Dr Rahil Qamar Siddiqui, who runs a one-room health clinic a few metres from the Deonar dumping ground, says the number of patients visiting him have doubled in the past one week.
The reason — recurring fires at the 132-hectare dumping ground have made matters worse for the residents who are already staying in conditions “unfit for living”.
“Cases of eye infections, breathing problems and other respiratory tract illnesses have multiplied due to inhalation of toxic gases emanating out of the fires at the dump,” said Siddiqui, adding, “Children are the worst affected.”
The complaints started pouring in after a major fire was reported at the dumping ground on February 27. The civic body denied any big fire, saying that small fires were a normal occurrence caused due to natural methane reactions, or were started by ragpickers. However, residents claimed that the area was enveloped by smoke after the recent incident.
Residents suspect that the contractor’s men are behind the fires due to an issue over non-payment of wages.
“If the civic body claims these are natural fires or are started by ragpickers, why didn’t we feel the severity of it before?” asked Raees Ahmed, a Rafiq Nagar resident.
Activist Rajkumar Sharma said: “The effects of the fire were felt even in Ghatkopar and Chembur. The civic body cannot brush the issue aside. If the contractors are responsible, they should be brought to book.”
According to waste management expert Dr SR Male, methane reactions can be mitigated if appropriate waste processing technique is adopted.
“Since the dumping ground has saturated its garbage collection capacity and waste has been piling on unassumingly, methane reactions are bound to occur more frequently. Bio-remediation technique is the need of the hour to treat the waste and stabilise the volatile matter,” he said.