Kochi has been plagued by toxic fumes from the Brahmapuram waste treatment plant for the past two weeks. While social workers, activists, and celebrities have condemned the fire and subsequent flames caused by unscientific waste management, a documentary about Kerala’s largest dumping yard, directed by a techie four years ago, has captured the public’s attention. Recently, actor Neeraj Madhav posted about the documentary on his social media page.
The documentary ‘Wiped Out, Brahmapuram- The real face of Kochi’s Waste Management’ contains raw visuals captured in Brahmapuram and exposes the true face of Kochi’s waste management. Director Mahesh Maanas is concerned about the damage that the recent fire has caused to Kochi’s ecosystem, and he adds that official indifference and public ignorance have left the city gasping for air.
According to Mahesh, the 19-minute documentary was shown at a number of Kochi schools and residents’ associations. “That was the plan all along. We wanted to raise public awareness about the negative impact such a landfill would have in Kochi. We were astounded by the mountain dumps of waste when we went to capture the raw visuals four years ago. At the plant, no treatment or segregation was taking place. We were certain that these waste piles would pose a health risk one day because they were simply dumped in the open, vulnerable to fire,” Mahesh says.
He predicted that the situation at the waste plant would worsen during the rains. “We shot this documentary over a long period of time, talking to various people and those who were displaced from their land. As a result, we would visit the waste plant on occasion. During the rain, we captured some raw images. We were unable to distinguish between the riverbed and the waste dumpyard plant. The waste would flow into the river, harming our natural resources as well,” he explained, adding that many of the raw pictures were captured using hidden cameras. “We had the backing of local residents and leaders, and that’s how we got the footage,” he stated.
The filmmakers spoke with several people who were displaced from their homes when Brahmapuram was turned into a dumping ground several years ago. In the documentary, an elderly woman describes drinking water from the Kadambrayar near the Brahmapuram plant. “The water was very clear back then, and we would drink directly from the river on our way to school,” the old lady recalls. This is in stark contrast to the current situation, in which the Kadambrayar has become a mosquito breeding ground.
According to Mahesh, the damage is irreversible. “We feared the fire and the negative impact it would cause on our environment. Now that the worst has occurred, the only thing we need to focus on is waste management at the source. “We can’t completely avoid plastic, but we can at least reduce our use,” he says.