North MCD plans to ‘dry tomb’ Bhalswa landfill, experts disagree
The North Delhi Municipal Corporation has floated a tender for remediation of the Bhalswa landfill on GT Karnal Road, the second biggest dump yard in the national capital after the one in Ghazipur in east Delhi.
Officials said the north civic body has adopted the ‘green capping’ or ‘dry tombing of garbage’ model, employed by the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) recently to shrink its Okhla landfill from 58 metres to 38 metres in the eight months since June 2018.
Green capping essentially involves stopping dumping of fresh garbage, compressing the garbage with heavy machines and cutting the slopes to a more stable 22 degree angle. This is so that rain or earthquake does not make the garbage collapse like it did at the Ghazipur landfill in 2017, killing two persons passing by that way. The construction and demolition sand is then used to cover the landfill and grass is planted on the surface.
The north corporation commissioner, Varsha Joshi, said on Tuesday, “We have floated a tender seeking engineering services for a full scientific capping of the Bhalswa landfill. The expert, IIT-Delhi professor Manoj Dutta, is guiding us in this project.”
“After the green capping process, we are planning to put in pipes to capture methane. The option of a liner or geo-membrane above the landfill will be explored later,” she said.
Bhalswa landfill, an unscientific open dumping ground, was created in 1984 and today, it is spread over 52 acres with a height of 62 metres. It reached a saturation point in 2006, but still receives about 2,000 metric tonnes of mixed waste a day.
An equal amount goes to the Narela-Bawana waste-to-energy (WTE) plant. North Delhi — comprising Sadar-Paharganj, Karol Bagh, Rohini, Keshavpuram, Narela and Civil Lines zone — produces 4,000 metric tonnes of waste a day.
A senior officer in the north corporation, requesting anonymity, said, “On Friday, we are planning to close the Bhalswa landfill site permanently. A 12-acre site to its west — which was under a dispute in the Delhi HC since 2015 and was decided in the corporation’s favour in January 2018 — will be used to dump garbage.”
Officers said a detailed project report (DPR) on Bhalswa has been prepared by a Baroda-based company that said the landfill has about 60% ‘inert waste’ (construction & demolition debris); 30% waste that has not decomposed (synthetic clothes and rubber items such as tyres and footwear), and 5% metal, glass and hazardous waste such as sanitary napkins.
Tufail Ahmed, a retired executive engineer with the SDMC, who worked on the Okhla landfill and is now assisting the north corporation in Bhalswa, said, “This is an essential exercise as leaving the landfills as it is creates air pollution and gives rise to fires. It attracts scavenging birds and animals and poses a risk to ragpickers and locals.”
Experts such as Almitra H. Patel, Member, Supreme Court Committee for Solid Waste Management, though are not at all happy with corporations going for ‘Green Capping.’
“Just burying legacy waste under a carpet of grass is like putting lipstick on mouth cancer! Even the SWM Rules, 2016, ask civic bodies to explore better options like bio-mining and bio-remediation which involve screening the entire garbage to separate organic and recyclable components, or degrading the organic matter with bacterial cultures.”
“The SWM Rules clearly say that green capping is a ‘last resort.’ But the civic bodies seem to have made it their first preference,” she complained.