The Ghazipur landfill is easy to spot. Garbage is piled in mounds that seem to reach the sky. Thousands of scavenging birds circle above and the noxious odour of decomposing garbage fills the air. This is where the trash collected during Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi’s national sanitation drive on Thursday, was deposited. But from here, the piles of garbage have nowhere to go.
Ghazipur which reached its capacity 10 years ago, continues to receive trash from Central Delhi’s government offices and ministerial residences. In the past month, every time ministers and police officers picked up the broom this is where the trash they collected has turned up.
Dumping of garbage in the landfill was banned five years ago by Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC). But the East Municipal Corporation says they have no other option. “Until we find another dumping ground, we will have to keep depositing garbage here,” a corporation official said.
The corporation claims the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has not provided it land, despite a Supreme Court order in 2000 directing it to do so.
The Ghazipur landfill needs another 150 acres of land to expand. But the DDA says land of the scale required is virtually impossible to find.
The government had found 22 alternative sites. However, residents and environmentalists opposed 14 locations as they were near water recharge zones, Yamuna river and agricultural land.
Meanwhile, of the 9,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste generated everyday, over 2,500 tonnes continues to turn up at Ghazipur. Hazardous waste, decomposing organic matter, broken bricks and metal are dumped without being segregated.
As a result, air, water and soil pollution is rampant. “ The landfill isn’t covered, so rain water forms leachate and contaminates groundwater around the area,” a DPCC official said.
On the other hand, Delhi’s inability to segregate waste has turned out to be a source of livelihood for hundreds of manual scavengers.
Braving diseases, men, women and children step over discarded stray metal and open fires to sift through the refuse.
“Often, we find little things like watches and phones that can be repaired and sold,” Ramsha (32) said.
There are others who look only for brick and concrete as it is in high demand due to the real estate boom in nearby areas of Ghaziabad and Noida.
“These are heavier to carry and the work is dangerous. Sometimes, metal pieces sticking out from the refuse injure us,” Devender Kumar, a rag picker, said.
Residents have complained of not just the overpowering stench, but of health diseases and polluted water.
Officials have said a solution will be reached soon.
Until then, garbage continues to pile up and the small group of rag pickers continue to sift through the refuse.
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