Fire at Bandhwari landfill continues for second day, citizens’ groups protest ‘waste mismanagement’
A fire that broke out at the Bandhwari landfill around noon on Sunday continued to rage on Monday despite continued dousing operations. Fire department officials said they expected the blaze to be extinguished by Tuesday afternoon.
Members of city-based environmental groups, meanwhile, protested over the incident, calling it a “mismanagement of waste.”
Officials of the fire department said that due to toxic gases and windy conditions on Monday, waste lying underneath the mountain of garbage continued to catch fire. At least 12 fire tenders, from Gurugram, Faridabad, Ballabhgarh have been engaged in dousing operations round-the-clock, officials said.
“The blaze is not of high intensity and is difficult to spot. Embers and smoke emitting out of the garbage piles are giving us an indication that waste underneath is on fire. Earthmovers and propellers are being used to clear the waste pile right from the top. Until we reach the bottom of the pile, our dousing operations will continue,” said Sunil Adlakha, fire safety officer.
Adlakha said that the fire at the landfill is a common occurrence due to the heavy build-up of toxic gases and high temperatures. However, it is for the first time it has continued for a second day.
“The fire broke out naturally due to a high presence of methane gases and high temperature. All support was lent by Ecogreen for dousing operations. The main centre of fire has been extinguished and work is ongoing to douse any remaining embers as a precautionary measure,” said Sanjeev Sharma, spokesperson for Ecogreen Energy, which is the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram’s (MCG) concessionaire for waste management.
Around 2.5 million tonnes of legacy waste is lying at the Bandhwari landfill, with heaps of waste as high as 37 metres. Around 1,800 tonnes of waste is dumped at the site from Gurugram and Faridabad every day.
On Monday evening, members of the Aravalli Bachao Citizens Group and Citizen for Clean Air, carried out a protest outside the landfill citing “mismanagement of waste” in both Gurugram and Faridabad.
The issues highlighted by the citizens’ groups included the dumping of 2,000 tonnes of unsegregated waste at the landfill every day and the lack of strict enforcement, concerning segregation at source and solid waste management rules in both cities.
“Landfill fires often occur from trapped gases generated through the decomposition of mixed waste including wet food waste. It is critical for the government to implement a sustainable waste management plan for both Gurugram and Faridabad that consists of segregation at source, decentralised composting, production of biogas, and dry waste recovery centres. This will take care of 75-80% of the total waste,” said Neelam Ahluwalia, a member of Aravalli Bachao Citizens Group.
The Aravalli Bachao Citizens Group also raised issues regarding the Haryana government’s plan to set up a waste-to-energy (WTE) plant at the landfill, as the location is a biodiversity-rich area with important wildlife habitats, a leopard corridor and “very critical” water recharge zone for the National Capital Region.
Ahluwalia said that the two groups held the protest so that the Haryana government takes cognisance of the matter and takes constructive steps that firstly prevent future fires and come up with sustainable solutions based on the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, to reduce the volume of waste being transported to the landfill and eventually, remove this landfill from the eco-sensitive Aravalli area.