The civic body’s struggle to get permission from the Airports Authority of India to raise the height of the Deonar dumping ground from 35 to 50 metres indicates just what a mess the city’s waste management system is in.
In operation since 86 years, Deonar was supposed to be a scientifically closed landfill site by now, but the site receives 5,000 tonnes of garbage every day. That’s 72% of the city’s garbage, excluding debris and silt.
The rest, around 2,000 tonnes, goes to the Mulund (east) landfill site. The Kanjurmarg site has been closed since May.
The continuing existence of the city’s oldest dumping ground epitomises Mumbai’s waste management issues, which might take a turn for the worse in the coming months.
“The fact that the civic body wants to increase the height of Deonar dump indicates that the administration has no solutions in mind and that unscientific waste disposal and exhaustion of land will continue,” said Rajkumar Sharma, chief of Advanced Locality Management and Networking Action Committee (Almanac), a citizens’ forum.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) environment status report (ESR) for 2012-13 reveals that the city is generating an additional 500 tonnes of solid waste compared to last year – from 9,200 to 9,700 tonnes.
Solid waste comprises garbage (organic and inorganic), debris and silt.
This rise can be attributed to the increase in organic waste such as food waste, whose quantum has gone up from 52% to 54% of the total waste. The city is now generating 3,780 tonnes of organic or biodegradable waste every day.
And here’s the catch. Instead of eliminating a bulk of this biodegradable waste at the source itself, the BMC is sending 100% of the waste to the overburdened landfills.
As per the BMC’s own admissions in its ESR, the Deonar site has topped its capacity, while it will take only a year more for the Mulund dumping ground to fill up.
“Our contract includes getting the land lease of Deonar site, without which we cannot raise money to start the closure of the site.
More importantly, because of problems at Kanjurmarg site, the load at Deonar has increased,” said Dinesh Patel, general manager, projects, United Phosphorous Ltd, which won the contract to close Deonar landfill and start a 6MW biomethanation plant at Mulund three years ago.
The trend of non-segregation of garbage coupled with the BMC’s preference to transport waste over long distances indicate that unless alternative methods are adopted, the city is going to run out of space to dump its waste in less than two decades.
This time span largely depends on the outcome of the ongoing public interest litigation by non-governmental organisation Vanashakti and Vikhroli MLAMangesh Sangle, who are seeking the closure of the Kanjurmarg site.
In the event of the site’s closure, the BMC will continue using Mulund and Deonar.
“For the BMC, waste management is purely a money-making avenue rather than a civic, environment or health issue,” said Rishi Agarwal, environmental activist.
“One has to only look at the inflated rates paid to contractors for garbage collection and dumping to realise that the more the quantum of waste the better.”