Local Self Government minister M B Rajesh announced in the Assembly on Monday that the fire situation at the Brahmapuram waste plant had been brought under control. The Minister also declared that the entire legacy waste at Brahmapuram would be bio-mined and cleared before June 30, 2023.
"There is no need for fear and anxiety in Ernakulam district. The fires have more or less been fully extinguished. There is fire in some scattered places but even these would be put out by today," the minister told the House.
Nonetheless, he conceded that there was delay in putting out the waste flares. "The fire broke out inside waste heaps that had accumulated over the years. The waste had formed into layers and so it took some time to fully put out the fires," Rajesh said.
The minister was responding to a Submission moved by Opposition Leader V D Satheesan on the issue. Satheesan alleged that nothing was being done to extinguish the fire that broke out on March 2.
The minister said the air quality of Ernakulam was being constantly monitored. "It is getting better than what it was on March 2," Satheesan said.
Further, he said no serious health issues had been reported from the area. "There is no health emergency," he said.
The minister said the major practical hurdle for firefighting was the lack of access to the burning waste mountain. "We have now cleared a road for the Fire Force vehicles," Rajesh said.
He said even if there was no health scare, 100 additional beds would be created in the Ernakulam Government Hospital and 20 more at the Thrippunithura Taluk Hospital. A 'smoke casualty' has been opened in Kalamassery Medical College.
Earlier, the Opposition Leader had alleged that the fire was purposefully stoked by contractors. He said the waste removal was not taking place and when it was time for the renewal of licences, the contractors had set the waste to fire as a desperate measure. "At the time of renewal, there would an assessment of the waste removal. To hoodwink this inspection process and to mask their negligence, the contractors torched the waste heaps," Satheesan said.
The minister said the real cause of the fire would be revealed only after the probe by the police and other agencies were completed. However, he said the unprecedented rise in atmospheric temperature could also have been a reason. "Fire outbreaks have become widespread in Kerala recently as the atmospheric temperature has risen," he said.
Rajesh said there was 5.60 lakh cubic metres of legacy waste in the 40.2 acres of the Brahmapuram waste years. He said 30 per cent of this had already been bio-mined. The remaining, he said would be cleared before June 30 this year. " A decision has been taken to conduct round the clock bio-mining at the plant," the minister said.
Biomining involves digging out previously dumped or disposed of material from landfill sites to recover plastic, metal, glass, combustibles, other fine material, and soil. Plastic, metals, and other material thus recovered will be sent for re-cycling.