Deonar Dumping Ground: Fire and Pollution

Deonar-India's largest Dumping Ground

Deonar, India's largest Dumping Ground

A fire that broke out in the Deonar Dumping Ground in Mumbai on Saturday resulted in increasing the level of air pollutants and smog in the city. The minimum temperature in Mumbai has increased to 18.2 degrees Celsius in Santacruz and 21.5 in Colaba while humidity is also on the rise due to the westerly winds over the Arabian Sea further adding on to condensation and fog. The fire in the Deonar dumping ground did not help the Air Quality Index (AQI) which has been on a dangerous level at 341 since Friday, 18 March.

About the Landfill

The Deonar dumping ground is India’s oldest waste dumping ground or landfill set up in 1927. It is located in the Eastern Suburb of Mumbai extending over 132 hectares and receiving 5,500 metric tonnes of waste daily, of which 25 tonnes constitute bio-medical waste. To keep things in perspective, the height of this landfill is as tall as an 18-storey building. There have been recurrent fires in Deonar Dumping Ground and the areas adjacent to it are not conducive to living. In fact, in January 2016, a fire in the dumping ground led to the closure of schools in the area due to respiratory problems among the students.

The Present Crisis

The AQI of 341 in Mumbai, at present, is worse than the pollutant levels during Diwali in 2015. Carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide are at dangerous levels, and apart from vehicle congestion, dust from construction sites and presence of polluting industries are one of the major factors contributing to such a dismal scene in the Deonar Dumping Ground.

A fire broke out in pockets in the Deonar Dumping Ground in the afternoon of 19 March. It reportedly consumed an area of 2 sq. km, causing respiratory ailments living in the locality of the dumping ground. The fire has also caused a heavy smog with stench in the area. The medical waste being dumped without proper segregation is adding on to the aftermath of the fire.

Latest Report on fire

Twelve fire engines and ten water tanks are on the spot for the purpose of extinguishing the fire.
The fire brigade has been struggling to douse off the fire without much success. The fire, which intensified on Sunday night causing toxic smoke to engulf the area, was brought under control on Tuesday afternoon but the toxic smoke continued to engulf the area.

Smoke was visible from as far as Vashi Bridge till the end of the Ghatkopar-Man-Khurd link road.
Government schools in the vicinity were forced to remain closed for two days due to thick smog caused by the fire. The situation is being monitored by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board and the BMC has been instructed to take immediate steps to control the situation. If it is not done, action will be initiated against them.” The Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai suspects it to be an act of sabotage and a case has been filed with the police against unknown person.

Proposed Closure of Deonar Dumping Ground

After the fire in the Deonar Dumping Ground in January, 2016, the administration had proposed a fast tracked scientific closure of a portion of the dumping facility under the supervision of National Building Construction Corporation Ltd (NBCC) — a Government of India undertaking. Proposal was to scientifically cap the solid waste in one portion of the 127-hectare wide dump-yard, which had already been under consideration since 2008.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), in charge of the dumping grounds in Mumbai, had filed an application before the Bombay High Court in the matter of seeking exemption from immediate discontinuation and closure. The BMC feels it is in the larger public interest to keep the waste processing facility open.