NEW DELHI: After staying dormant for several months, the Bhalswa landfill got reignited on Sunday. At a time when the Graded Response Action Plan is in force in Delhi-NCR and various agencies are purportedly cracking down on the sources of air pollution, Bhalswa remains more than just an eyesore, pumping thick plumes of smoke and carcinogenic toxins into Delhi’s air. The fire, which started on Sunday afternoon, continued till into the night. At 5pm, when TOI visited the site, a large section of the landfill towards Jahangirpuri was still ablaze and the smoke was visible from several kilometres away on GT Karnal Road.
Track the pollution level in your city
Varsha Joshi, commissioner of North Delhi Municipal Corporation, told TOI: “A team from the civic body is on the job and the fire will be put out within a couple of hours. It’s a difficult spot to reach because of the steep slope, or else the fire would have been controlled long before it became visible.”
Delhi produces around 10,000MT of garbage every day, a majority of which is dumped at the Bhalswa, Ghazipur and Okhla landfills, which have exhausted their capacity way back. The mountains of waste produce combustible methane gas, which often catches fire. The toxic fumes thus generated are a poisonous cocktail of particulate matter mixed with carbon-dioxide, carbon-monoxide, hydrogen-sulphide, carcinogenic dioxins and furans. “The Bhalswa landfill was exhausted in 2007 itself, but dumping of waste continues as no alternative site has been allotted to us,” a north corporation official said.
In fact, it was exactly a year ago that a fire had erupted at this landfill and raged on for four days. However, the number of fires at Bhalswa had come down significantly in the last few months ever since the corporation started work on slope stabilisation towards Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar. But the other side remains difficult to reach. A fire department official confirmed Joshi’s assertion that the terrain was tough to negotiate. “The steep vertical surface makes these sites almost inaccessible. The sources of these fires are 10-20m below the surface. Using water only aggravates the problem as it affects the landfill’s stability,” the official said.
The civic bodies are currently undertaking a Rs 250-crore project for bio-mining and bio-remediation of the three landfill sites with the ultimate goal of flattening the mounds. North corporation will install a fourth trammel machine near Bhalswa landfill on Monday. The latest fire only highlights the need to expedite the project.