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Delhi’s landfills: Can they become a past?

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During Delhi’s municipal election, the removal of the landfills was atop agenda, during a visit to ‘Okla-landfill’ Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia talked big about his plans to remove these landfills from the face of Delhi. Now that AAP has won the elections the question is that can these landfills actually be removed? And what will it take to actually do it?

INDIA’S WASTE PROBLEM

Before going any further let’s look at the how landfills became a problem in India and Delhi, waste generation in India grew with the population growth of the country and so does the numbers and and sizes of the landfills. The reason behind the growth of landfills along with population is negligence in waste processing and treatment of waste, which frankly speaking was not a priority for many years until this problem became too big.

India generated about 6 million Tons of waste in 1947 and by 2021 it has increased to 65 million tons. which is 1100% growth in 75years and this growth will continue as Indian population gets bigger and richer in coming decades. More than half of waste generated ends up in landfills like one in Okhla in Delhi.

If we look at Delhi alone it generated 10,990 Tons of Municipal Solid Waste every day and it only treats 47.2% of it mainly for energy, But the remaining waste ends up in Delhi’s three landfills in Okhla, Gazipur and Bhalaswa. this means that 5500+ tons of waste is added in landfills every day.

INDORE AN EXAMPLE FOR DELHI

If you ask a Delhiwala about the possibility of removal of landfills, most will laugh upon hearing this question because it seems impossible but it is possible and it had been done before not in Delhi but 800 kms from Delhi in Indore. And Delhi can actually learn from it.

Although Indore is a smaller city than Delhi in size and population. It has a similar per capita generation of M.S.W to Delhi both cities generate about 350g of M.S.W per day per person but Indore has completely eliminated it’s landfills and it ranks #1 in cleanliness in all of India. Indore is a fine example of possibility of clean India and role model for places like Delhi.

Indore achieved it’s success through cooperation of Private firms, NGOs and Municipality and guidance from the Solid Waste Management Rules of 2016, which urges cities to get rid of there landfills. these made Indore not only win a literal “Trash War” but also reclaim 100acre of land in Devguradiya by eliminating 1.5millionMT of waste in little over two years. Indore now not only have a 100% collection rate which is only 80% for Delhi but it also treats almost all it’s waste.

IT WILL TAKE ALOT

Currently Delhi’s landfills are home to 28million MT of waste, which is around 1900% more thank what was present in Indore so to fulfill the promise of removal of landfills, Delhi needs huge commitment and financial, social and technological assistance, if Delhi lacks any of that it’s ambition will fail, with that Delhi also needs a helping hand from private partners(for more financial and technological support) and NGOs (mainly because they can work at ground level for awareness and insight much better).

Delhi currently has only two operational waste to energy plants at Okhla and Ghazipur with waste absorption capacity of 1800MT and 1300MT a day respectively, Delhi also has a partially operational waste to energy plant in Narela with capacity of 2000MT out of 3000MT operational. This gives Delhi a total waste absorption capacity of 5100MT a day which is not even half of its production. not only that but private sector have little to no contribution here even though energy plants are seen as a huge business in India by the so-called big players.

Private players are a urgent need for Delhi as it needs huge sums of money to build more waste to energy plants with better technology take example of Narela energy plant with capacity of 3000TPD, it has a estimated cost of Rs.605cr. Which is mostly funded by government of Delhi and if we estimate on basis of this cost ‘ignoring inflation’ Delhi will need additional Rs.1200-1300cr immediately to match treatment of waste with production of waste (currently the gap being 5690Mt a day). this is where private firm can invest and take over ownership of energy plants.

Delhi also needs to achieve 100% collection rate which is currently standing at 80% realistically, and NGOs can help out a lot by working on grass level by making MCD accountable for collection trough registering and reporting public complaints to the higher management and prevent people from dumping their waste in empty plots and Nallas. NGOs can also be very helpful in spreading awareness for segregation of wastes by public, which will boost private sector’s interest as they can get recyclable material easily without stressing over cost of segregation.

PROMISING FUTURE FOR DELHI

Delhi seems to be going in a right direction with a slightly slow pace, it needs a lot of work and it seems that the work has started as lines of bulldozers and excavators can be seen on the landfills which was absent for more of its existence. Last year Bhalswa landfill shrank by 3 meters which is not a whole lot but is a starting and it is also increasing it’s capacity to treat more of its waste.

The hope for more private partnership is there and it will be exciting to see how Delhi not only treats it’s current waste but also as it’s growing production of trash.

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