Categories: Doon Diaries

Clean Doon, Green Doon: A Dream Unattained

Remember the days when taxi coloured black and yellow Vikrams circled around the city? If you do, then you must have travelled in one. And most probably have noticed the eye-catchy slogan inked on the Vikram citing, “स्वच्छ दून, सुन्दर दून” which literally translates Clean Doon, Green Doon. If you are gushing over it, then to be honest Doon was an unspoiled haven many decades ago.

But when the 80s came in splendor, the denizens of Doon created havoc. The rightfully blamed culprits for which are the locals and tourists who feel obligated to litter everywhere, since the city is less cared for. And last but not the least our sleepy government, which never felt the need to introduce an effective Waste Management Plan for the city.

Rivers, the new dumping place for Doonites:

Due to this negligence, our luscious Doon Valley has turned into a Wasteland. Once isolated and suburban areas of Rajpur and Raipur have become the favourite dumping sites for the locals. Placid areas like Sahastradhara, Nalapani, Lachhiwala, Dakpathar haven’t been left out. Even the river channels have not been spared of the wrath.

RISPANA in 1992 / Photo- JP Maithani-

Let’s take the seasonal Rispana river as an example that meanders through various corners of the city. It has not only become a dumpster for the locals but also offers a grand feast to the pigs to hog on the garbage. This has not only deteriorated the river body but has caused severe health haphazard to the animals, munching on the waste.

There are more potholes than dustbins:

One can rarely spot dustbins in Doon and if you do then most probably they are over flooded. Flies dominate the area and one cannot escape the foul stench that can cause a severe migraine. Few of the dustbins that have been placed by the Municipal Corporation are never emptied and waste remains scattered around the place.

Stray dogs can be occasionally spotted here, posing in style as if they have found their valley of trash with loads of cash! Since these dustbins are seldom emptied, the garbage can be seen littered everywhere.

Patholes in Vikasnagar Dehradun / PC:

The dumping ground that is now transformed into a housing society:

The leniency of the government has given thrust to the builders, who have planted a multi-storey residential building on the trenching ground near Sahastradhara. Many environmentalists often press on the dangers of living near dumping areas and landfills, as it increases the risk of having birth defects and certain types of cancers.

Those who live here often report symptoms like fatigue, sleepiness, and headaches. A protest was held by the residents for shifting the dumping ground from their locality to Shishambara Waste Plant, after which their demand was met.

The issue with Shishambara: The first Solid Waste Management plant in Doon

Shishambara Waste Plant in Dehradun proposed under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) scheme has encountered several issues. The plant cannot segregate hazardous waste of the city at the micro level. All sort of toxic waste including battery cells, heavy metals, and bio-medical waste is being used for composting here, which will result in soil and water pollution.

During a survey conducted by the Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board. It was found that the Shishambara plant is unable to segregate waste of thickness below 70 mm. Another issue was raised by the inhabitants of Shishambara, who complained about the putrid smell emanating from the treatment plant. Over 60 lakhs have been spent and a number of cases have been filed in the name of the project, which is due in the High Court and Supreme Court.

Waste Disposal remains an unresolved issue in Doon:

A few years ago, one couldn’t cross the area around Darshan Lal Chowk as it was badly littered. The place where the public dustbin was placed by the Nagar Nigam was heaped with solid waste. It bore an unsettling pungent smell that people couldn’t stroll around the place without covering their noses. The whitewashed wall of the Central Government Holiday Homes, which now boasts the cool graffiti of Lord Shiva was painted red with tobacco and paan stains.

The situation was such that the entire place around Darshan Lal Chowk appeared like a mini dumping site. To discourage littering, a beautiful mural of Lord Shiva yelling, “Mother Earth is a temple, not a dustbin!” was painted by a husband and wife duo from abroad. Surprisingly the message rang in the ears of locals for quite some time, after which they resorted to their old ways. And once again, the place was in a mess with posters glued to the walls.

Pollution in Dehradun: The current air, water and soil quality is worse than ever

Air Pollution65.53High
Drinking Water Pollution and Inaccessibility49.60Moderate
Dissatisfaction with Garbage Disposal81.15Very High
Dirty and Untidy70.56High
Noise and Light Pollution62.70High
Water Pollution67.21High

The city never had a proper Waste Management Plan:

Since its inception as a capital, Doon has miserably failed to meet the standards of Solid Waste Management. The city not only lacks a proper Waste Management Plan but its existing plan is a disappointment too. Some of the loopholes that can be easily seen are:

