NEW DELHI: Indore took three years to level its landfill through trommeling and bio-mining. Delhi may need a decade to achieve similar success. It uses the same model and has made substantial progress since it began a year ago, but it has to process almost 20 times more legacy waste at its three dumps, which, to add to the struggle, still get fresh garbage every day.

Taking cognisance of TOI’s report on groundwater contamination at the landfills, National Green Tribunal had ordered the clearing up of the mounds after biomining. The three municipal corporations claimed to have so far cleared 11 lakh tonnes of legacy waste at the Okhla, Bhalswa and Ghazipur landfills, just a fraction of the 280 lakh tonnes estimated to have accumulated over decades. Cumulatively, 33 trommel machines have been installed, with North Delhi Municipal Corporation deploying 15, EDMC 12 and SDMC, six. The lack of space available for the installation of the machines and for dumping the inert material generated by biomining slowed down the process as did the Covid lockdown. There should have been 60 trommels in operation by now.
Asad Warsi, waste management expert appointed by NGT, who also worked on the Indore landfill, told TOI that Covid had impacted the exercise and actual work had been limited to around six months. He added that more trommel machines were needed, particularly in Ghazipur and Okhla, both of which have not processed enough waste. “Bhalswa has seen the most progress and is closing in on the target, but Ghazipur might take the longest to achieve,” said Warsi. “The target was to put up 20 trommel machines after a year at each site and 20 to be added every year afterward to flatten the mounds.”
While the initial targets were to level the three sites in 4-5 years, Bhalswa, Warsi estimated, could take 5-6 years, Okhla 10 years and Ghazipur up to 15 years, based on the number of trommel machines deployed and progress made so far. “Significant progress has to be achieved because there’s fresh waste arriving every day. The Indore landfill received no fresh garbage,” he noted.
Indore’s municipality used 26 trommel machines, processing 2 lakh tonne of waste in the first two years and the remaining 13 lakh tonnes in the third year, the exponential increase in the third year being the result of more trommels being deployed.
An EDMC official overseeing the project noted, “The landfill at Indore was around 10 times smaller than even Ghazipur and there was enough space there to dispose of the processed material. We are fighting for space for the inert material at Bhatti Mines, but haven’t been successful. Delhi’s administration lies with a multiplicity of agencies, so the problem of allocating space lingers on.”
While the EDMC official maintained that it would take around five years to level the Ghazipur mound — considered to be as tall as the Qutub Minar — experts aren’t so optimistic, putting the completion period at 15 years.
The north corporation, the co-ordinating nodal body for tenders for all three civic bodies, is far ahead of the others. It claims to have cleared 7.8 lakh tonnes, clearing up to 4,500 tonnes a day. “With 17 machines operating soon, we can process 10 lakh tonnes within the targeted time,” said an official. “Bhalswa landfill has almost 80 lakh tonnes of legacy waste, and by adding more trommels, we estimate it will take us two years to remove the entire mass.” Warsi, however, opined that it could take around six more years if more machines are put to work.
Since all three landfill sites are currently “live sites”, a lot of the progress is being undone. Bhalswa gets 66,000 tonnes of fresh waste every month, so it’s two steps forward, one step back every month. At Ghazipur 2,400 tonnes are removed every day, but 2,000 tonnes are added. Okhla lags by a long distance, with just 900 tonnes being processed daily against around 2,000 tonnes dumped each day. The only short-term solution to avoid fresh garbage is to operationalise new waste-to-energy plants or sent the trash to the new engineered landfill being set up in Tehkhand, an official said.
Chitra Mukherjee, head of advocacy and policy at Chintan, an NGO involved with waste-management, argued however that until segregation at source was implemented, the landfills would continue to be burdened. “While you make progress on the ground, you also have to find solutions to prevent fresh waste from arriving at the landfills,” said Mukherjee.
If the projects are successful, not only will Delhi be rid of toxic waste mountains, but will also get precious public land. It is expected that 70 acres of land in Ghazipur, 36 acres in Bhalswa and 46 acres at Okhla will be freed up. “The reclaimed land can turn into biodiversity parks or sites for waste-processing plants,” NGT had suggested.

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