The Capital's civic bodies still await land for new landfills

Garbage is a problem and the Capital’s plan to deal with it simply stinks, municipal officials admit.

The city produces 9,000 metric tonnes of municipal solid waste every day and its waste management plan seems to have got buried in the mountains of trash that are the sanitary landfill sites. Covering a total of 164 acres, the three sites at Okhla, Bhalaswa and Gazipur are years past their capacity. According to environmentalists, Delhi needs around 650 acres to deal with its garbage.

Committee after committee, from those appointed by the High Court to the Delhi Government, have said there is an urgent need for more landfill sites. But, years after identifying the sites, the municipal corporations are yet to get any land. The civic bodies blame the land-owning authorities, who in turn cite land use policies, environmental concerns and objections by locals for the delay in allotting the sites.

On May 21, the Delhi Development Authority cleared seven sites for waste processing, of which three were for the South Delhi Municipal Corporation and two for the North Corporation. The East Delhi Municipal Corporation, which has the 70-acre Gazipur landfill, did not get any new site. Civic body officials said though they would accept the sites, these were far from what was needed.

“These sites have been labelled as ‘malba (construction debris) processing units’. We want them to be changed to solid waste management sites so we can segregate and process all the waste before it goes to the sanitary landfill sites,” said a municipal official.

North Delhi Municipal Corporation Mayor Yogender Chandolia said the DDA’s move was welcome, but it failed to address the core issue. “This is not going to make much of a difference as we need more sites for landfills, which we still haven’t got,” Mr. Chandolia said.

The sites cleared by the DDA for the two corporations are a total of 26.5 acres.

“We had asked for 10 acres in each of our zones for waste management so the amount transported to the landfills would be less. Apart from that, we have a list of seven additional landfill sites, which the DDA is yet to allot,” said Y.S. Mann, the spokesperson of the North and East corporations.

The DDA, however, said it had given the corporations what they had asked for. “If the corporations have any problems with the sites, they can come to us,” said a DDA official.

In a letter to the DDA’s Land and Building Department in March, the North Corporation had listed out eight sites for prospective landfills, complete with their status and solutions. Two sites, in Sultanpur Dabas and Puthkurd, are vacant land that as per the Master Plan-2021 are meant to be sanitary landfills. Two more sites in the Narela Zone are under cultivation, but are for sanitary landfills as per the Zonal Development Plan.

Another site on the Haryana border, at Palla village, is the North Corporation’s own agricultural land. The National Green Tribunal has objected to a landfill there as it is in the Yamuna flood plains, while the DDA has said leachates would contaminate the ground water. The civic body, however, said the leachates could be easily collected using modern technology.

“There seems to be some political lethargy about these sites because there is no reason for the allotments to be delayed. We have only got these new processing sites because there is a court case going on and the DDA has been ordered to expedite it,” said a senior municipal official.

With enough blame to pass around between the multiple authorities, a solution to Delhi’s garbage problem is nowhere in sight.

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