The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is faced with the challenge of disposing of over 60,000 fused compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and tubelights that have accumulated over the years.
CFLs, which contain mercury that can affect the brain and nervous system if not disposed of properly, was used in Delhi metro’s train and stations. As there is no designated waste disposal site for these in Delhi, 8489 CFL bulbs and 52,317 tubelights are lying at the depot of DMRC, waiting to be thrown away.
“We have a waste management policy and waste generated is disposed of in a prescribed manner. But there are a few types of waste, which no agency wants to take and are hazardous if disposed of randomly. We have been writing to the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to tell us a site where we can dispose of this hazardous material but haven’t got any response,” said a senior DMRC official.
DMRC also has 531 pieces of broken window panes and windshield of metros, to be disposed of. Other hazardous waste items that DMRC has in its depot include mobile oil and batteries of different kinds.
The disposal of CFLs has been a controversial issue, because prolonged exposure to mercury can lead to serious health problems. Safe disposal has proved to be tricky because of problems in all three stages – extraction of mercury from the bulbs, transportation of the metal and recycling.
According to a World Health Organization publication (2007), the inhalation of mercury vapour can affect the nervous, digestive and immune systems, including lungs and kidneys, sometimes fatally.
As a safe option, the Delhi metro will use light emitting diodes (LED) in its upcoming phase –III construction.
“While managing such a large scale operation, we give priority to the environment. We have a policy for water management and save electricity through various initiatives. We segregate daily waste and give it to the MCDs. We also have a set procedure for construction and demolition waste and at no point, we want to impact the environment,” the official added.
The Delhi Metro has taken up other recycling initiatives, in which the waste materials it generates, such as horticultural waste, wooden materials and steel sheets, are reused after recycling. The kitchen and horticultural waste generated is converted into compost and used for gardening purposes.
A carpentry shop has been opened using packing wood of equipments and dismantled steel pipes. Broken tiles are being used for waterproofing of rooftops of buildings and new barricades are being made from broken SS pipes of broken railings.
“While carrying out construction work,the DMRC takes a number of measures to prevent pollution. For every tree cut during construction work, the DMRC plants 10 trees. Apart from the plantation drive, water is regularly sprinkled and vehicles with mandatory PUC certificates are only allowed to operate. The muck generated at the sites is also disposed of only at designated sites,” the official added.