A landfill site is a place where a pile of garbage takes the form of a mountain. These garbage heaps are collected in one place so that they can be treated and used again. If work is done on this pattern then both the economy and the environment remain healthy, but if there is even a slight negligence in this pattern, then both the environment and the economy get destroyed.
A massive fire broke out at the Bhalswa landfill in the capital Delhi on 26 April. The nature of the fire was so massive that the smoke coming out of it filled the houses, traffic was disrupted and people started having problems in breathing. After this the local people lodged an FIR. The Delhi government has asked the Delhi Pollution Control Board to impose a fine of Rs 50 lakh on the North Delhi government body.
Can this problem be solved by its immediate solution? Or should a long-term solution be tried?
According to me, we should move towards a long-term solution to this problem. Before looking for its solution, we have to first look at the causes of this problem. Because there is a huge pile of garbage in the landfill. Methane gas also keeps coming out of this garbage heap. Methane gas is a very flammable gas. Therefore, if a small fire catches in the landfill, then gradually this gas gives it a formidable form. Now if we look for the sources of fire in the landfill, we find that the waste pickers or other passers-by often throw burning beedis, cigarette or lit match sticks in this heap. Due to this, this pile starts smoldering and with the help of other smoldering factors, it turns into a huge fire. These triggering factors are flammable chemicals found in various equipment.
Another reason for this fire can also be a heat wave. Their numbers increase further during the summer. For example, this year, the Ghazipur landfill in Delhi caught fire on 28 March, Chandigarh’s Dadumajra landfill caught fire on 15 April and the Perungudi dump yard in Chennai on 27 April.
It is also very difficult to put out the fire in the landfill. In fact, the landfill occupies a large area. Therefore, fire also starts in a big place, as well as it starts at different places of the same heap, then it becomes more difficult to extinguish it. Apart from this, the availability of stable water supply to extinguish it is also not ensured. Since it is not completely solid, there is a risk of it collapsing. That’s why it has to be extinguished with extra caution.
If we talk about the problems caused by this fire, then most of all it harms the environment. This also increases the emission of greenhouse gases. It also adversely affects our health. This causes irritation in the eyes, difficulty in breathing and a stuffy throat. It also has many social implications. For example, it obstructs traffic and due to this, children’s schools have to be closed.
If we explore the human and technical aspects of the frequency of landfill fires, we find that today the demand for plastic has increased significantly. This also increased the plastic waste. Apart from this, there is also a lot of corruption in the system managing the landfill. The employees and officers of this body keep collusion with the garbage mafia. Due to this the waste is not treated on time and the heap keeps on increasing. Apart from this, the number of solid waste
management plants in India is also very less. Their number is only 1604. This is insufficient to dispose of the garbage generated by the large population of India.
Now if we talk about the aspects of resolving the landfill fire, first of all our government has to punish those corrupt officials who allow them to grow by colluding with the garbage mafia. This will create a perception among the local body employees and officials that if we do anything wrong, the system will not leave us! State governments will also have to increase the finances of local bodies so that these bodies can manage waste in a proper manner.
Apart from this, different state governments will also have to learn from each other’s best practices. There is a dearth of trained and skilled professionals in solid waste management in India which further complicates the path of healthy treatment of waste. Local bodies should also strictly implement the new rules of solid waste management. Apart from this, there will also be an emphasis on circular economy which emphasizes on recycling and reusing one-time items.