The Capital’s oldest garbage dump site, the Ghazipur landfill, could not bear the weight of the trash it had been holding for over three decades and on Friday a portion of it came crashing down, killing two people.
Environment experts said that it was a disaster waiting to happen, triggered by apathy of the civic and government agencies.
Chitra Mukherjee, the head of programmes at NGO Chintan, which works with rag-pickers who sift through the garbage at these landfills, said the government only wakes up to such incidents when a disaster such as this occurs.
“These landfills are a ticking bomb. In Delhi, most landfills passed their saturation date years ago. In fact, these are not even landfills in the true sense and are merely dump sites with no scientific regulations. If we continue to mindlessly pile trash over trash, we are only inviting trouble for ourselves,” Ms. Mukherjee said.
She added that government agencies should work towards a comprehensive waste management plan, which should include segregation at source and decentralised composting.
Delhi’s Ghazipur landfill, one of the four methane-filled simmering landfills in the Capital, is on the Waste Atlas 2014 list of 50 biggest dump sites in the world.
Since 1984, when the landfill became operational, it has collected around 14 million tonnes of trash, including household waste, construction waste, plastic and animal waste from the fish market and dairy nearby.
Last year, the Supreme Court had compared the height of the garbage dumps in the city to Qutub Minar, which stands at 72.5 metres. The height of the Ghazipur landfill was measured as 45 metres by the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) in 2016.
Atop the 71-acre dump, rag-pickers, many of them children, go around collecting every possible bit of recyclable material. An entire eco-system has been created around the landfill. At least 30 lakh people live within 10 km of the landfill and the nearest residential settlement is just 200 metres away. The landfill is not just polluting the local air and groundwater, but also poses a serious threat to Sanjay Lake, which is around 2.5 km away. The site also threatens the Yamuna, which is around 7 km away from Ghazipur.
Anumita Roychowdhury, the director (operations) at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said that these landfills crossed their longevity years ago.
“Getting more sites for landfills will not help because waste will be generated everyday and new landfills will also get exhausted someday. Plans need to be made around recycling our waste so that minimum waste goes to these sites,” she said, adding that Friday’s incident was most likely caused by heavy rain, which caused the piled garbage to collapse.