Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala government has decided to set up an Expert Group (EG), including technical experts, to conduct a comprehensive probe into the massive and sustained fire that broke out at Brahmapuram waste plant on March 2.
The EG probe would cover a wide range of issues from the causes that led to the fire and various operational issues to the history of waste management in Kochi and measures to prevent such disasters in future. This was announced by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan while making a statement under Rule 300 in the Assembly on Wednesday.
An expansive terms of reference has also been drawn up for the EG. One, what led to the fire? Two, what should be done to prevent such fires in future? Three, how suitable is the Brahmapuram yard as a place for dumping and processing solid waste? Three, to what extent has the site adhered to the observations and recommendations of the Pollution Control Board?
Four, who is responsible if there has been negligence? Five, were there defects in the agreement drawn up to implement windrow composting?
Six, has the Kochi Corporation kept regular tabs on the waste treatment activities at Brahmapuram? Who was entrusted with the task? And has the Corporation ever pointed out shortcomings?.
Seven, what were the measures taken by the contractor company to rectify the shortcomings that were pointed out? Eight, how did the waste from other municipalities and panchayats end up in Brahmapuram?
Nine, what are the factors that hamper the functioning of the windrow composting plant at Brahmapuram? Ten, who is responsible for the degraded condition of the windrow composting plant?
Eleven, a review of steps taken to manage legacy waste and the reason for the delay? Twelve, to what extent did the two parties - the Corporation and the contractor - stick to the stipulations laid down in the agreement on bio-remediation process?
Thirteen, what was the mechanism in place within Kochi Corporation for the collection of organic and inorganic wastes and their transportation to the treatment plant? How was the performance of the contractors evaluated?
Fourteen, what was the reason to collect and dump unsegregated waste at Brahmapuram?
Fifteen, what was the Corporation's success rate in managing waste at source in areas with huge volumes of solid waste?
Nonetheless, the Chief Minister seemed certain of the reasons that led to the formation of incendiary waste mounds. Like his ministers earlier, the Chief Minister said waste management at Brahmapuram began to falter in 2010 when the Corporation, then under the UDF, had decided to withdraw from the decentralised people-centric approach. "Inorganic waste started to pour into Brahmapuram in large quantities. The plant that was envisaged exclusively for Kochi Corporation began to be burdened by the garbage from neighbouring local bodies," the Chief Minister said in his statement. " As a result, in 10 years, 5,59,000 cubic metres of waste accumulated at Brahmapuram," he said.
Pinarayi blamed the previous UDF-led Corporation for sitting on the National Green Tribunal order to scientifically remove the waste mountain. "However, the agenda regarding the implementation of the NGT order was set aside 23 times by the Corporation," he said. It was this that prompted the LDF government to take over the responsibility of waste management at Brahmapuram from the Corporation.
However, he was silent about the performance of the company the KSIDC had picked to do bio-mining at Brahmapuram. He merely said it had been asked to complete the bio-mining process by June 30 this year. He did not speak of the company's delay in meeting the original deadline either.