NEW DELHI

2 years on, Swachh Bharat yet to reach Bhalswa

DIRTY PICTURE:The north corporation continues to dump garbage at Bhalswa landfill where fires are a “routine” affair; (below) cattle feed on waste spilled on a road at Sant Ravidas Nagar in northwest Delhi on the eve of the second anniversary of Swachh Bharat Mission.Photos: Sushil Kumar Verma

DIRTY PICTURE:The north corporation continues to dump garbage at Bhalswa landfill where fires are a “routine” affair; (below) cattle feed on waste spilled on a road at Sant Ravidas Nagar in northwest Delhi on the eve of the second anniversary of Swachh Bharat Mission.Photos: Sushil Kumar Verma  

As smoke rises from the burning garbage, Bhalswa may as well be on a different planet than the manicured lawns of Lutyens’ Delhi where Union Ministers will mark the second anniversary of the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission on Sunday.

On the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the nationwide cleanliness drive on October 2, 2014.

The goal was a ‘clean India’ by 2019 - the 150th birth anniversary of the father of the nation.

Two years since its launch, Swachh Bharat has not reached the outskirts of the Capital, where a mountain of garbage at the Bhalswa sanitary landfill site continues to grow, and burn.

The 40-acre landfill operated by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation exceeded its intended capacity years ago.

Along with the South Delhi Municipal Corporation’s Okhla landfill and the East Delhi Municipal Corporation’s landfill at Ghazipur, the Bhalswa site continues to grow upwards.

Delhi produces an average of 8,360 metric tonnes (MT) of municipal solid waste (MSW) every day - nearly all of it is dumped at the landfills unprocessed.

Slow progress

While the civic bodies of Delhi have made efforts to improve processing, with waste-to-energy plants at Timarpur-Okhla, Ghazipur and Narela-Bawana being set up, the progress has been slow. For instance, the North Corporation’s Narela-Bawana plant was supposed to start operations in 2013, but it is still only in trial phase, a spokesperson said.

When it comes to alternatives to the dumping grounds, the civic bodies have not had much success.

Vijay Prakash Pandey, the Leader of the House of the North Corporation, admitted that fires did erupt “routinely” on the Bhalswa landfill, but the civic body had no other option but to continue dumping garbage there.

“We don’t have any other land. Where we got some land, residents protested. No one wants a landfill near their house. We also have a lack of funds,” said Mr. Pandey.

He added that the North Corporation was in the process of improving garbage collection.

The civic body’s garbage collection contract had been at the centre of a controversy earlier this year when then-Mayor Ravinder Gupta and the rest of the BJP leaders in the corporation publicly disagreed on how much it should cost to lift trash.

The infighting led to the contract being put on hold and the existing contractor being given extensions. Mr. Pandey, however, said that the new proposal that should be drawn up in a month would improve sanitation.

Waste processing

The SDMC has already embarked on its project to improve trash collection. Starting with the Central Zone, the corporation will outsource the process of collection from street-level, processing through compactors and transportation to the landfill. On Saturday, Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung inaugurated five of the fixed compactor transfer stations.

With all four zones of the SDMC to follow, Shailender Singh, the chairperson of the corporation’s Standing Committee, said there would be a “revolutionary change” in garbage collection in the next six months.

“The compactors will squeeze the garbage, making it easier to transport. We have been trying to improve our collection, but floating the tender takes time,” said Mr. Singh.

Overflowing dhalaos

The slow process of getting projects approved has also hit plans to construct more public toilets. With the east and north corporations facing a cash-crunch, the collection of garbage from dumps or dhalaos has also suffered. The president of the East Delhi RWAs Joint Front, B.S. Vohra, said that while residents welcomed the idea of the Swachh Bharat Mission, the “implementation has been poor”.

“Next to nothing has changed on the ground. In fact, earlier the dhalaos would be cleared twice a day, but now we are lucky if they are cleaned even once. Garbage is always overflowing on to the roads,” said Mr. Vohra.

In fact, the EDMC fell from rank 47 in 2014 to 52 in the 2016 Swachh Bharat rankings. However, there was some hope, with the SDMC and North Corporation improving from 47 to 39 rank and 47 to 43 rank respectively.

The New Delhi Municipal Council, where the corridors of power are, improved from rank seven in 2014 to four in 2016. On Sunday morning, when Union Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu flags off the NDMC’s ‘Swachhta Rally’ at the lawns of India Gate, the fires of Bhalswa will be miles away.



We don’t have any other land. Where we got land, people protested. No one wants a landfill near their house. We also have a lack of funds



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