4 years past deadline, MCD yet to clear Delhi’s landfills
An MCD report dated July 31 notes that it has cleared 8,999,000 tonne of legacy waste — less than a third of the original 28,000,000 tonne.
The erstwhile three municipal corporations in July 2019 began an ambitious project to clear the three landfills in Delhi through the process of biomining, after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered that the Capital’s legacy waste dumps be cleared within a year.
Four years on, the process to clear these “garbage mountains” at Okhla, Bhalswa, and Ghazipur has made little headway — the Municipal Corporation of Delhi’s latest progress report dated July 31 this year notes that the civic body has been able to clear 8,999,000 tonne of legacy waste — less than a third of the original 28,000,000 tonne of legacy waste.
Officials aware of the matter said that NGT’s original deadline to clear legacy waste within a year has now been pushed to 2024.
Biomining is a process through which various components of legacy waste, such as plastic, paper, cloth, sand, and bricks are separated by passing them through trommel machines, which act as cylindrical rotating sieves. MCD has deployed 56 trommel machines at the three landfills — 25 units at Ghazipur, 20 at Bhalswa, and 11 at Okhla.
However, the addition of fresh domestic waste continues to slow down progress to clear the landfill sites. MCD had carried out a fresh volumetric assessment of garbage at the three sites in June 2022, when the total volume of waste was assessed to be 20,300,000 tonne.
An official associated with the project said that over the last one year period from July 2022 to July 2023, 3,553,000 tonne of waste was biomined from the three landfills, but around 2,226,000 tonne of fresh waste was dumped there in the same period, making for slow progress.
Clearing Delhi’s garbage mountains was the first of the 10 “guarantees” that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had made in the run up to the civic polls in December 2022. After winning the elections, the AAP-led MCD administration on March 3 this year announced that the project has been expedited, with a target to clear Okhla by December 2023, Bhalswa by March 2024, and Ghazipur by December 2024.
However, a senior MCD official associated with the project said the Okhla and Bhalswa deadlines are unrealistic. “The progress of biomining operations further slowed down due to the rainy season. The wet mixed waste cannot be sieved, and during a rainy day, the daily processing goes down to below 1,000 tonne a day, compared to an average of 9734 tonne per day,” the official said.
HT reached out to mayor Shelly Oberoi, but she did not respond to requests for comment on the matter.
Meanwhile, experts said that concessionaries should only be paid for inert waste and non recyclable waste being taken to landfill. “If they are bringing large amount of wet waste, they must not be paid. There has to be some incentive to reduce waste going on landfill. What we need is a model in which we stop dumping fresh waste on landfills and it can only be achieved through decentralised composting. This can work if the capital costs and initial running costs for decentralised composting units are paid for by the government which should buy back the compost at pre-fixed rates for its horticulture needs. Rather than throwing in money while paying contractors for every tonne of wet waste on landfill, we should take that money are create resources for composting,” said Bharati Chaturvedi, environmentalist and founder of Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group which specialises in waste management.