The five trucks of garbage that arrived at Rani Khera — the “temporary” dumping site for the garbage that east Delhi produces — on Sunday morning were met with protests from residents of the area and an AAP MLA seeking an appointment with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal over the issue.
A day after Rani Khera was deemed the alternate site for dumping waste, the trucks — carrying about 2,500 metric tonnes of garbage — kept standing there, with no other place for it to be dumped.
On Saturday, the Lieutenant Governor (LG) had closed down the Ghazipur and Bhalswa landfills, against the backdrop of two deaths at the former site.
The trucks had arrived at the site in Rani Khera, near the Delhi-Haryana border, early morning. Almost immediately, the stench caught the attention of villagers and residents of nearby colonies, and they rushed to the area. They demanded that the garbage, including an animal carcass, be taken back to Ghazipur.
Although police arrived soon after, public outrage forced them to send two trucks back, purportedly to the waste-to-energy plant at Ghazipur, something the EDMC couldn’t confirm. A little while later, three more trucks began their wait near the site as residents maintained that they would “rather die” than allow the garbage to be dumped there, and began a night-long vigil to ensure this. A panchayat was held in the nearby village in the morning that unanimously declared that dumping will not be allowed, a decision echoed by the RWA of the adjacent Yogiraj Puram colony.
The land, residents explained, was initially meant for agricultural purposes but was acquired by the DDA in 2006-07 to build residential colonies of Rohini sector 40-41.
On Sunday, residents also punctured claims that 30 acres were available in the area that is surrounded by 18 colonies and at least 10 villages. They claimed merely 3.5 acres was available, and that too a lush green space with 200 trees. “Those colonies that the DDA had planned never came up. Instead, they are making this a dumping ground. It’s just three acres of land. Why have they claimed it is 30 acres? Are they planning to acquire land from the nearby villages and colonies too?” asked Rajesh Dabas, a farmer from Rani Khera Village. Others said that with lack of basic amenities in the area, “clean, fresh air” is all they have.
“I have been staying here for 17 years. There’s no dispensary in our colony, no schools, hospitals or other facilities. We are already struggling. The only thing we have is clean fresh air, that too because the villagers planted trees. Now that will also be snatched away from us,” said Prem Sheela, from Yogiraj Puram colony.
North MCD mayor Preety Agarwal met the LG after the protests. She said, “I told him about the protests. He assured us that the area will only be used for dumping waste temporarily for a week and that he would ensure that land is allotted for a modern landfill.” Agarwal added that it had been decided not to dump animal carcasses at the site and that they would speak to the residents again on Monday.
Meanwhile, Sukhbir Singh Dalal, the AAP MLA from Mundka, said he was unaware of the development, while reiterating that he opposed it. He arrived at the site at 3 pm and said, “I had no idea about this. I was in Rohtak when I got a call from some villagers. I immediately rushed here. I am with the people on this; a dumping ground cannot be allowed here.” He added that he will meet Kejriwal on Monday and that he has also sought a meeting with the LG. “I am hopeful that Kejriwal ji will understand and resolve the issue, because this is about the residents’ right to life,” he added.