As Delhi's Bhalswa Landfill Burns, Know Why it is Lethal and Reason Behind Frequent Fires in These 'Garbage Mountains'
As Delhi's Bhalswa Landfill Burns, Know Why it is Lethal and Reason Behind Frequent Fires in These 'Garbage Mountains'
Though fires in landfill sites are very common, authorities have been ignoring the threats from these garbage mountains for long

A massive fire broke out at the Bhalswa landfill site in north Delhi on Tuesday. The fire department received information about the blaze around 5.47 pm following which 10 fire tenders were rushed to the spot.

So far, it is not yet known whether the fire was caused by methane generation or some human activity, according to officials. A senior north municipal corporation said efforts to douse the fire were on till late in the night and the corporation has deployed excavators to dump the sand on the origin of the fire.

Environment Minister Gopal Rai on Tuesday asked the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to submit a report on the Bhalswa landfill fire within 24 hours.

There are three major landfills in the capital- Ghazipur, Okhla and Bhalswa. While fire incidents have been common in these landfills, so far the authorities haven’t been able to come to a common ground on these landfills.

Recent Fire at Ghazipur Landfill

Earlier this year in March, a massive fire broke out at the dumping yard of east Delhi’s Ghazipur area on March 28 leading to a huge cloud of smoke enveloping the region and neighbouring areas. A thick blanket of smoke was seen at a section of the dumping yard, where the fire broke out.

However, even 24 hours after the incident, the fire continued to rage in some parts of the area despite more than 90 firefighters working to douse the fire.

Fires in Landfill ‘Very Frequent’

While the fire in March at Ghazipur landfill was a major one, there was another fire on April 20, which was the second in a month.

In November 2020, another fire on Ghazipur landfill took the capital’s Air Quality Index to dangerous levels. Barely three days after fire in Ghazipur, a section of Bhalaswa landfill caught fire.

A major fire broke in Ghazipur landfill was also reported in October 2017.

Toxins from Such Fires Can be Lethal

The sudden spike in the levels of toxins entering the air can be extremely harmful to all those who inhale it. According to Dr Arvind Kumar at New Delhi’s Ganga Ram Hospital, the sudden rise in the levels of particulate matter and the toxic gas just in the area is very damaging.

A longer exposure of these toxins can damage people’s lungs and also damage all the organs when it is absorbed by the body. In pregnant women, it could affect the foetuses.

Pollution after such fire in landfills could lead to an increase in the incidence of asthma, heart disease, brain disease, and casualties few days after the fire.

Landfills: A Live Bomb?

The presence of landfill can be dangerous and a fire more disastrous, here’s why?

According to a report in The Quint, when the garbage in a landfill gets fermented under a very high temperature and pressure, it produces methane, which is an inflammable gas.

So, when the day temperatures in Delhi touches 40 degrees during the daytime, the methane in these landfills is a recipe for fire.

When there are efforts to douse the fire, there are always chances of fire extinguishing at one place and lighting up at another.

And the smoke from the landfill, far more lethal than other sources, contain particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and volatile organic compounds, among other things.

What has Courts, Authorities Said

In 2019, the Supreme Court had pulled up the Lieutenant-Governor Anil Baijal for not taking appropriate action to tackle the “mountains of garbage” in Delhi, and added the landfill sites in Delhi were a grave issue.

Last week, the National Green Tribunal noted that the dump sites in Delhi and other cities are like time bombs and took serious note of the recent fire incidents. It also constituted a Joint Committee headed by Justice SP Garg, former Judge of the Delhi HC with members from Central Pollution Control Board, according to a report in Live Law.

Meanwhile, the AAP and the BJP have for long been engaged in war of words on the issue. AAP had blamed the BJP-led municipal corporation for the negligence behind the landfills, while the saffron party blames the AAP government.

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