New Delhi: Despite a ban on the burning leaves and waste, three huge mountains of garbage have been smouldering for days near the outskirts of Delhi, expelling more toxic fumes in the world's most polluted city.
Landfills at Okhla, Ghazipur and Bhalaswa cover around 150 acres of land and receive approximately 10,000 metric tonnes of garbage daily.
Experts say small fires have been erupting at these sites because of spontaneous combustion caused by the release of methane on decomposition of unsegregated waste.
The burning which is happening at these land fill sites is leading to massive air pollution. Six months ago, we did a study. Out of the 50 to 60 sites we went to, 70 per cent samples also showed inorganic and organic contamination of water in these areas," said Swati Sambyal, a solid waste management expert at the Centre for Science and Environment in Delhi.
Mohammad Shamim, who lives in the slums next to the Bhalaswa dump, said, "This place stinks and the water we get here is yellow. But we don't have a choice but to use it or we buy bottles. Most people here suffer from lung problems. I suffer from asthma."
According to Delhi's municipal rulebook, landfill sites must not be used after 20 years. This year, the newest of the dumps will turn 20. The Ghazipur waste management plant is functional since 1984, Bhalaswa since 1994 and Okhla since 1996.
Landfills must be sanitary but none of these are sanitary they are just dumps," said environmental writer Ranjit Devraj.
The only functional waste to energy plant near the Okhla landfill creates 16 MW of energy each day by burning 2,000 metric tonnes of waste. But this only adds to the pollution, say experts.
Authorities say they are doing their best to check the pollution and a part of the plan is to close the Ghazipur plant. "A proposal approved by National Highway Authority of India was sent to the Centre a month ago to put the waste below the roads when the highway from Nizammudin to Meerut will be constructed," the mayor of the east Delhi civic body Harsh Malhotra told NDTV.