Fires at Bhalswa landfill: Recommendations to control fires at landfills not being followed

In the past week when fires broke out at Bhalswa, there wasn’t a single fire tender at the site and the fire brigade had to be called.

Written by Mallica Joshi | New Delhi | Published:October 12, 2016 2:25 am
fire at bhalswa landfill, aap government, bjp, AAP, delhi pollution control, delhi news A scavenger covers his face as he walks near the part of Ghazipur landfill that caught fire last week. (express Photo: Oinam Anand)

When the capital’s biggest landfills, Bhalswa and Ghazipur, caught fire in April, Environment Minister Imran Hussain had tweeted that 15 fire tenders would be stationed at the Bhalswa landfill site round-the-clock. In the past week when fires broke out at Bhalswa, there wasn’t a single fire tender at the site and the fire brigade had to be called.

The fires in April, which came into the limelight as they were reported in the midst of the second odd-even road rationing scheme, raised enough eyebrows for a committee — comprising officials from the Delhi government’s Delhi Pollution Control Committee, transport department, revenue department and urban development department — to be set up. Permanent stationing of fire trucks at landfill sites was one of the recommendations made by the committee.

Six months later, as the city’s air quality starts to dip, the list of recommendations made by the committee have been ignored. Among these recommendations were long-term plans as well as small changes that could be implemented in a few day’s time, such as stationing fire trucks near the landfill sites. Hussain could not be contacted despite repeated attempts. The Indian Express conducted a spot check at the Bhalswa and Ghazipur landfill sites to review the status of the recommendations.

Bhalswa landfill site
Managed by: North Delhi Municipal Corporation
* Commissioned – 1994

* Recommendation: Installing a waste-to-energy plant to reclaim land and produce energy
* Status: A plan for building a plant is under consideration
* Recommendation: Installing compost plants for biodegradable waste
* Status: A functional compost plant was shut by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee in 2014 for flouting environmental norms. New plant not started
* Recommendation: Create a fire prevention plan
* Status: Employees at the site are unaware of any such plan
* Recommendation: A water tank with a booster system should be provided
* Status: Does not exist
* Recommendation: Fire tenders should be stationed permanently at the site
* Status: Fire tenders have to be called. Not stationed permanently
* Recommendation: Landfill site should be covered with inert material to stem fire
* Status: Officials at the site say 25 per cent of waste they get should be debris that they can use as a top layer to cover garbage. What they get, however, is about 10 per cent.
* Recommendation: Lechate treatment plant to be set up to treat toxic runoff from the waste
* Status: Corporation has asked for funds for the project under Swachh Bharat Mission
* Recommendation: A public address system should be installed to prevent unauthorised entry to landfill site
* Status: A public address system does not exist but officials have requested for funds from the Swachh Bharat Mission to build a 10 metre high wall to stop unauthorised entry.

PK Gupta, North Delhi Municipal Corporation commissioner, said, “There were a number of recommendations made and we hired consultants to look at the feasibility for each of those. There was a problem between the two consultants and we did not get a final report. The recommendations, though, are under consideration

Ghazipur landfill site
* Managed by: East Delhi Municipal Corporation
* Commissioned: 1984
* Recommendation: Increase the capacity of the existing 12 MW waste to energy plant or build one more
* Status: No progress yet
* Recommendation: Build compost plants for biodegradable waste
* Status: Under consideration
* Recommendation: Increase the capacity of the gas extraction plant installed by GAIL to catch methane
* Status: No progress yet
* Recommendation: Create a fire prevention plan
* Status: In place
* Recommendation: A water tank with a booster system should be provided

Status: Does not exist
* Recommendation: Fire tenders should be stationed permanently at the site
* Status: Fire tenders have to be called. Not stationed permanently
* Recommendation: Landfill site should be covered with inert material to stem fire
* Status: Workers cover garbage with debris. Instances of fire at Ghazipur are fewer than that at Bhalswa.
* Recommendation: Lechate treatment plant to be set up to treat toxic runoff from the waste
* Status: Under consideration
* Recommendation: A public address system should be installed to prevent unauthorised entry to landfill site
* Status: No such system exists

The East Delhi Municipal Corporation commissioner could not be reached for comments.

(With inputs from Naveed Iqbal)