The two major inter-state entry points to the national capital — UP Gate near Ghazipur from Uttar Pradesh side and Mukarba Chowk from Haryana side; surprise the visitors with mountains standing in the middle of plains. It takes some time for them to realise that these are heaps and mounds of garbage. The realisation dawns on the newcomer as he is hit by the stink of garbage as his vehicle nears the mound.
These two landfill sites of Delhi along with one in Okhla are long overdue for closure but as no option is available with civic bodies to dump the garbage they are still being used and they have reached a height of 40-50 metres beyond their sanctioned limit.
‘We have been demanding the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to hand over more landfill sites for garbage dumping and waste management but all the efforts went in waste. The issue has a long history of legal battle in Delhi High Court,’ said Manish Gupta, chairman of the standing committee in South Delhi Municipal Corporation. ‘Our waste-to-energy plant in Okhla is fully functional and we want to replicate it in other parts but land is the biggest hurdle,’ he added. Okhla waste-to-energy plant, which however is facing protest from environmentalists and residents of the locality, currently has an installed capacity to process 1,300 tonnes of municipal waste each day and generate 16 MW of electricity which is sufficient for six lakh households. BJP-ruled MCDs in the city are responsible for collection of garbage from 96 per cent of the area and population in Delhi. The rest is with NDMC and Cantonment Board in equal proportion.
The civic bodies have a capacity to collect 7,100 tonnes of garbage each day but according to unofficial sources, the actual generation of garbage is over 9,000 tonnes each day. These municipal bodies have outsourced over 75 per cent of transportation of garbage to private companies only in three zones Najafgarh, Narela, Shahdara South, while the work in Shahdara West zones is being done departmentally.
The change of guard at the centre prompted the DDA to act swiftly and in a recent letter to the three municipal commissioners, DDA has given approval to 15 out of 31 sites demanded by the civic bodies. ‘The approval is just the first step. Practically, they have just given in-principle approval on our application in which we had earmarked some sites for allocation. The said land is private land, DDA will have to acquire it and hand over the land to us. After we are given ownership of the land, it will take at least two years to set up a processing plant there,’ said KP Singh, director, Environment Services in North DMC. He further said that till then there is no option but to compel drivers to climb on ‘garbage mountains’ and make them taller by dumping more waste. North DMC had demanded eight SLF sites but DDA has approved four for them. ‘Besides, big SLF sites we had demanded land in all the zones to set up small processing units but years have passed in waiting,’ said Vijay Prakash Pandey, chairman of Environment Management Committee in North DMC. ‘The previous Congress governments in Delhi and Centre; were hell bent to malign image of corporations but now we have a favourable government in New Delhi under Narendra Modi. We are hopeful that our projects are cleared faster,’ he added.
The officers of the civic bodies also blame DDA for adopting non professional attitude as out of the 15 sites approved most are too small to be used as SLF sites. ‘Two of the four sites approved for South DMC are too small to be set up as garbage processing units,’ said Manish Gupta. One of the sites DDA has approved for East DMC is just two acre land near Shashtri Park, similarly four sites approved for North DMC are too small to even set up processing units. ‘The civic bodies must realise that there is scarcity of land in Delhi. The protest of residents against SLF sites in their locality due to stink and leachate. They are opposed to garbage bins (dhalos) in their neighbourhood too.
But it would be unfair to blame DDA alone. The waste-to-energy plants at Ghazipur and Narela-Bawana are running two years behind schedule and MCDs are not sure whether they would start operations in this year. Both these plants have already missed around half a dozen deadlines of inauguration. So far BJP-ruled municipal corporations have been blaming Delhi and Central government for creating hurdles in their projects but now as the same party is at the Centre, it would be interesting to see how swiftly they deliver. But the city needs solution for its waste management which is projected to generate around 15,000 tonnes each day by 2020.