Wed, 26 Jun, 2019

Sonsodo debacle: A Goan harakiri

In the kingdom of the blind, the one eyed jack is the king and sadly the BJP government from 2012 to date is totally responsible for the sad state of Sonsodo

Story: DR. | JOE | 12th June 2019, 02:32 Hrs

DR. JOE D’SOUZA

We must learn from history, or history will repeat. Although history tells us that Sonsodo was identified as a mini garbage dump site by the Portuguese in the 1950s, the treatment then was scientific. During pre-liberation, we in Goan villages, used to use our native biotechnological approach by mixing the organic waste including left over food, food wastes, chicken bones and litter, fish, chicken and slaughter wastes, cow dung, pig droppings, garden wastes, etc. into the gobar or ash which was left over after burning firewood or dried leaves for cooking and bathing.

Sadly, as Margao grew as a commercial town, organic wastes including straw, paper, twigs, besides household leftovers described earlier, were naturally treated at the designated Sonsodo site.

Fortunately there was no glass, plastic or heavy metals in the treatment site and native microorganisms used the substrates in the wastes dumped at Sonsodo and converted the garbage site into “black gold”; rich in nitrogen, phosphorous, organic acids, enzymes and minerals. The entire Sonsoddo hillock remained a rich source of organic nutrients, bioactive microbes, and was an ecosystem rich in biodiversity, both plants and animals upto mid-1980. 

What happened post 1985 was not of immediate consequence as biological transformation is always a slow process. From 1985-95, from being a natural fermenter of organic wastes and transforming them into high grade fertilizer rich in nitrates, P2O5, sulphates ammonia, essential micro nutrients, organic acids and high porosity compost rich in beneficial microbes, the area was allowed to grow in rancidity and putrefying microorganisms. Hospitals wastes, bulbs, hazardous metals, plastics of various types from poly ethylenes, polystyrenes, vinyl chlorides etc. were unscrupulously dumped.

That was the time Goa University decided that we at the Microbiology Department should address the challenges of garbage disposal in Goa.

Besides addressing garbage problems of Panjim, we identified varieties of microorganisms which were able to make laboratory plants grow luxuriantly. One of my students Rakhee Kunde from Margao interacted with Municipal engineers and elected representatives and impressed upon them that garbage dumping is an unsegregated and unscientific ways was causing anaerobiosis and limiting the growth of beneficial microbial composting. 

With our research in public domain, Komex Industries, knowing fully well the high value of nutrients in the Sonsodo site, decided to take up the challenge to bioremediate Sonsodo. However, instead of bioremediation, Komex took the entire “organic-gold” for free and left the toxic wastes at the site, thus allowing heavy metals, nitrous oxides, degraded plastics to accelerate the leaching and dissemination of the toxic leachates into the ground water. 

By 2012 till 2019, slowly and steadily, the noxious sour fermentation of the garbage started to develop due to dumping of wastes at Sonsodo. 

During the period, being retired from University, I coaxed Dr. Irene Furtado to initiate research of the ground waters around Sonsodo. Her research indicated that the ground waters of residents showed pollution of their wells beyond sustainable limits in 2014. 

Curious but true, Curtorim has had Francisco Sardinha and Reginaldo Lourenco as their representatives, for greater period of the present “Sonsodo Debacle” but they have allowed the site to transform into a toxifying human poison. In the kingdom of the blind, the one eyed jack is the king and sadly the BJP government from 2012 to date is totally responsible for the sad state of Sonsodo, which over the last decade has become a ticking bomb.

There is absolutely no scientific approach to the Sonsodo menace which over the last four years has become an active site for methanogenesis. Besides methane, inflammable, organic acids, hydrogen sulfide, butane, propane, etc. are generated due to anaerobic conditions. The addition of renerzyme to treat garbage is an added nail to the coffin of Curtorcars woes. Enzymes are proteins and substrate specific. 

Goans need to criminally charge all those involved in the use of enzyme technology as it was like adding fuel to fire. But it was an opportunity for politicians to make money out of adversity spending Rs 20 lakh on a scam. Any school student would testify that enzymes denature at high temperatures as well as being substrate specific cannot act on mixed wastes full of hundreds of substrates. There are modern technological approaches where in the gases formed by microbes in dumps can be slowly released by network of pipelines. 

What’s more the PM2.5 and PM10 copiously generated by the garbage fires would lead to respiratory infections, cancers, skin, and eye morbidities. The garbage site may belong to MMC. However it cannot be misused and hence the people must criminally sue those involved in endangering the lives of the people, including all our negligent MLAs, ministers and officials and see that heavy costs are leveled against them including a jail sentence. 

The people of Goa in general and the residents of Curtorim, Raia, Margao, etc. should pull up their socks and act fast or else the tom-tomming and the tomfoolery by the political and the bureaucratic class would slowly but surely kill us as garbage gases are highly toxic, debilitating and killing the unsuspecting common man. 

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