As garbage mountains pile up, AAP confronts its first big challenge

Delhi is surrounded by garbage mountains in Okhla, Ghazipur and Bhalswa. The national capital has accumulated over 27.6 million tonnes of garbage, which is a marginal decline from the 28 million tonnes being produced two and a half years ago. This has been a result of the Rs 250 crore programme to clear these landfills.

However, a question still arises when and how quickly will these garbage mountains be cleared as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in its manifesto had said that their priority will be to remove this garbage which is posing a threat to the city’s residents.

As per sources, the average amount of garbage being cleared daily is 5,315 tonnes. Accounting for the additions to the garbage dumps, clearing the landfills at this rate could take over 197 years.

Only 5.1 million tonnes of waste has been removed over the last 34 months.

The AAP has won the civic polls held on December 4 and the party had continuously targeted the BJP’s “mountain of failure” during its 15-year rule in the city’s civic body.

In the early 1980s, a site was finalsed in East Delhi’s Ghazipur to dispose off the heaps of rotting and stinking rubbish littering the city’s lanes and streets.

A decade later, markets had opened and consumerism took root, changing lifestyles and consumption patterns. More cash in hand made the people disregard the old-world wisdom of waste segregation, recycling, reuse and composting.

The use of more and more packaged material, including food and juices, became rampant. The use of single-use polybags became common.

To accommodate this new waste, another site was chosen in Northwest Delhi’s Bhalswa. Two years later, in 1996, when more homes, hotels, restaurants and offices came up, a third landfill site became operational in South Delhi’s Okhla.

Today these trash towers in Ghazipur, Bhalswa and Okhla have reached the height of hills emitting toxic fumes and leading to tragic incidents some times. The Ghazipur landfill garbage heap is almost the height of the 73-metre-tall Qutub Minar. The one at Bhalswa is only marginally smaller. The Okhla mound is 42 metres tall. This is when the permissible height is only 20 metres.

The wet waste dumped in a landfill produces methane when it rots. In hot weather methane catches fire spontaneously and the blaze spreads as it feeds on combustible material like textiles and plastics.

If we take an example of a city which has successfully dealt with garbage issues, it is Indore. The most important point for Indore was source segregation of garbage, so it got the top position as the most clean city in the country.

In Indore, a control-cum-command centre was set up to track the movement of the garbage collection vehicles from the neighbourhood to the processing centre. Once the garbage was segregated, it was transported to the Garbage Transfer Station (GTS) for sorting. It is here that it is segregated into six types. The garbage is also compressed with machines and put in huge plastic capsules. The final destination of these capsules is the trenching ground where the Ahmedabad-based NEPRA Resource Ltd has set up one of India’s biggest solid waste management plant.

Strict monitoring by the municipal authorities coupled with tough action, which includes hefty penalties and suspension for dereliction of duty, has ensured that there are no gaps.

But what about Delhi’s waste dump sites?




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