New Delhi Health & Fitness Journal —
At the Bhalswa landfill site in north-west Delhi, a steady stream of jeeps zigzags up the rubbish heap to dump more rubbish into a pile now over 62 meters (203 feet) high.
Fires caused by heat and methane gas break out sporadically – the Delhi Fire Brigade has responded to 14 fires so far this year – and some deep beneath the pile can smolder for weeks or months while men, women and children work nearby and sift through the junk to find items to sell.
Some of Bhalswa’s 200,000 residents say the area is uninhabitable, but they cannot afford to move and have no choice but to breathe the toxic air and bathe in the contaminated water.
Bhalswa is not Delhi’s largest landfill. It’s about three meters lower than the largest, Ghazipur, and both contribute to the country’s total methane gas production.
Methane is the second most common greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, but it contributes more to the climate crisis because methane traps more heat. According to GHGSat, which monitors methane via satellites, India generates more methane from landfills than any other country.
And India ranks second to China in total methane emissions, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Global Methane Tracker.
As part of his Clean India initiative, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced efforts are being made to clean up these piles of rubbish and turn them into green zones. If met, that goal could alleviate the suffering of residents living in the shadows of these landfills — and help the world lower its greenhouse gas emissions.
India aims to reduce its methane emissions but has not joined the 130 countries that have signed the Global Methane Pledge, a pact to collectively cut global methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030 from 2020 levels. Scientists estimate the reduction could reduce global temperature rise by 0.2% – and help the world meet its goal of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
India says it won’t join because most of its methane emissions come from agriculture — about 74% from livestock and paddy fields versus less than 15% from landfills.
In a statement last year, Minister of State for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Ashwini Choubey said pledges to reduce India’s overall methane emissions could threaten farmers’ livelihoods and hurt India’s trade and economic prospects.
But it also faces challenges in reducing methane from its steaming piles of garbage.
When Narayan Choudhary, 72, moved to Bhalswa in 1982, he said it was a “beautiful place,” but that all changed 12 years later when the first garbage arrived at the local landfill.
In recent years, the Bhalswa Garbage Dump has grown almost as tall as the historic Taj Mahal, becoming a landmark in its own right and an eyesore in its own right, towering over the surrounding homes and affecting the health of the people who live there.
Choudhary suffers from chronic asthma. He said he nearly died when a large fire broke out in Bhalswa in April that burned for days. “I was in terrible shape. My face and nose were swollen. I was on my deathbed,” he said.
“Two years ago we protested…many residents of this area protested (to get rid of the rubbish),” Choudhary said. “But the community didn’t cooperate with us. They have assured us that things will get better in two years, but here we are, without relief.”
According to a 2020 report by the Center for Science and Environment (CSE), a non-profit research agency in New Delhi, on India’s landfills, the landfill capacity was exhausted in 2002, but without government standardization of recycling systems and major industry efforts to address it Reducing plastic consumption and production Tons of waste continue to arrive at the site every day.
Bhalswa isn’t the only landfill causing distress to nearby residents — it’s one of three landfills in Delhi that’s overflowing with rotting garbage and releasing toxic gases into the air.
There are more than 3,100 landfills across the country. Ghazipur is the largest in Delhi at 65 meters (213 feet) and like Bhalswa exceeded its waste capacity in 2002 and is currently producing huge amounts of methane.
According to GHGSat, more than two tons of methane gas escaped from the site every hour on a single day in March.
“If the methane leak from this landfill continues for a year, it would have the same climate impact as the annual emissions from 350,000 US cars,” said Stephane Germain, CEO of GHGSat.
Methane emissions aren’t the only hazard posed by landfills like Bhalswa and Ghazipur. For decades, dangerous toxins have seeped into the ground, contaminating the water supply for thousands of nearby residents.
In May, Health & Fitness Journal commissioned two accredited laboratories to test groundwater around the Bhalswa landfill. And according to the results, groundwater within at least 500 meters (1,600 feet) of the landfill is contaminated.
