This Article is From Oct 16, 2016

Residents Choke On Smoke As Delhi's Landfills Burn Unchecked

The layers of garbage also trap highly combustible and toxic Methane gas.

New Delhi: In a slum in East Delhi's Ghazipur, 51-year-old Sheikh Rubial sits in his one room house coughing profusely. He suffers from tuberculosis, and so do his three grandchildren, all below four years.

The disease has forced the migrant labourer out of work for seven years.

His slum adjoins the Ghazipur landfill site, were tonnes of unsegregated waste is dumped every day. The huge piles of garbage, apart from giving out a stench, also become the breeding ground of mosquitos, while Delhi battles one of the worst outbreaks of Dengue and Chikungunya.

The layers of garbage also trap highly combustible and toxic Methane gas. Its spontaneous combustion burns the landfill including plastic, which sends nauseating white smoke into the city, worst exposing people like Rubial living in neighbouring areas.

Wisps of white smoke are a common sight not just in Gazipur, but also in the neighbouring areas of city's two other landfills in Okhla and Bhalaswa.

Experts suggest that a way forward for the city is to move away from landfills completely and segregate waste at source. They say the waste should be then moved for treatment to waste to energy plants.

"In India, we have a very well-operating and functional informal system which is very often not considered to be a part of the solution by the government. We have these kabadiwalas (rag pickers) who segregate waste very efficiently and make sure it's recycled. All these sectors need to be incentivised as a part of a comprehensive solution to deal with waste", said Polash Mukerjee, an air pollution expert with the Centre for Science and Environment.

The East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) had proposed a new plan to clear up the Gazipur landfill. It wants to use the garbage to form the base of the Delhi-Meerut Highway which is about to be constructed.

"This will take care of about 80 per cent of the waste in our landfill site", said Jitendra Chaudhry of the EDMC.

However, in spite of the plan being approved by the Urban Development Ministry and the National Highway Authority of India last year, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is yet to be signed.

As the winters approach, the pollution will add to the smog that fills the city every year. The Delhi High Court last year, while admonishing the government during a raging debate on air pollution, had called the city a 'gas chamber'.