existing landfill site.
"Unlike the existing practice, all the garbage will be processed and the landfill site will have mud lining to prevent leachate mixing into the water source. As high volumes of wastes would be processed, it'll also minimize bad emission into atmosphere," Khanal added.
Investment Board Chief Executive Officer Maha Prasad Adhikari said they are speeding up the construction as fast as they can. Currently, the government has completed acquiring land and constructed dam to divert the river flow out of the under-construction landfill site.