A fire raged at Mumbai’s largest garbage dump in Deonar on Monday, a day after it enveloped a stretch from Chembur to Navi Mumbai with thick smog cover.
Recurrent fires at the dump pose grave health hazards to local residents who have complained of everything from acute asthma and skin rashes to higher infant mortality rates.
“The fire broke out at around 10am (on Sunday). I think the dumping ground should be removed from this place so that the local residents can be relieved. This dumping should be carried to the place where is there less population. The local residents face a lot of problems because of the smoke that comes out...,” Shairaz Hussain, who lives close to the dump, told ANI.
The first major fire at the dumping ground this year broke out on January 28 and lasted an entire week. Air quality in Mumbai was “very poor” during the fire after it mysteriously broke out at the city’s largest dumping ground.
Civic authorities said on Sunday it could be much bigger and worse than the January fire , as garbage was found to be burning in at least seven to eight places.
The dump, the city’s oldest, is often as tall as an 18-storey building. Spread across 326 acres, the dumping ground is located on the eastern suburbs, close to the crowded neighbourhoods of Chembur, Sion and Navi Mumbai, which were the worst affected in January’s fire.
Last year, several surveys identified the localities around Deonar as the city’s most polluted. Officials figures show infant mortality in the nearby areas nearly doubles the average of the city at 60.80 per 1000 live births, although there are no studies directly linking the fatalities to the landfill.
The Deonar dumping ground regularly reports fires, often started by errant contractors and the scrap mafia trying to separate iron, copper and other metals from the garbage. Fires are also lit illegally to manage dumping levels. The facility has little surveillance; has no CCTV cameras or guards. Last week’s fire has also been blamed in a police complaint on dumping ground contractors and unnamed rag-pickers and the scrap mafia.
Past police complaints in similar incidences of fire have also blamed unidentified saboteurs. Convictions are almost nil.
The amount of smoke from the dump has reduced and the air quality has improved marginally since Friday when the city recorded its worst air pollution since monitoring began in last June.On Monday, seven out of 10 locations in Mumbai recorded “very poor” levels. Chembur continued to be the most polluted location for the fourth day in a row with an air quality index of 363 while locations such as Andheri recorded 355 and Malad and Mazgaon both recorded 330. Dozens of schools remained shut for the fourth day Monday. Fire tenders and civic officials continue to fight the fire, which they said had been controlled but not doused yet.