Two people were killed and four vehicles fell into a drain after a part of a landfill site collapsed in Delhi’s Ghazipur area in 2017. The landfill site, commissioned in 1984 and overflowing since 2002, exceeded its capacity at least a decade ago but garbage continued to be dumped here in the absence of any alternate option. At the last count in 2019, the landfill had crossed 65 metres (213 feet), just eight metres short of the iconic Qutub Minar, which is 73 metres high. The Ghazipur landfill site rises by nearly 10 metres a year and was expected to surpass the height of Qutub Minar and other vertical structures in the country.
On the contrary, the landfill site has reduced in height in the past several months. East Delhi Member of Parliament Gautam Gambhir Thursday claimed in a tweet: “Had promised that if I don’t deliver, I will never contest elections again. Asia’s largest garbage mountain in Ghazipur East Delhi down by 40 feet in 1 year!”
हिम्मत और मेहनत बड़े से बड़े पहाड़ को भी हिला सकती है
Had promised that f I don’t deliver, I will never contest elections again. Asia’s largest garbage mountain in Ghazipur East Delhi down by 40 feet in 1 year! pic.twitter.com/NFf6Ksz9lC
— Gautam Gambhir (@GautamGambhir) July 23, 2020
How has the height of the landfill reduced?
Over 140 lakh tonnes of waste collected since 1984 lie in the Ghazipur landfill leading to hazardous living conditions with toxic air, contaminated water for people living in nearby areas like Kaushambi, Khoda, Gharoli, Kalyanpuri, Ghazipur and Kondli.
In October 2019, the EDMC began using trommel machine-cum-ballistic separators, which are mechanical screening machines used to separate solid-waste and inert materials. Currently, eight such machines with a combined capacity of 1,200 tonne per day are segregating and lifting waste from the site. These trommels have processed 13,0000 MT of wastes till date.
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What happens to the waste after segregation by these machines?
The trommel machine divides waste into three parts: construction and demolition wastes; plastic and combustible wastes for use as fuel, and enriched soil and inert, which is around 50 per cent. Around 15 per cent of the waste is used as Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) and sent to energy plants in Ghazipur for producing electricity. Nearly 20 per cent waste is sent to construction and demolition waste plants of EDMC for making bricks, tiles and sand.
While soil-like material, which comprises over half of the waste derived, is sent to NTPC’s eco-park where so far 8,000 tonnes of waste has been sent. The remaining waste was sent to parks of EDMC.
How has the height reduced when 2500 MT of waste is dumped every day, and only 8,000 MT is processed per day?
The answer lies in geography and not mathematics. The corporation dumped waste in the adjoining areas of the 70 acre landfill site as the operation to lessen the height of the landfill continued.
East Corporation spokesperson Arun Kumar said, “The first stage of clearing the landfill sites involves that the height has to be reduced because that is dangerous and can lead to cave-in or collapse of a portion that has caused accidents in the past.” The nearby part of the site where a lot of garbage lie dumped has also reached 25 feet. The target is to reach 2,400 MT capacity per with six more machines. “But the same method will not be replicated in the second stage because then the size will keep increasing, though at a slower rate,” he said.
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Can the landfill be permanently removed?
Theoretically yes, but practically challenging given that 2500 mt tonnes waste is dumped at the landfill site every day. The answer lies in segregation of waste and use of technology to set up plants for further segregation and transportation. Currently, there is hardly any colony where segregation happens, which makes producing electricity and making compost and gas more challenging from waste. For instance, only biodegradable elements are needed for making gas and only non-bio degradable things for making electricity. “Today what looks easy is also because a lot of waste is very legacy waste which is very old so a lot of moisture has gone and become soil with passage of time, but the same cannot be done with fresh waste,” said Kumar. These wastes if recycled at home can easily be sent to different facilities for composting, power production and other uses. And if rotten or mixed with metal or other dirt becomes useless.
What are other challenges before EDMC?
The perception that the recycled materials are of inferior quality has led to several recycled items such as sand, stones, bricks and tiles lying unused at its plant causing losses. Even some government agencies have backed out from purchasing recycled materials for road construction. “We have disposed of the soils at NTPC plant, but in future we need to see who takes so much waste,” said chief engineer of EDMC, P K Khandelwal.
In the second stage, the EDMC plans to increase the number if trommel machines and set up an integrated waste processing plant with a capacity of 2000 metric tonnes of separation per day. But there is also opposition from locals and activists against the proposed facility that has to come up at Ghonda Gujran in north-east Delhi. The argument is that it could destroy the aquifers present in the river’s flood plains
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