Delhi is crumbling under the weight of ever so increasing garbage that is blocking the roads and choking the drains of the city. The Lutyens Delhi is the zone with wide avenues, covered with green boulevards, clean and sound roads with a general sense of time and space, while, the “rest of Delhi”, is clustered with narrow roads, rapid urbanisation, slums and JJ clusters, unauthorised colonies with clogged sewer lines and garbage visible at ever nook and corner. It is a stygian illustration of the uncertainty of skewed urbanisation and incessant increase in the population.
The trouble of waste management
Every year Delhi is plagued with deadly mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue and chikungunya due to the roads and by-lanes overflowing with garbage and sewer water filling up the roads. The responsibility of waste management in Delhi is vested with the municipal authorities who have been resolute and obdurate with dismissive approach towards fulfilling their responsibility. Change in the status quo seems highly unlikely given the fact that the municipal bodies are marred with inefficiency, political opportunism and most importantly corruption.
The current AAP Government in Delhi has time and again showed shrewdness in understanding the prevalent problem of urban waste and has lined-up several solutions that have been in the pipeline for a long time. However, Delhi government cannot do anything on its own unless the BJP-ruled MCD manifests an unwavering dedication to co-operate with Delhi government in taking the issue head on.
Degenerative waste management infrastructure
Delhi has a population of 1.70 crores, on a highly conservative estimate and the capital generates approximately 8390 tonnes of waste per day. However, according to ground level research, the quantity of waste produced in Delhi is nearly 12,000 tonnes per day, out of which close to 80% is dumped at the various landfill sites controlled and monitored by the municipal authorities. On paper it reflects that the city has a sturdy and diversified infrastructure for urban waste management with four landfill sites, two construction & demolition (C&D) waste processing plants, two composting plants, three waste-to-energy converting plants, and 30 sewage treatment plants (STPs).
However, there is stark contrast to the reality on ground. The Okhla, Bhalswa and Ghazipur landfill sites are overfilled to their maximum capacity. According to the rules stipulated by the government the height of a landfill should be upto 25 metres, but every landfill in Delhi stand almost 50 metres above ground level. The landfills are no longer operable according to the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC). However, over the past decade or two no alternative waste disposal methods have been figured out. The ground water is getting contaminated due to the leachate runoff from the landfills making it unfit for use.
The two C&D waste processing plants at Shastri Park and Burari are not sufficient to cater the 4000 MT of construction & demolition (C&D) waste—comprising of broken bricks, rubble, concrete pieces etc. on a per-day basis. Due to lack of C&D waste processing plants, a major portion of waste is dumped along the eco-sensitive zones like Yamuna’s river bed or roads.
The network of 30 sewage treatment plants (STPs) in Delhi caters to only 45% of the city’s population. Due to the influx of population moving to the city from neighboring states are expanding the city’s boundaries. The slums and JJ clusters and unauthorised colonies are yet to be connected with the STP network. The 30 STPs present in Delhi are not working at their full capacity, as most of the pipelines in the network are remain clogged, decades old, and corroded.
Delhi stretch of the river Yamuna is the most polluted, as the city is responsible for 85% of the pollution that has choked the river to ecological death. The Shahdara and Najafgarh drains together contribute about 80% of waste (untreated sewage and industrial affluents ) that are dumped directly into river Yamuna. This untreated municipal waste leads to eutrophication, which causes a rise in hyacinth, algae and bacteria.
Prevention steps at individual level
In-house composting: Decomposing of organic waste should be made mandatory for all educational institutions, housing societies, hospitals, and hotels. The compost produced through composting can easily be used by the Horticulture Department of the government for agricultural purpose.
All-in-one solid waste processing plants: Facilities of sorting, C&D waste processing, composting and wastewater treatment need to be installed in every district of Delhi. This will make waste processing efficient, save time, reducing transportation costs, and help in decreasing the excessive burden on the landfill sites in Delhi.
The city of Delhi urgently requires a set of rules and regulations to promote and adapt eco-efficient methods, with an objective to significantly reduce the amount of waste generated through manufacturing processes.