Delhi civic bodies dispose waste at landfills, get more than they bargained for

Civic bodies have deployed trommel machines at the three landfills in Delhi to segregate the waste and decrease pressure on the sites
The Okhla landfill in south Delhi is spread over an area of 46 acres (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
The Okhla landfill in south Delhi is spread over an area of 46 acres (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
Updated on Sep 07, 2021 02:10 AM IST
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ByVatsala Shrangi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The three municipal corporations working on reducing the garbage at the three landfills in Delhi --- Okhla, Bhalswa and Ghazipur -- have a new problem at hand. The civic bodies are looking at ways to dispose of at least 1.8 million metric tonnes of inert waste that the processing of waste at the landfills has generated.

The civic bodies have deployed trommel machines at these landfills to segregate the waste and decrease pressure on the sites. A trommel machine is a huge mechanical sieve that separates the landfill waste into three components -- municipal solid waste, construction and demolition waste or debris and soil or sand.

According to the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), which manages the Okhla landfill site, at least 625,000 metric tonnes of inert waste was piling up at the site, leaving little space for moving of machines and handling the legacy waste.

To find a way to dispose of this residue, the SDMC standing committee on August 31 approved the proposal to shift the inert waste to two sites, NTPC Eco Park and Tajpur Pahadi (both near Badarpur) at an estimated cost of 19.50 crore. “A tender for the same will be floated this month. The two sites together can accommodate 690,000 metric tonnes of waste. An administrative approval has been given. This will help in fast-tracking the bio-mining process,” said Colonel (retd) B K Oberoi, chairperson, SDMC standing committee.

Since last year, the civic body, under a temporary arrangement, has been sending some of the inert material at these two sites. Some of this waste was also being used for making temporary roads at the landfill site. “Already 350,000 metric tonnes of inert waste has been removed from the landfill,” he said.

Oberoi said the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), which had earlier agreed to use inert waste for building of roads, has refused to use it after testing material. “The NHAI told us that the material could not be used for base-filling, as the road may sink. We are now looking for alternative ways to dump it,” he said.

NHAI officials did not comment on the issue.

The Okhla landfill is spread over an area of 46 acres. Currently, areas under SDMC generate approximately 3,600 metric tonnes of waste every day, almost 50% of which is dumped at Okhla landfill.

North and east Delhi municipal bodies also said that piling up of inert waste was hindering their plans to deploy more trommel machines to expedite the processing of waste at the Bhalswa and Ghazipur landfill sites.

According to the officials of the civic bodies, mining of the waste at the three landfills has led to significant reduction in their heights. The height of garbage dump at Bhalswa has come down from 65 metres to 54 metres, from 65 metres to 50 metres at Ghazipur, and from 55 metres to 38 metres at Okhla, officials of the three bodies said.

“At the Bhalswa landfill, we plan to increase the number of trommel machines from 24 to 60 by next month. We have been using the inert waste in filling up low-lying areas such as streets of unauthorised colonies and vacant spaces in areas such as Narela, Rohini, Rani Khera, among others,” said a senior North corporation official, who asked not to be named.

At least 2,500 metric tonnes of solid waste is dumped at the Bhalswa landfill daily.

East Delhi Municipal Corporation officials said they were going to hire an agency to handle both processing of waste and dumping of the resultant inert waste. “We plan to increase the number of machines at the site from 20 to 30. Currently, dumping of inert material is too much to handle, and it will be more organised once a single agency is handling the entire work,” said a senior EDMC official.

Experts said mining of waste has to be done in a structured manner.

Atin Biswas, programme director, solid waste management project, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said a single agency should handle the processing of waste and dumping of resultant inert waste. “The cost of transporting waste is huge. While the civic bodies are employing trommel machines, they also need to get the same agency to dump the inert waste as well so that the space reclaimed from the landfill is not lost to another pile of waste. Simultaneously, the civic bodies should take steps to reduce the amount of waste is dumped daily at the landfills, and focus on segregation of waste is done at source,” said Biswas.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021