Mansi Arora steps out every day at eight in the morning to drop her eight-year-old daughter to school, struggling through thick black smoke emitted by the garbage that the sweeper in the colony sets on fire right outside her backyard.
“It a regular practice here. Exactly when the children leave for school and people step out for work, they are greeted with smoke from burning garbage. Despite repeated reminders to the residents’ welfare associations, nothing is done to stop garbage from being burnt here,” said Arora, a resident of Lajpat Nagar IV.
Dry leaves, plastic and other form of waste being burnt along road sides is not an uncommon sight in the city. Despite a ban on burning biomass waste, no FIR has been registered against the offence by any civic body since the ban was imposed in 1998.
“Every morning, small bonfires of dried leaves and other waste can be seen on the roads. How can we blame the private sweepers when the major culprits of this offence are employees of the civic bodies themselves? Even in VIP areas, garbage is burnt openly by civic body employees,” said Bhure Lal, head of the Environment Pollution Control Authority.
Mahendra Singh, a municipal sweeper who works in Amar Colony, has no idea that burning of garbage is a punishable offence.
“The garbage trucks come only in the morning and collect household waste only. The waste that is collected from the sweeping the roads have to be disposed of somewhere. If it is left piled up on the roadsides, people walking around or stray animals spill it around doubling the work for us. Going to the garbage dumps and throwing the garbage every time is a tedious process,” Singh said.
“As soon as you burn the pile of garbage, the fumes released are highly suffocating but this is a part of the job we do,” he said.
Experts say inhaling the fumes emitted by garbage burning is at least 10 times more harmful than smoke emitted by vehicles.“Certain components of garbage have the potential of choking the person and reducing the concentration of oxygen in the areas close to the spot where the garbage is being burnt. Plastic is the most harmful component as it releases dioxins. This can even affect babies in the womb,” said Dr Sunita Nandan, a consultant physician with a private hosopital in south Delhi.