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3 landfills have caused environmental damage in Delhi worth 450 cr| Latest News Delhi

3 landfills have caused environmental damage in Delhi worth 450 cr| Latest News Delhi

The three Delhi landfill sites Bhalswa (Okhla), Ghazipur (Ghazipur) have all cost more than $800. According to a report by a team if experts, there has been a staggering 450 crores of environmental degradation in the capital and no significant progress in reducing the millions of tonnes of waste at these sites. This was according to a January 2013 study submitted to the National Green Tribunal.

The damage caused by Bhalswa was assessed by experts from the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Central Pollution Control Board, and IIT-Delhi. Okhla caused environmental damage to the tune of 155.9 million. Ghazipur and 151.1 crore have caused an environmental damage of 142.5 crore. To calculate the environmental damage, experts looked at factors such as leachate generation over time, legacy waste accumulated in landfills, and violations of solid waste management rules.

The Bhalswa landfill site was built in 1994. It has accumulated 8,000,000 tonnes of legacy waste and the site reached its limit in 2006. The Okhla landfill site was commissioned by the city in 1994. It currently holds 6,000,000 tonnes of legacy waste and has exhausted its capacity in 2010. Ghazipur, Delhi’s oldest site, was commissioned in 1984 and has already accumulated 14 million tonnes of legacy trash. Following an order by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the three municipal corporations began performing bio-mining, and bio-remediation. Despite the continued dumping, clearing inert legacy material has been slow.

Leachate polluting groundwater

High levels of chemical oxygen need (COD) and iron (Fe) were found in groundwater at all three locations. This could be due to leachate. The surface water body (Bhalswa Lake) contained chlorides, total dissolved solids (TDS), and total soluble substances (TSS). This may have been due to leachate at the dumpsite, as the committee had stated in its groundwater analysis.

The report stated that Leachate could be found as far as 3 to 5-kilometres from Ghazipur. There were also high COD values reported at Sanjay Lake.

COD is a measure of the amount oxygen that can be consumed from reactions in a measured system. COD is most commonly used to measure the concentration of oxidizable contaminants in surface water (lakes, rivers) and wastewater.

Even a small amount can pollute groundwater and surface water, making it unfit to be consumed. These leachates, as well as heavy metals, can eventually get into the food chain and, in the long-term, can cause damage to natural and human resource, according to the study.

All around are airborne pollutants

These landfills are also a significant source of pollution. Strong winds and strong chemicals can make contaminants travel as far as 5km away from the sites. Even when the landfill isn’t burning, these landfills are a source of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and oxides of nitrogen or sulphur, toxic chemicals and furans, unburnt hydrocarbons and, most importantly, methane. Methane absorbs the sun’s rays at 84 times the rate of carbon dioxide.

Experts have stated that the air quality in these areas is the worst.

Although the NGT-formed expert panel was unable to establish a direct correlation between pollution within a 5-km radius from the dumpsite and the activities that occur there, these landfill fires are often viewed as having an impact on air quality at the nearest ambient quality monitoring stations.

After Tuesday’s fire at Bhalswa caused by the landfill, the hourly PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations rose to almost 9-10 times the safe limit in the early hours Wednesday morning at Jahangirpuri, the nearest station to this site and less than 5km from the landfill.

Official data shows that the 13 Delhi pollution hotspots also include the nearest ambient air quality monitoring stations to these sites. Jahangirpuri station lies closest to Bhalswa. Anand Vihar station can be found near Ghazipur. The Okhla Phase II station can be found near Okhla landfill site. All three locations are included in the Delhi Pollution Control Committee’s list of pollution hotspots.

Anumita Rajchowdhury, the Centre for Science and Environment’s executive director for research and advocacy, said that even when the landfills don’t catch fire, they still release pollutants to the air. She said that the data from these ambient quality monitoring stations is clear and shows that waste management is an important part of tackling air pollution.

Richa Singh (CSE), programme officer Waste Management Programme, stated that they would not call the three sites landfills as they do not have a proper leachate system or gas sucking system. She also explained that these dump sites were built without proper planning and are continuously threatening the environment.

These major fires are being recorded, but the landfill sites are still burning almost all year, with minor fires or occasional smoke erupting from one corner. This is a process where mixed waste is caught fire, which releases dioxins as well as furans and polyaromatic Hydrocarbons, both of which are carcinogenic. She stated that there are long-term health consequences, including breathing problems, for those who regularly inhale such air near landfill sites.

Dipankar Saha, a former head of CPCB’s air laboratory, stated that landfill sites are much warmer because they release large amounts of greenhouse gases like CO2 and methane. Although there is a lot happening at landfill sites naturally, such as the release dioxins or furans, the greenhouse gases make them more dangerous. They are a problem throughout the country, he stated, adding that long-term planning is needed to eliminate these dump sites.

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