Delhi’s three garbage mountains and the environmental, waste management challenges that they pose | The Financial Express

Delhi’s three garbage mountains and the environmental, waste management challenges that they pose

Landfills catch fire due to the anaerobic decomposition of organic waste that generates heat and combustible methane gas.

Delhi’s three garbage mountains and the environmental, waste management challenges that they pose
Landfills generate methane which is a greenhouse gas.

The National Tribunal in 2019 mandated the biomining of the legacy waste and the three landfills in the national capital, Delhi i.e. Ghazipur, Bhalswa and Okhla landfills. But it will take not less than a decade to flatten the largest dumpsite of Delhi in Ghazipur as assessed in 2019.

Between 2019 and 2020, 3 lakh tonnes of legacy waste of the 140 tonnes assessed in 2019 were bio-mined. In the succeeding year, 4.81 lakh tonnes were processed.  If approximately 4 lakh tonnes of waste are bio-mined every year, it would take 33 years to process the entire waste mountain, if not considering the fresh waste that it receives every day. In 2021 fresh waste dumped at the east Delhi landfill was more than the legacy waste possessed that year.

Richa Singh, Programme Officer, Waste Management Programme, Centre for Science and Environment informed the Indian express that the total capacity of processing municipal waste in Delhi is 5.550 tonnes per day (49.9% of the 11,119 TPD generated) and the capacity has remained the same since 2016.

Suneel Pandey, Director of the Environment and Waste Management Division at The Energy and Resources Institute called for the strengthening of waste processing infrastructure so that organic waste does not reach landfills. But in Delhi daily waste is accommodated in the same city as legacy waste. Hence Delhi Government needs to allocate space for fresh waste so that the remediation of landfills can be done in mission mode, he suggested.

Why landfills catch fire

Landfills catch fire due to the anaerobic decomposition of organic waste that generates heat and combustible methane gas. There were four episodes of fires at landfills this summer with soaring temperature– three at Ghazipur and one at Bhalswa that raged for many days and have been difficult to douse.

The subsurface firs are difficult to douse as pockets of methane are formed inside the garbage dumps that are hard to reach in unscientifically planned landfills without access roads and a gas collection systems.

NGT taking cognizance of the fires and has asked the authorities to follow the statutory timeline strictly. Moreover, the green tribunal called them dumpsites as timebomb that is constantly emitting harmful gases with a constant threat of explosion.

Besides, the landfills also flout the Solid Waste Management Rules of 2016, which state that only non-usable, non-combustible, non-biodegradable, non-recyclable,  and non-reactive inert waste should go to a ‘sanitary’ landfill and leachate would be treated but in Bhalswa, pools of dark-coloured leachate lie around the landfill.

Singh further flagged how Waste to Energy plants are putting mixed waste comprising organic waste, into these plants. Source segregation should be non-negotiable, organic waste should go to compost centres and waste generators should share responsibility, she added.

Segregation of waste only on papers

According to the Economic Survey of Delhi 2020-21, segregation of waste at source, notified by Solid Waste Management Bylaws for Delhi, is being implemented in just 32% or 94 out of 294 wards mostly in New Delhi Municipal Council and Delhi Cantt areas.

Former South MCD Mayor Narender Chawla, however, wants maximum public participation to ensure minimum waste reaches landfills. According to a senior official, political wings do not let them implement the penalty provision for failure to segregate waste.

But, North and East MCDs finished in the bottom 10 among cities with a population of over 10 lakh ineffective waste management survey by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs

A new ‘engineered’ landfill and Waste to Energy plant is coming up at Tehkhand, another WTE plant at Rani Khera, increasing the bio-mining of legacy waste to speed up the landfill flattening project.

Issues with biomining

Biomining cannot be carried while it rains. Moreover, there are only a few takers of the material produced from waste going through the trommels. The perception is the bricks produced are of inferior quality. Three MCDs, however, are in talks with the NHAI for taking it.

Environmental damage caused by landfills

Landfills generate methane which is a greenhouse gas. They also produce hazardous levels of carbon dioxide, nitrogen etc.  The leachate generated contaminates groundwater, Landfill fires pollute the air.

Moreover, Water in borewells near Bhalswa and Ghazipur was found to contain chlorides, copper, cadmium and total dissolved solids in excess of permissible limits in 2019, according to a report submitted to the NGT.

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First published on: 04-05-2022 at 12:35:22 pm
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