“Too polluted an area to be married into or from” is the dubious status that young men and women of Haji Colony here have been battling for the past few years now.

Living in a densely-polluted unauthorised settlement that houses more than 5,000 people from the lower income group, the Haji Colony is located next to a large municipal compost plant, a bio-medical waste incinerator and theTimarpur-Okhla waste-to-energy incinerator.

“The three plants ensure the air remains polluted, our drinking water is brownish, smelly and contaminated and there is a overhanging stench of decaying garbage in the area,” says area resident Noor Mohammed.

“Outsiders visiting the area are put off by the location itself — with the colony sharing a boundary with a municipal compost plant. Besides, adjacent to the colony is the bio-medical waste incinerator which discharges waste that has contaminated the drinking water of the area so extensively that we now have to buy water to drink and cook. People are now refusing marriage into or from the area,” says Mr. Mohammed, whose now-married elder daughter once faced the same problem.

“In my daughter's case, people came to see her but could not bear the nauseous stench. They left in a huff even refusing to have a glass of water at our residence. They later called back to say that it was the pollution in the area that made them flee. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case and we have several cases of boys not being able to find a match because of the polluted environment here,” he adds.

Health issues

But it isn't just the young who are facing a problem here. Women complain about breathing problem, skin diseases and the fact that everything at home and outside is always covered with a thick layer of soot.

“You breathe the colony's acrid air, drink water polluted by the bio-medical waste incinerator and municipal compost plant and live next to a massive waste incinerator. Because of all this, health becomes the first casualty. The high-decibel, constant noise from the compost plant has adversely affected our hearing. Most of us have high blood pressure because of living in an area that forces the body to stay under stress constantly. The children suffer regularly from stomach infections, breathing trouble and lowered immunity, and the situation has only worsened in the past two years,” says resident Feroz Jahan.

She adds that the “trial run” of the Timarpur-Okhla waste-to-energy incinerator has brought to the forefront the most ugly face of pollution here.

“We have no idea how we will live in such a contaminated environment and to think that this is the heart of Delhi,” rues Ms. Jahan.

Sughna Begum, also from the same colony, says: “We have met several officials and politicians, but so far there has been no relief. We continue to battle ill-health and live under a cloud of pollution. With the government now planning to start up the waste-to-energy incinerator, we are worried about the long-term effects on our health and living condition. We are most worried for our children, their health and life.”

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