Mountains of garbage pile up in Indian capital
NEW DELHI - Indias capital, New Delhi, is heading for an environmental disaster as mountains of garbage pile up in the citys once green open swathes, environmental experts warn.
Garbage dumps in many parts of the city are overflowing and huge stretches of land near Delhis many slums are filled with heaps of discarded plastic, shreds of cloth, metal scraps and animal carcasses.
"Delhi and Delhi-ites are soon going to be buried under the mountain of garbage which is of their own making," said leading environmentalist Iqbbal Malik.
Delhi, one of the dirtiest cities in the world, produces nearly 8,000 tonnes of waste per day but the city of nearly 13 million people does not have an adequate waste management system in place, experts say.
Civic agencies manage to clear only 4,884 tonnes and most of the garbage is merely dumped in open landfills despite a Delhi High Court order to clean up the city.
According to a Central Pollution Control Board study, the gap between waste generation and management will increase to 64 percent by 2021 from the current level of 40 percent if the current population growth and lifestyle remain unchanged.
BREEDING GROUND FOR DISEASES
The piles of garbage, many of them in the midst of crumbling historical monuments, are a vast breeding ground for diseases such as tuberculosis, cholera, and malaria, as well for as illnesses from rat bites and snake bites.
"They bring garbage from all over Delhi and dump it here.... it has made living a hell, we keep falling sick because of this," said Rishi Pal, who lives close to a landfill.
Thousands of children rummage through the citys garbage heaps every day in search of metal pieces, plastic and paper to sell to scrap dealers.
Those living near landfills and a huge number of rag pickers, who manage 15 percent of Delhis garbage, are most vulnerable to disease but all residents are at risk, said Bharati Chaturvedi, an environmentalist and leading anti-plastic campaigner.
"Landfills are a specific type of time bomb ... Studies have shown they have badly contaminated Delhis ground water. It has arsenic, it has pesticides, it has lead," Chaturvedi said.
The problem has also affected city animals who end up swallowing polythene bags, metal coils, screws and cloth shreds while rummaging through the waste for food.
NO LITTER LAWS
Experts say the amount of garbage in New Delhi has increased because there are no laws to prevent littering.
"To look at it in a macro sense, the biggest problem is that it is uncontrolled. Anybody in Delhi can produce any amount of waste and there is no disincentive to produce waste, there is no incentive to produce less waste," Chaturvedi said.
City authorities blame the problem on a shortage of funds for waste management and the mindset of residents who act responsibly only when they are fined.
"Once you fine a person, he thinks 10 times before throwing garbage in the open," said R. Pal, in charge of New Delhi Municipal Corporations sanitation wing.
"Weve introduced a fine against littering in the central zone near Rashtrapati Bhavan (presidential palace). Its working and we hope to extend it to other areas.
Story by Sunil Kataria
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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