THE city woke up to a heavy smog cover in the eastern and central suburbs Thursday owing to a fire at the Deonar dumping ground. Other parts of the city too witnessed smog due to the lowering of temperatures in the past two days.
The minimum temperature recorded in the city was 14 degrees Celsius Thursday, which is 4-5 degrees below normal. An IMD official explained that for the past two days, the winds blowing into the city were westerly, from the Arabian Sea, resulting in an increase in moisture. Overall, the Air Quality Index of the city too remained poor. The smog in many parts was aggravated by the fire at the dumping ground.
“There are small fires in some parts of the dumping ground frequently because of the heat emitted by the garbage. This time, the fire seems bigger and spread to many parts inside the ground,” said Rubaiya Khan, a resident of Rafi Nagar, a locality at the edge of the dumping ground in Deonar. Khan works with her husband inside the dumping ground. Other residents said the fire began Wednesday night and the fire brigade came only in the morning. A fire brigade official said efforts were still under way to douse the fire.
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“A call was received by the control room at 12.58 pm. Five fire engines and four jumbo tankers have been pressed into action,” said the official, adding fire engines had difficulty reaching the spot as the road is steep and there is no clear pathway till the middle of the ground where the fire took place. “During a fire, the smoke formed due to the burning of toxic waste like plastic worsens the pollution level. Most people in the area suffer from respiratory ailments on a regular basis, especially children who are most vulnerable,” said Ehsan, another resident of Rafi Nagar.
The Deonar dumping ground is spread across 132 hectares and receives 4,000-6,000 tonnes of waste from the city daily. A dispute between the contractor handling the dumping ground, United Phosphorus Limited, has led to the BMC ending their contract with them. The company was to handle the dumping ground through scientific processing of the waste, its management and landfilling of the ground.
A BMC official said there was no progress on the processing of the waste at all.
Prakash Patil, deputy municipal commissioner in-charge of solid waste management, said currently only waste management is being conducted at the dumping ground. “We will have to begin the process for the contract and the scientific processing will at least take two years after that,” he said.