In the first laboratory report, the ammonia and sulphate levels were well above the acceptable limits prescribed by the Indian government.
The results of the second laboratory report showed that the total dissolved solids (TDS) – the amount of inorganic salts and organic matter dissolved in the water – in one of the samples was nearly 19 times the acceptable limit, making it unsafe for humans .
The Bureau of Indian Standards sets the acceptable limit of TDS at 500 milligrams/litre, a figure roughly considered “good” by the World Health Organization (WHO). Anything over 900 mg/l is considered “bad” by the WHO, and over 1,200 mg/l is “unacceptable”.
According to Richa Singh of the Center for Science and Environment (CSE), the TDS of the water sampled near the Bhalswa site was between 3,000 and 4,000 mg/L. “This water is not only unsuitable for drinking, but also not for skin contact,” she said. “So it can’t be used for purposes like bathing or cleaning utensils or cleaning clothes.”
dr Nitesh Rohatgi, senior director of medical oncology at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, urged the government to study the health of the local population and compare it to other neighborhoods, “so that in 15 to 20 years, we don’t look back and regret that we had higher cancer incidence, higher health threats, higher health problems and we didn’t look back and correct them in time.”
Most people in Bhalswa rely on bottled water for drinking, but they use local water for other purposes – many say they have no choice.
“The water we get is contaminated, but we have to helplessly store it and use it for washing utensils, for bathing and sometimes for drinking,” said resident Sonia Bibi, whose legs are covered with a thick, red rash.
Jwala Prashad, 87, who lives in a small shack in an alley near the dump, said the pile of putrid rubbish “made his life hell”.
“The water we use is pale red in colour. My skin burns after bathing,” he said as he tried to soothe the red sores on his face and neck.
“But I can’t afford to ever leave this place,” he added.
More than 2,300 tonnes of MSW arrive at Delhi’s largest landfill in Ghazipur every day, according to a report released in July by a joint committee formed to find a way to count the number of fires at the site to reduce.
That’s the bulk of the garbage from the surrounding area — only 300 tonnes is processed and disposed of elsewhere, the report says. And less than 7% of the contaminated sites have been biodegraded, which involves digging up, treating and potentially reusing old waste.
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi uses drones every three months to monitor the size of the dump and is experimenting with ways to extract methane from the dump, the report said.
But too much garbage arrives every day to keep up. The committee said bio-mining had been “slow and belated” and that it was “highly unlikely” that East Delhi Municipal Corporation (now merged with North and South Delhi Municipal Corporations) would achieve its goal of “flattening the garbage mountain.” “. 2024
“No effective plans have been made to reduce the height of the garbage heap,” the report said. In addition, “it should have suggested long ago that future dumping of garbage in them would pollute groundwater systems,” the report added.
Health & Fitness Journal sent a series of questions to the Indian Ministries of Environment and Health along with the data from the water testing questionnaire. There is no reaction from the ministries.
In a 2019 report, the Indian government recommended ways to improve the country’s waste management, including formalizing the recycling sector and installing more composting facilities in the country.
Although some improvements have been made, such as Such as better door-to-door garbage collection and waste processing, Delhi landfills continue to accumulate waste.
In October, the National Green Tribunal fined the state government more than $100 million for failing to dispose of more than 30 million tons of waste at its three landfills.
“The problem is that Delhi doesn’t have a concrete solid waste action plan,” said Singh of the CSE. “So we’re talking about landfill remediation and legacy treatment here, but think about the fresh waste that’s generated on a regular basis. All of that gets thrown into these landfills every day.”
“(So) let’s say you treat 1,000 tons of legacy (waste) and then dispose of 2,000 tons of fresh waste every day, that becomes a vicious cycle. It will be a never-ending process,” Singh said.
“Management of legacy assets is of course mandated by the government and is very, very important. But you just can’t start the process without having an alternative fresh waste facility. So that is the biggest challenge.”