Delhi’s air gets cleaner but waste burning goes on unabated
Just when Delhi’s air quality was improving, on Monday, the blue sky around the Yamuna banks near Okhla was shrouded with thick, black clouds of smoke.
Residents of the nearby areas said someone had set ablaze a garbage dump and slowly the dried leaves also caught fire. It took 20 minutes and five fire tenders to control the blaze. But the damage had already been done.
Senior officials of the Delhi Fire Services (DFS) said that apart from Monday’s fire, nearly 18 garbage burning and open fires were reported from across the city over the weekend (Saturday and Sunday).
“We try to address cases of open fires with immediately, especially because of the increase in pollution levels. The figure this weekend was slightly higher than last weekend when five such cases were handled by DFS,” a senior fire official said.
Fire department records show that from November 1 to November 25, a total of 49 incidents of open fires were reported in Delhi. In October, the total number of open fire count was 43.
According to Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) application Sameer , garbage burning topped the list of pollution-related complaints lodged in the city in November. This was followed by road dust and construction waste. The Sameer app ranks complaints but doesn’t provide any absolute numbers.
CPCB officials said strict orders had been given to all pollution monitoring teams to pay special attention to cases of garbage burning and fires in open patches of land.
“Garbage burning is definitely a problem but it is also difficult to spot and control it in time. We have directed all the teams on ground to act promptly on such complaints,” a senior CPCB official said.
Experts said strict enforcement would help curb the problem but it will persist until government agencies take steps to create awareness among people and also come up with waste management strategies.
“Enforcement is definitely a problem area and because of loopholes in waste disposal channels. Burning seems to be the most convenient way. These incidents often go unchecked but if you look collectively, it does the most harm,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy) at Centre for Science and Environment.