Mumbai’s expanding waste-line | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Mumbai’s expanding waste-line

With Mumbai generating 6,500 tonnes of waste every day on an average, environmentalists blame lack of waste segregation for landfill fires.

mumbai Updated: Jun 05, 2012 00:51 IST
Snehal Rebello

For the past year, Shilpa Shah, 45, has been segregating her household waste into two bins marked ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ in her building compound. But her effort goes waste when both the bins are emptied together into the civic body’s garbage van that comes to collect the waste. “The civic body needs citizens’ participation for waste segregation and we’ve been following it. But the corporation’s collection van ends up mixing all the waste back,” said Shah, a Chembur resident.

With Mumbai generating 6,500 tonnes of waste every day on an average, environmentalists blame lack of waste segregation for landfill fires. The waste from Chembur area is dumped in the Deonar dumpyard. Tonnes of rotting garbage releases poisonous gases in the atmosphere and toxic chemicals leach into the soil.

Landfill fires are caused by heat building up inside waste beds as the organic matter decomposes. Solid waste also generates greenhouse gases such as methane, which has 21 times more potential than carbon dioxide to cause global warming.

“Despite awarding a tender of Rs 4,500 crore, a processing plant to segregate waste at Deonar has not been installed yet. If waste is recycled, the existing landfills can last for a long time,” said Rajkumar Sharma, convener, Cleansweep Forum.

“The civic body does collect waste separately. But since there is not enough citizen involvement, our solid waste management efforts have been devised in a manner where the processing in landfills needs both wet and dry waste,” said Mohan Adtani, additional municipal commissioner, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

In 2000, segregation of waste was made mandatory under the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules and later in 2006 under the Cleanliness and Sanitation Bylaws by the civic body.

“The civic body can regulate 5% deviation for those not following rules. But we do not have the machinery to handle 40% deviation,” said Adtani.

Apart from landfill fires, open burning of waste also pollutes air, soil and groundwater. According to a 2010 study by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, open burning of waste and landfill fires are major sources of air pollution in Mumbai, emitting nearly 22,000 tonnes per year of suspended particulate matter such as, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide. Open burning contributes to 19% of air pollution in the city.

“At present, waste at the Kanjurmarg dumpyard is not being processed...,” said Stalin D, environmentalist at Vanashakti, an NGO. “If the garbage is not handled well, it will ruin the eco-sensitive area comprising mangroves and also the Thane creek that is home to migratory birds.”