Monday, May 7, 2012

'Sonsoddo capping has makings of a scam'

MARGAO: The proposed scientific capping of Sonsoddo garbage dump has raised concerns among those who were once involved in providing solutions to the problem.

Solid waste management expert Joe D'Souza, who was earlier on the Margao municipal council (MMC) panel to monitor the garbage management exercise at Sonsoddo, has written to chief minister Manohar Parrikar alleging a scam in the making and demanding a vigilance inquiry in the matter.

In his letter to Parrikar, D'Souza has raised questions regarding capping the existing garbage dump when the project concessionaire was, in fact, tasked with treating the dump.

"I was surprised and shocked to know that after years of tomfoolery by successive consultants and garbage handling contractors, Sonsoddo garbage dump yard is sought to be capped. Why is Ahmedabad-based consultant, PU Asnani, who earlier promised to end the garbage woes of Margao by appointing a firm to involve itself in solid waste management, incurring crores of rupees expenditure of Goa state funding, is now offering a disastrous capping solution to the garbage woes of Margao," D'Souza wrote to Parrikar.

D'Souza has urged Parrikar to "put a full stop on an urgent basis to the mega scam involving the capping of the Sonsoddo garbage by instituting a vigilance inquiry at your earliest."

"The scandalous approach to the garbage scam at Sonsoddo has to be exposed. As such, Asnani and the Ahmedabad-based firm have collected consultancy fees to offer solid waste management solution. Now that he has failed miserably, the untenable approach of capping the Sonsoddo site is being sought instead of the garbage treatment solution which was his task," D'Souza's letter adds, urging the chief minister to "punish the guilty as it involves flushing off of public money and endangering the lives of the residents of Margao."

D'Souza has also raised questions over the efficacy of the capping exercise maintaining that scientific capping is a "disastrous" solution for an unscientific landfill site.

"The landfill site at Sonsoddo is totally unscientific. A scientific landfill is lined by impermeable material consisting of various levels and only then garbage is dumped into it. This ensures that the groundwater table is not contaminated. However, in the type of capping proposed to be done at Sonsoddo, what you are actually doing is trapping the methane gas generated by the garbage dump. The methane gas will then force its way downwards, leading to the leachate entering the groundwater table thereby contaminating it," D'Souza said.

D'Souza was earlier engaged by the Corporation of the City of Panaji as its consultant on garbage management. He is a former professor of microbiology at Goa University.

Asnani was among those initially shortlisted by MMC for empanelment of consultants for the Sonsoddo capping exercise. After he also submitted his expression of interest (EoI) for the project, the high power committee over Sonsoddo project, headed by Parrikar, struck down MMC's selection of Asnani, following which the civic body selected Gurgaon-based JM Environet (P) Ltd, and Cochin-based KR Gopalkrishnan for empanelment as consultants for solid waste management projects of the council. MMC will invite tenders for capping Sonsoddo garbage dump after receiving the detailed project reports from the two agencies.

What caused a flutter in certain quarters was the fact that MMC had invited EoIs for capping Sonsoddo dump only after Asnani-in his capacity as MMC's consultant for the Sonsoddo garbage treatment plant-had submitted a report to MMC confirming the presence of toxic metals in the dump and suggesting that the dump be capped following specifications of scientific closure as per the Municipal Solid Waste Rules 2000. TOI was the first to point out the incongruity in Asnani's empanelment for the capping exercise as that would have amounted to Asnani evaluating his own bid.

Anshita Asnani, managing director of UMC Global Pvt Ltd (UMC) Ahmedabad, the firm headed by PU Asnani, in an email interview with TOI said, "UMC's role was limited to advising MMC on whether scientific capping of Sonsoddo dumpsite was an appropriate option" and that neither UMC nor Asnani have been appointed as consultants for providing garbage treatment solutions to the MMC.

"Considering the environmental, social and economic aspects, and considering the changed circumstances after the award of contract to the concessionaire (ie availability of land to MMC for treatment and disposal of waste adjacent to the Sonsoddo dump site), we had submitted our report to the municipal council," A Asnani said.

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