A fire broke out at the Ghazipur landfill site Tuesday night, burning for almost 24 hours before firefighters could bring in under control. This comes even as the capital’s air quality worsened to severe on Wednesday.
A call was received around 10 pm Tuesday about the fire. Delhi Fire Service Chief Atul Garg said, “Firemen have been at the landfill for more than 18 hours. To control air pollution, eight tenders are still at the spot dousing the blaze and conducting a cooling process.”
According to a senior fire official, a part of the landfill was gutted at night and the fire soon spread to other parts but there was no damage to life or property. “Since the fire and smoke caused damage to the environment and health, a case has been registered against unknown persons to investigate the cause behind it,” said a senior police officer.
Since Tuesday night, air quality monitoring stations of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee close to landfill at Patparganj and Anand Vihar have recorded high concentrations of pollutants. At Patparganj, concentration of PM2.5 and PM 10 — fine particles suspended in the air — peaked at 420 µg/m3 and 600 µg/m3 at midnight before reducing, but still remained above the acceptable limits.
The 24-hour exposure limit of PM2.5 is 60 µg/m3 and PM10 is 100 µg/m3. The air quality index (AQI) at the two stations has been very poor to severe since Tuesday. As of 7 pm on Wednesday, both stations were in the severe range. Though both stations have recorded high pollution levels earlier this month, the fire would have increased concentration of pollutants in the area, said a senior official.
Commissioned in 1984, the landfill site reached its capacity in 2002. However, in the absence of any alternate option, garbage continues to be dumped here. Presently, an exercise to reduce the height of landfill with the help of tromell machines is being carried out at the site.
A senior official in East MCD said though the exact reason for the fire is not known, there are chances ragpickers in the area could have thrown a combustible material like a bidi or a cigarette. “The landfill is filled with plastic which is highly combustible, and presence of methane in small quantities can’t be ruled out as well. So any igniting material that comes into contact with these can lead to a fire. However, methane self ignites at a very high temperature of 60-70 degree Celsius. Fires due to this occur when the temperature inside the heap is very high, which is less likely in winters.”
The incident also saw AAP and BJP engaging in a political blame game, with AAP leader Durgesh Pathak accusing BJP leaders of setting the landfill on fire to defame the Arvind Kejriwal government — a charge denied by the BJP.
Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor said Pathak’s statement “speaks volumes of his political conduct”.
“EDMC’s political leadership has been working hard to decrease the height of the garbage dump and the same has been showing results during the last one year,” said Kapoor.
(With inputs from Shivam Patel & Jignasa Sinha)
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