Solution is to break the garbage in, garbage out cycle
When our consumption is 21st century style but our waste disposal pre-modern, that’s a recipe for getting sick. A majority of the 10,000MT of garbage that Delhi produces every day, ends up in the waste mountains of Ghazipur, Bhalswa and Okhla – which were commissioned in 1984, 1994 and 1996 respectively and have all long exhausted their technical lifespan.
But alternatives still haven’t moved much farther from the debate stage and drawing board, so that every morning our leftover veggies, Amazon wrappings, fizzy drink bottles, empty Maggie packets, dead cell batteries, aluminum foil, broken watches and chappals, diapers for the youngest and the oldest, syringes … the abundant detritus of busy lives makes its way to these smoldering, stinking urban mountains.
Think about how lifestyles have metamorphosed beyond recognition since the eighties or nineties. To take a telling example, our electricity bills, alarm clock, tax records, calendar, books, CDs, TV, VCR, camera, video recorder, so many more functions and devices have moved into our smartphone. Thank god, from the point of view of making waste. On the other hand, the new scale of consumption of plastics and packaged food and suchlike was beyond the imagination of the planners of 1984.
But one sorely misses them. Because evidently the current crop of planners and administrators are pygmies in comparison. With Diwali upon us, adding to the worries about stubble burning and firecrackers, the Bhalswa landfill once again started burning this weekend. This is actually an all too regular affair at all the three dumpyards. Groundwater contamination, air pollution, health ravages, on all these grounds the need for alternatives is urgent – and yet unmet in the foreseeable future.
As Paras Singh reports today, “The mountains of waste produce combustible methane gas, which often catches fire. The toxic fumes thus generated are a poisonous cocktail of particulate matter mixed with carbon-dioxide, carbon-monoxide, hydrogen-sulphide, carcinogenic dioxins and furans.”
Archaically some Delhiites are still prideful about how green is the city’s garbage cycle, because of the waste-pickers, the children and adults who wade through the fumes and mosquitoes to separate out materials for recycling. Quite apart from how this does not address the water and air contamination aspects at all, it is also self-defeating that the recycling is being done at the destination rather than source. Mix it up well and good, spread it out across the city, and then segregate it a bit, that’s a formula beyond forgiveness.
The only way forward is for Delhi to segregate its waste at source – why consume like California but litter like we are we are alone in Eden? Let’s maximize recovery from recycling, move the waste-pickers up the value chain, stabilize and cap existing landfills, and set up waste-to-energy plants for the rest. But not in the eco-sensitive zones please!
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.