In a move that could aid reduction of risk to Delhi’s citizens, authorities have identified 14 acres of land for safe disposal of thousands of tonnes of hazardous waste that the city generates every year.
Exposure to hazardous waste that could contain mercury, arsenic, thallium, cadmium, pesticides and paints can be extremely harmful. “Such wastes can affect one’s liver, kidney and nervous system. Heavy toxicity can even lead to renal failure and in some cases it can cause decreased memory,” said Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, senior consultant at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital.
Delhi has failed to set up a treatment, storage and disposal facilities (TSDF) for hazardous waste in violation of a Supreme Court order issued about a decade ago. “A high-powered committee on pollution formed by Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung has asked the north civic body to provide the land to the environment department to set up a TSDF at Bawana at the earliest. The latter has agreed to oblige,” said a government official.
The last survey done in 2007 says 2,010 units generate 5,281 tonnes of hazardous waste per annum in Delhi. The survey says 7,584 tonnes of such waste is stored either at industries (as junk) or treatment plants (as sludge).
“It’s been a growing toxic nighmare. We have been trying to develop a facility for several years. Sites were identified but they could not be used because of public protests and land-use provisions,” said an environment department official.Adjoining states like Haryana and Rajasthan also refused to let their land be used even temporarily for treatment of hazardous waste.
Environmentalist Bharati Chaturvedi welcomed the development. “Delhi has become a storehouse of hazardous waste. But apart from building a TSDF, there has to be reduction in generation of toxic waste. The government must invest in clean technology, waste exchange programmes and extended producer responsibility.”
Currently, all hazardous waste is dumped in vacant plots that makes soil and water toxic. “Some of it is later sent to different places for reprocessing,” she said. Delhi’s pollution watchdog says the number of industries generating hazardous waste is coming down.“We’re also trying to shift all such industries in clusters so that their waste is not mixed up with non-hazardous waste,” said an official.