Delhi's Bhalswa landfill still on fire; capital's air quality dips to 'very poor' category

Bhalswa waste dumping site in North Delhi has been on fire since yesterday. Delhi’s environment minister has asked DPCC for a report on the fire incident. Air quality is expected to worsen tomorrow on April 28. Details here.

गाँव कनेक्शनगाँव कनेक्शन   27 April 2022 12:30 PM GMT

Delhis Bhalswa landfill still on fire; capitals air quality dips to very poor category

Photo by: @Bharati09 on twitter

Last evening on April 26, the Bhalswa landfill in North Delhi caught fire and the massive garbage hill erupted in flames. It's been almost 24 hours, but the fire at the waste dumping site is yet to be doused completely. The Delhi Fire Services (DFS) is at the site trying to keep the fire under control.

Predictably, the burning mountain of garbage has led to a steep rise in air pollution in the region with the national capital's air quality in 'very poor' category, as reported by SAFAR-India of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune.

Multiple reasons are being blamed for the fire at Bhalswa landfill, which include the prevailing heatwave conditions to excess methane gas generation at the waste site. Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai has asked the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to submit a report on the fire incident within 24 hours.

A senior official of the north Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) reportedly stated that the corporation had deployed an excavator to dump sand on the point of the origin of fire.

"It is not yet known whether the fire was caused by methane generation or human activity," the municipal official reportedly said.

Another senior north MCD official added that when temperatures rise, the methane generated by decaying organic matter, basically from the legacy waste at the landfill sites, also increases.

"Methane gas spontaneously ignites under such weather conditions. It is a natural phenomenon. Such a major fire at Bhalswa has not occurred lately and we will look into the exact cause once the situation is under control," the official was quoted as saying.

As per DFS, after the fire broke out, 12 fire tenders were pressed into service to douse the fire. "We received a call at around 5:47 pm. Initially, there was only smoke but later due to wind fire erupted. Our aim is to ensure that fire does not spread to residential areas," CL Meena, the assistant divisional officer at DFS, was quoted as saying.

Residents of Delhi choke as air quality worsens

Delhi's air quality on April 27 fell under the 'poor quality' with PM10 (particulate matter) recording 307 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m3), as per SAFAR.

The recorded value of PM2.5 is 132 μg/m3, which comes under the 'very poor' category.

The air quality is expected to worsen tomorrow, April 28, with a forecast of PM10 and PM2.5 at 334 μg/m3 and 145 μg/m3, respectively.

Delhi's landfills on fire

Yesterday's Bhalswa fire is the fourth major fire reported from Delhi's landfill sites in the past one month, the previous three cases were reported from East Delhi's Ghazipur landfill. Delhi has a total of three landfills – Okhla, Bhalswa and Ghazipur – where the city's waste is dumped.

With a rise in the city's temperatures, the frequency of landfill fires has also increased. Previously, Ghazipur landfill site reported multiple fires in the month of March and April this year. The first one that was reported on March 28, 2022 continued to burn for three days.

According to the 2020-21 annual report of DPCC (Delhi Pollution Control Committee), the total municipal solid waste generated in Delhi is 10,990 tonnes per day (tpd). Only 5457.43 tpd of this waste is treated, which is barely half of the total waste generated.

Out of the total waste generated in the national capital, 4, 400 tpd of waste is generated by North MCD, where the Bhalswa landfill is located. Only 47.2 per cent of this waste i.e. 2, 078 tpd is processed or treated.

Photo by: Arrangement

Keeping in view the situation at Bhalswa fire incidence, the Gyan Sarovar School situated near the landfill site has been temporarily closed for a week. "It's not safe to keep children here because of the smoke coming out of the fire. We have decided to keep the school closed for a week," said Narayana, the community organiser.

The local people who live near the landfill site also reportedly complained that they're unable to breathe and see properly and urged the government to take proper action on the situation of the dump yard.

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