  1. Lack of Waste Collection and Transport Vehicles: There are fewer Waste Management vehicles in the city which is an essential element of any Solid Waste Management system. The existing waste collection vehicles only run in the urban areas of Doon. The rural areas are devoid of it. Hence, people use unethical ways to discard the waste. Mixed biodegradable and inert waste is often dumped, with open burning seen as a common practice.
  2. The problem of open dumps: We all know the haphazard of open dumps that release methane gas from the decomposition of biodegradable waste. Methane ignites fires, explosions and also causes global warming. Not to forget the problem associated with odour and migration of leachates to receiving waters, which causes water pollution.
  3. Unchecked burning of waste: Although National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed a ban on burning waste in the open areas, still many are violating the rule. Under this rule, any person liable for burning will need to pay a fine of Rs. 5,000 in case of simple burning and Rs. 25,000 in case of bulk waste burning. It was done to monitor the uncontrolled burning of waste at dump sites, which releases fine particles that cause smog and several respiratory diseases.
  4. No waste segregation: There is a dearth of Waste Management practices that help in sorting waste. One such practice is Waste Segregation which separates the waste into dry and wet or bio-degradable and non-biodegradable waste. Since human settlements are chomping the vacant land pieces, there is a growing problem of landfills. Now fewer land pieces are available in the urban areas to deposit the refuse. Hence, waste segregation can be an alternative. This practise will be fruitful for both the environment and for economic concern too.
  5. No Proper Waste Disposal and Recycling Measures: One can see the lack of responsibility among the community for treating the refuse. There is little or no public participation for cleaning or reprocessing the waste. The city needs combined efforts of the society as well as the Municipal Corporation for the safe disposal of residual waste. This can be done by organizing clean-up drive, adopting recycling measures, developing engineered landfills and by setting waste-to-energy plants.
  6. Sewage problem: Untreated sewage is the biggest problem in Dehradun which has polluted the environment. A report published by Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board (UEPPCB) in 2018, stated that untreated sewage from Dehradun enters river Ganga near Rishikesh. The study suggested that Song river which flows through Dehradun infiltrates river Ganga, near Lakshman Jhula in Rishikesh. It is here that the quality of river water deteriorates as the effluent in the Song river penetrates in Ganga and causes water pollution.

Doon is the fifth most polluted city in the country:

According to a survey conducted by Green Peace India titled as ‘Airpocalypse II-an assessment of air pollution in Indian cities’. Dehradun was listed among the top five cities in the country that reported the highest particulate matter, PM10 during 2015-16. Delhi reported the highest (PM10) followed by Haryana’s Faridabad, Bhiwadi in Rajasthan, Bihar’s Patna and Dehradun in Uttarakhand. A total of 280 cities across the country were covered during the study.

As per the contents of the report, in 2015 the average of PM10 was 190 µg/m3 in Dehradun which increased to 238 µg/m3 in 2016. The yearly average was 238 µg/m3. The study quoted that Dehradun had the highest PM10 levels in the state, with annual levels as high as, four times above, the annual standard. It was almost two and a half times above, the daily standards prescribed under the national ambient air quality standard.

Pollution in Dehradun / PC:

How little steps can help in yielding bigger outcomes:

It is a hard-hitting fact that the government and the people of Doon have failed to give justice to the city’s catchphrase, “Green Doon, Clean Doon”. However, we can change the scenario with public awareness and participation. Even we as individuals can bind together to create a change. Here are some of the baby steps that we can take to make a cleaner, greener, and better Dehra:

  • Say no to plastic! Carry your own cloth or jute bag when you go shopping,
  • Carry trash bags when you go out to collect waste when you can’t find a dustbin,
  • Maintain separate bins for biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste at home and dispose them separately.
  • Use kitchen waste to create manure by digging a compost pit in your garden.
  • Empty garbage into the municipal bin or hand it over to the Waste Collection vehicles that drive by your doorstep.
  • Be a responsible citizen, don’t litter anywhere.
  • While visiting naturally abundant and eco-sensitive zones or places, collect waste if you find it anywhere.
  • Don’t let any holy ritual or puja ceremony pollute the river bodies.
  • Join NGOs that work on environmental causes.
  • Create awareness among your community and teach your kids the importance of conserving our environment.
  • Use public transport to combat the problem of increasing air pollution in the city.
  • Walk for shorter distances and avoid using vehicles too often.
  • Don’t spit, urinate or stick posters on public properties.
  • Manage the excreta of your pets appropriately.
  • Encourage public participation by promoting waste management practices like segregation of waste, recycling goods and storage of waste at source.
Pragati Chauhan

I write because it keeps me sane. Mountains have taught me the art of surviving. These little pieces of writing and more are my way of expressing gratitude to my roots, my hills.

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