Landfills are supposed to be engineered structures in which waste can be stored. They should have pipes to remove methane which arises out of decomposition and to remove leachate, the toxic soup that is made when waste and water combine. They should have a lining to minimize leaks, though these are bound to happen at some time or the other because landfills have only a limited life span. In Delhi we do not have even one proper landfill. We have huge dumps and depressions in the ground into which we put all our waste. Obviously, these are very polluting.
Delhi has three main landfill sites. Bhalsawa, in the north, is right next to the Yamuna, not far from Delhi University, and now has a composting plant as well. Ghazipur, in the East, beyond NOIDA Mor, is the biggest landfill of all. Okhla, in the South, looks right into the Tuglaqabad Customs Depot. The MCD owns all three sites. The other two municipalities have to pay it to use these landfills.
But Delhi’s landfill space is fast running out, so there will soon be no place to dump our waste unless we produce less of it. Worse still, since landfills pollute our water and land, the more landfills we have, the more environmental problems we will face.
The NDMC has a composting plant at Okhla and there is a private one in Bhalsawa. Many people also compost in a decentralized way, at home, in parks and in their colonies. By doing this, they are saving landfill space and keeping water and land clean.
Delhi built one Municipal Waste Incinerator at Timarpur in the 1980s, but it never worked because waste in India is full of grit and is very wet. This was a good thing, because science now tells us that incineration is very polluting and can cause irreversible and even fatal illness.