Gasping For Air As A Massive Delhi Landfill Burns In Ghazipur:
After nearly 48 hours, the fire at the Ghazipur landfill in New Delhi may be extinguished. What causes such areas to be prone to fires? On March 28, a fire broke out at the Ghazipur dump in New Delhi, and it took nearly 48 hours to put out, despite plumes of smoke rising from the mounds of waste.
On Wednesday, Environment Minister Gopal Rai said that the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) had been ordered to punish the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC), which manages the dump, Rs50 lakh.
Why Do Landfills Repeatedly Burn?
The Ghazipur dumpsite in East Delhi, which spans 70 acres, is not a scientifically designed sanitary landfill. According to the MoEFCC’s Solid Garbage Management Rules, only non-recyclable, non-biodegradable, and non-combustible waste should be disposed of in a sanitary landfill. “These landfills were not planned with science in mind.”
“We are not segregating the waste, and these dumps get mixed debris, including organic waste, ignitable material, and plastics,” said Richa Singh of the Centre for Science and Environment’s Waste Management Program. Biodegradable trash, such as food waste, decomposes over time.
The anaerobic decomposition of organic waste (the breakdown of organic waste in the absence of oxygen) produces methane gas and heat. “Methane is only found in trace amounts in the air. Methane levels at dumpsites, on the other hand, can range from 3.5 percent to 13 percent. The dumpsite can quickly catch fire if there is anything combustible present.
“At Dumpsites, Natural Fires Are Fairly Common,”Singh Remarked.
Waste should be crushed and covered with a thick soil cover in sanitary landfills. “Soil serves as a fire extinguisher by restricting the passage of oxygen needed for burning,” Singh explained.
“There is a lot of generation of methane and the temperatures are really high in Ghazipur because there is residual garbage from many years.” This could result in fires, according to a senior EDMC officer.
What Amount Of Waste Is Produced And Treated?
According to the Delhi Pollution Control Committee’s January progress report to the Ministry of Jal Shakti, the city generates roughly 11,119 TPD (tonnes per day) of municipal solid garbage. Existing municipal solid waste processing plants have a total capacity of only 5530 TPD or about 49.7% of total generation.
This capacity is similarly underutilized; in January, only 4,646 TPD of trash was processed, largely at the city’s waste-to-energy (WTE) plants. Small amounts are also handled at composting and bio-methanation facilities.
The EDMC area, which includes 64 wards, generates 2,700 TPD of municipal solid waste, of which only 0.6 percent, or 15 TPD, was processed in January when work on the 1,300 TPD waste-to-energy plant in Ghazipur was underway.
According to reports from August, September, and October of last year, the Ghazipur WTE plant processed just about 600 TPD of trash. According to an EDMC spokesperson, the plant is still being renovated. Biomining of garbage is to be carried out at the three non-engineered landfills at Ghazipur, Bhalswa, and Okhla, as per the NGT’s orders.
The EDMC’s action plan, which was filed to the NGT, established December 2024 as the timeframe for removing all waste from the dump.
Only 8.74 lakh tonnes, or 6.4 percent, of the 140 lakh tonnes of legacy (or old) rubbish placed at the facility in 2019 had been treated by January 31 this year. Every day, additional rubbish is added to the dump.
According to a 2019 report, the Ghazipur landfill contained the most legacy waste (140 lakh tonnes), followed by the Okhla landfill (60 lakh tonnes) and the Bhalswa dump (80 lakh tonnes).
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