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Despite Supreme Court’s call for immediate action, Delhi’s garbage dumps remain a mess

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The stalemate over local governance continues even as waste dumping situation at the three major Delhi landfills worsens.

New Delhi: Weeks after the Supreme Court slammed Delhi lieutenant governor Anil Baijal for inaction over the growing piles of untreated garbage in landfills, the situation at the sites in the national capital remains grim.

Referring to the landfills as “mountains of garbage”, the Supreme Court called for immediate action in the national capital. A bench comprising justices M.B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta expressed anguish over the blame game that the L-G, state and Central governments had been playing.

The stalemate over local governance continues even as waste dumping situation at the three major landfills — Ghazipur in the east, Okhla in the south and Bhalswa in the north — hasn’t got any better.

the Ghazipur dump yard is the largest dumping site in the national capital area Soniya Agarwal/ThePrint.in
The Ghazipur dump yard is the largest dumping site in the national capital area | Soniya Agarwal/ThePrint.in

Ghazipur

Spread over 70 acres on the Delhi-Meerut highway, the Ghazipur landfill is the largest dumping site in the national capital area. With an existing height of 60-65 meters, approximately, Ghazipur witnesses maximum waste dumping, even a year after the Delhi LG issued a notice banning dumping. Baijal set a goal of clearing the landfill by 2019.

About 600 trucks bring in 2,800 metric tonnes of waste to Ghazipur from north and south zones, everyday, K.K. Gupta, junior engineer, East Delhi Municipal Corporation, told ThePrint. “Around 1,500 metric tonnes from this is sent to the waste-to-energy plant (through combustion), whatever waste is rejected by this plant comes back to the landfill,” said Gupta.


Also read: What India can learn from this scenic Kerala town about waste management


All the construction debris that comes in is sent to Shastri Park for reuse, where bricks and other construction materials are made out of it. There is no mechanism of waste segregation system in any of the landfills. The incoming debris is the only form of solid waste getting any kind of recycling treatment. The sanitary waste collected in these landfills is usually pressed into the existing mound and no segregation or treatment happens.

Okhla

The Okhla landfill, spread over 40 acres, has exceeded its saturation limit of 50 meters.

Speaking to ThePrint, P. Krishna, the project head working with South Delhi Municipal Corporation at Okhla site, said, “We are going to reduce the height of the landfill by 10 meters and grow grass over it so that there is no air pollution by flying dust”.

However, the process of dumping waste in the landfill is still ongoing and the workers at the site do not know when the height reduction process will start, said the official.

To solve the growing concern of the environmental implications of these landfills, which have become “sore spot” in the eyes of the city’s landscapes, Baijal stated last month that an aesthetically pleasing garden will be set up at the Okhla landfill.

Bhalswa

Bhalswa landfill, situated in north Delhi, is spread over 40 acres of land and sees about 2,000 tonnes of waste daily. The biggest issue here is the methane gas produced by the sanitary waste leading to fires in the landfill.

At the Bhalswa landfill, a North Delhi Municipal Corporation official working at the site on condition of anonymity said that the composting plant at the site has been closed for months now. The CPCB declared their unit in violation of the environmental norms mentioned in the guidelines.

The official believed the trifurcation of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) in 2012 crippled the management of north and east Delhi.

A trucks carries waste to the Okhla landfill | Soniya Agarwal/ThePrint.in

The official claims NDMC tried to solve the methane issue by setting up cement pipes in the landfill to evict the gas produced in the garbage pockets.

The official also said that in collaboration with IIT Delhi, the NDMC is now trying to solve the issue of these fires. The first stage of review of sites has been done, said the NDMC official.

Safety precautions in complete shambles

According to guidelines published by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in April 2017, a buffer zone needs to be established around areas with solid waste processing and disposal facilities.

The guidelines say the buffer zone needs to be 500 meters in width around the facility. The setting up of a green cover belt of minimum 10 meter width is also mandated. The CPCB has even listed what trees should be grown to ensure high carbon sink.

A Swacch Bharat Abhiyan board in Ghazipur landfill | Soniya Agarwal/ThePrint.in

Despite these rules, all three Delhi landfills have residential properties around them. Ghazipur has houses and a mosque adjacent to the landfill’s entry gates. In Okhla, a predominantly industrial area, a thick population lives around the landfill, with a government hospital situated in its vicinity. A huge Bangladeshi migrant population lives behind the Bhalswa landfill, leaving no land vacant for a buffer zone.

“Ideally the government should not permit any residential construction in a 2 km vicinity of these sites. The area around these sites is often polluted,” Gupta said.

The landfills have patches of grass and shrubs growing outside it but there are no signs of trees at these sites.


Also read: Drain deaths: Cheap labour, distrust of machines keep manual scavenging alive


 

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