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Delhi: Why landfill expansion is easier said than done

Most of the landfills are operating beyond capacity and Delhi needs new ones, but there are difficulties in acquisition and changing land use as well as opposition from residents. There is a shortage of more than 1,500 acres to effectively treat and dispose of the waste generated.

Written by Naveed Iqbal | New Delhi |
Updated: October 13, 2019 5:00:21 pm
ghazipur 759 Delhi produces 9,000 metric tonnes of garbage every day. Of the 20 Sanitary Landfill Sites developed since 1975, 15 have been closed and work suspended at two. (Express photo by Oinam Anand)

The three civic bodies have been looking for alternative locations for proposed landfill sites to deal with the volume of garbage being produced by the city. However, difficulties in acquisition and changing land use as well as opposition from residents of areas where the landfills are proposed have led to stalling of expansion plans.

Till a few years ago, on an average, the East Delhi Municipal Corporation removed 1,600 metric tonnes of garbage every day; the North corporation 2,800 metric tonnes; and the South corporation 1,200 metric tonnes.

The figures went up to 2,400 metric tonnes for the East corporation, 3000 metric tonnes for the North corporation and 2,400 metric tonnes for the South civic body after the announcement of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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Read | At half the height of Qutub Minar, meet Delhi’s garbage high-rises 

The North MCD has been looking at land in Sultanpur Dabbas (100 acres), Pooth Khurd (150 acres), near Hamidpur village (27.5 acres), near Palla village (42.5 acres), and Haryana border (62.5 acres) to start new landfills.

At Sultanpur, villagers refused to entertain the possibility of creating a compost site, fearing the stench it would produce. “The villagers protested, stating they did not want the city’s garbage,” says an engineer with the civic body.

The East corporation has been looking at sites in Sonia Vihar, Wazirabad, Shastri Park, Yamuna Vihar and other areas.

Read | Delhi: Waste-to-energy plants face opposition from people in vicinity

In Ghazipur, the landfill has crossed permissible limits and is a major worry for people living in adjoining areas. Fires keep the area covered in dense smog during summer. During monsoons, the landfill is a fertile breeding ground for mosquitoes, the residents complain.

When the South corporation sought additional land in Okhla, two sites ran into legal trouble between agencies. “In one case, the DDA had allotted the land to CCI and then to claim the land back, a court case ensued. Similarly, for the second site, it had been approved for a flat development plan but converting its land use became a fresh dispute,” says an engineer with the corporation.

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There is also what civic officials describe as the “not-in-my-backyard” syndrome. “If officials allot a plot of land in an area, local politics may prevent the construction of the landfill because they look at it from the electorate’s point of view,” says a senior official.

Additionally, the MCDs have set up facilities for processing 500 tonnes per  day of construction and demolition waste, which comprises around 20 to 30  per cent of the Municipal Solid Waste  being generated in the city. There is a  proposal to set up two more plants for  this purpose.

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