Despite air emergency in Delhi, waste burning continues in Mundka

Mundka’s Air Quality Index (AQI) reading was 422 in the ‘severe’ category with PM 2.5 as the major pollutant on Sunday. PM 2.5 is usually generated due to the smoke and soot emitted from burning and vehicular emissions.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Vatsala Shrangi
PUBLISHED ON NOV 12, 2018 09:26 AM IST

Even as the National Capital has been breathing foul air for days and emergency measures have been put in place, open dumping and burning of rubber and plastic waste continues in west Delhi’s Mundka. A group of locals and environment activists wrote a complaint about the open dumping and burning of plastic and rubber waste in at least 37 locations in the area to the SC-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) on Saturday.

This is despite the fact that the EPCA had directed a temporary shutdown of industries, including a plastic factory complex in Mundka, till emergency measures are in place to curb high pollution levels in Delhi. The ban has been extended till November 12.

Gram Sabha Mundka, comprising locals of the area, has sought an appointment with the area sub-divisional magistrate on Monday to discuss the matter.

The area, housing a number of illegal industries, godowns and a village, was added to the list of pollution ‘hotspots’ this year, as pollution levels in the area kept fluctuating between ‘very poor’ and ‘severe’ category for days.

Mundka’s Air Quality Index (AQI) reading was 422 in the ‘severe’ category with PM 2.5 as the major pollutant on Sunday. PM 2.5 is usually generated due to the smoke and soot emitted from burning and vehicular emissions. These particles are harmful, as they can enter humans’ and animals’ blood and lungs, adversely affecting the respiratory system. Fumes from burning of plastic and rubber can cause cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

“We have attached pictures of waste dumping and burning found at 37 locations in the area on November 8, a day after Diwali, when pollution levels were already high after bursting of firecrackers. The fumes from burning plastic, rubber and surgical waste have made it difficult for residents to breathe in the area,” Diwan Singh, environment activist, said.

The EPCA, in a report it filed in the Supreme Court on pollution hotspots, stated the agricultural land of Mundka is being used for illegal dumping of waste, which is subsequently burnt and is a key cause of pollution in the area.

The report also stated that the plastic market complex, where sale and purchase of waste material is undertaken, has in many ways become a dumping ground for heaps of plastic, rubber and electronic waste.

“In particular, heavy dumping of shoe soles and the practice of subsequent burning has a major potential to pollute Delhi air,” the report stated.

According to residents, the village is surrounded by industries, most of which are being run illegally and whose waste is dumped on roadsides.

“The area has the perpetual toxic smell of smoke and half-burnt plastic material. Several vacant plots along the village are used by the factories to dump their waste. A lot of times, we have to call fire brigade to douse the fire,” Sanjeev Lakra, a resident, said.

However, EPCA chairman Bhure Lal said, “We had received a complaint regarding the issue and have asked the concerned municipal corporation to clear the plots and roadsides of dumped waste. They have started lifting the waste.”

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