Fate of hundreds of dairy farms in Delhi hangs in balance as court weighs health concerns

Updated - June 24, 2024 06:37 am IST

Published - June 24, 2024 01:35 am IST - NEW DELHI:

The future of hundreds of dairy farms in Ghazipur and Bhalswa, where two of the city’s three landfill sites are located, hangs in the balance with the Delhi High Court scrutinising their compliance with legal and environmental standards.

Late last month, the court had remarked that there was a need to shift Ghazipur and Bhalswa dairies, where most of the dairy farmers sell milk directly to consumers, to an alternate location within the city or on the outskirts due to their proximity to the sanitary landfills that cause “undeniable adverse effect on public health”. On May 27, the court came down heavily on the Delhi government’s Animal Husbandry Unit, observing that there was a “lack of will” in State functionaries to stop the “rampant violation of laws” by dairy owners.

The court’s remarks came in response to a petition by Sunayana Sibal, an animal welfare advocate, highlighting the poor state of affairs in Delhi’s nine dairy colonies — Ghazipur, Shahbad Dairy (Rohini), Jharoda, Bhalswa, Masoodpur, Goela, Madanpur Khadar, Nangli Sakrawati, and Kakrola.

A Delhi High Court-appointed court commissioner, tasked with inspecting the nine dairy colonies, had, in July last year, found egregious violations of norms, including poor hygienic conditions, overcrowding with very little space for the cattle to move, and poor health of the milch animals.

The Delhi government and Municipal Corporation of Delhi have sought an opportunity from the court until June 30 to take steps to regularise the dairies and ensure that they are in compliance with the law. The court will hear the case again on July 12.

‘Shift the landfill’

Vijay, a dairy farmer at Ghazipur, who has been working to protect his cattle from the sweltering heat, the idea of relocating dairy farms was unreasonable. “Either they should relocate the garbage mound, since it is spilling over, or turn it into a green hill, as has been done to other landfills. The suggestion that dairy farms should be relocated is unreasonable. Where were these people when this dairy colony was established?”

Mr. Vijay added that the farms are already burdened by losses due to lower milk production this summer owing to the intense heatwave.

He said that the dairy farm was established in 1976 when the Ghazipur landfill site did not exist. “If relocation is necessary, it should apply to every dairy farm, not just to us,” he added.

Next to Mr. Vijay’s farm once stood a biogas plant, which helped maintain cleanliness and manage cattle waste effectively. However, the facility has been repurposed as a waste-to-energy plant. Solid waste could be seen overflowing in open drains all around the dairy colony.

Mukesh, another dairy farmer, echoed the sentiment that the Ghazipur landfill site should either be relocated or transformed into a green hill, such as the Indraprastha Park in central Delhi, which was turned from a landfill site into a park in 2007.

Ms. Sibal said the courts have reiterated the need to relocate the dairy colonies in Ghazipur and Bhalswa since 2002. In an earlier hearing, she showed the Bench photographs of the Bhalswa dairy colony, which showed cattle grazing at the base of the sanitary landfill and eating garbage.

The petitioner said proper waste management practices had not been followed and criticised the lack of segregation and proper disposal of garbage.

“My point is that since these two dairies are close to landfill sites, we must start with them. It’s just that the authorities have decided to turn a blind eye to the problem for more than two decades,” Ms Sibal told The Hindu.

She said that it is possible for the government to relocate the cattle from the Ghazipur and Bhalswa dairy colonies to the city’s outskirts area, such as the Ghogha dairy colony near Narela. Currently, only 139 out of 2,082 plots in the Ghogha dairy colony are in use, Ms. Sibal points out.

‘Need more time’

During the last hearing, the Delhi government counsel told the court that despite the availability of unallotted 773 plots and unutilised 1,081 plots in the Ghogha dairy colony, there was no consensus on relocating the Ghazipur and Bhalswa dairies because Narela was quite far from the two dairy colonies.

The counsel told the court that the government was instead considering a proposal to temporarily erect barbed wire around the Bhalswa and Ghazipur dairy colonies to prevent cattle from grazing on the garbage.

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