Asthma, recurrent chest infections, breathing difficulties and other respiratory illness are common in families living in the shadow of Delhi's tallest garbage mountain, Ghazipur landfill site, with frequent fires leaving them gasping for breath.
A regular issue in election manifestos and often the subject of political blame game, Ghazipur dumping yard has been a long-standing problem with residents around the area complaining of serious health hazards.
A fire at the dumping yard that broke out on March 28 could be doused over 50 hours, forcing the locals to stay indoors. While no casualty was reported in the blaze, a thick blanket of smoke engulfed the adjoining areas.
Jummal, a 55-year-old woman, who lives near the landfill site in East Delhi's Ghazipur, said she suffered from asthma and has had frequent respiratory infections for the last nine years.
"I have stopped stepping out of my house ever since I developed health problems. When the fire broke out on March 28, we were gasping for breath. We could only close our windows and stay indoors. There was no other option for us," Ms Jummal said.
She added that they "tried reaching out to the authorities concerned several times but received no response." Eyewitnesses told PTI that during the recent fire incident, the residents were "either staying indoors or rushing to the hospitals".
Riyazuddin, who has been living in Ghazipur since 1983, said everyone in his family suffers from some ailment as he blamed frequent fires and constant foul smell in the area for their health problems.
"My wife developed asthma because of the toxic air here. The MCD has never paid attention to our problems. Politicians only visit the area during the elections. They approach us for votes and make huge promises, yet problem persists," he said.
The Ghazipur landfill falls under the jurisdiction of the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC).
Most parents in the area said they were concerned for the safety and health of their children as they fall sick quite often because of the polluted air and the smell that grips the area. They said their children often develop allergies and infections.
"My children have been suffering from allergies and breathing problems. When the dumping yard caught fire, all of us were wearing masks even inside our houses. We are used to it but we worry about our kids," said Asin, a resident of Ghazipur.
Another resident Shabnam claimed that her youngest daughter, Sabina, has been undergoing treatment for respiratory infections at a government hospital for more than a decade now.
"The authorities concerned never took any action to resolve their issues. Politicians never visit the area after winning elections," she said.
For years, residents of Ghazipur have been demanding to put a stop on dumping of garbage in the area and relocate the landfill site. The locals said they have lodged several complaints and staged protests to have their demands met.
"Nothing has worked out. The situation has been worsening with each passing day. A few years ago, two people were killed after a portion of the garbage dump collapsed. Nothing has been done about this dumping yard," Mohammad Furqan, another resident of Khatta, said.
According to data shared by the Delhi Fire department, a total of 16 fire incidents — 12 at Bhalswa and four at Ghazipur — were reported last year. Fifteen such incidents took place in 2020, while 37 similar fire incidents were reported in 2019, the data stated.
Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai directed the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to submit a report on the recent incident within 24 hours. In April last year, the DPCC had imposed a fine of Rs 40 lakh on the EDMC after a fire broke out at the Ghazipur landfill site.