Rising Garbage Mounds Galore

Vijaylakshmi Suman

How particular are you when it comes to throwing waste in a dustbin and not littering the surroundings? Most of us are very careful about it, and dumping waste at the right place gives us a sense that we have fulfilled our duty by keeping up with the basic etiquettes we learnt in school. A similar idea of cleanliness has become one of the major objectives of our present-day government at the Centre. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan – a cleanliness campaign – was launched in the year 2014, and aims to clean the streets, roads, and all public spaces of India’s cities, towns and even villages. To implement the campaign, several public dustbins have been installed at numerous places in the country. To promote the campaign, and to make people aware of such an initiative, several posters have also been placed in public spaces like the Delhi Metro.

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An advertisement put up at a Metro station in Delhi. (Source: Vijaylakshmi/CUES)

On the outset, the idea seems like a noble one. But how about we look at the behind-the-scenes of such a show? On 2 September 2017, national newspapers covered an incident of a landfill collapse where a massive heap of garbage came crashing down from the Ghazipur landfill site. The incident led to the death of two people, along with damage to a few vehicles that were parked near the landfill. The impact of the collapse was so great that the streetlights and concrete walls bordering the landfill were simply swept away. The reason cited for the collapse of this garbage heap was monsoon rains in Delhi (“Garbage mound collapse kills 2”, 2017).

There are three landfill sites in Delhi, namely, the Ghazipur landfill, the Okhla landfill and the Bhalswa landfill sites. As a consequence of this incident, the Ghazipur landfill site along with the other two landfill sites were shut down. Instead, an alternate temporary dumping site at Rani Khera was opened, all but in vain. The temporary dumping facility faced the wrath of residents (“3 landfills shut, city becomes overflowing trash can”, 2017). And as residents protested against the dumping of garbage in the Rani Khera site, dump trucks loaded with the city’s garbage came to a standstill. The city’s roads got messier as a result of large quantities of uncollected garbage strewn around the city (“Row at alternate dumping site, residents say would ‘rather die’, 2017).

While incidents such as these raise serious concerns over the issue of waste management, they reveal much more than can meet the eye. Although the purpose of waste segregation or collection in dustbins serves a purpose to some extent, it is crucial that we also address the issue of waste disposal at the macro level. The ill-management of waste in urban cities is leading to the creation of mountainous heaps of garbage in the city, and if not paid attention to, these heaps will eventually collapse leading to a loss of both man and property. There is a need to devise sustainable and long-term protocols to dispose the large quantities of garbage waste that are piling up at an exponential rate within the city. Dumping garbage in land-fills is not an end solution. Instead, one solution may be to tackle one at a time those individual mounds of garbage which are accumulating in different parts of the city.

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