New Delhi: While preparing a new action plan to raze the mountains of waste from Ghazipur, Bhalswa and Okhla landfills, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) will have to bear in mind certain challenges that need to be addressed to obtain time-limited results.
Even though MCD is making arrangements to process about 280 lakh tonnes of legacy waste lying in the three landfills over the next two years, it does not have enough space to dump the inert materials generated from these wastes. Inerts make up 60% of legacy waste and organizations like the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) can use a maximum of 30 to 35 lakh tonnes a year in road projects, officials said.
“NHAI has asked us to send inerts for the ongoing projects including Urban Extension Road, Palwal-Faridabad Expressway, Delhi-Dehradun Expressway, but where will the rest go,” an official said, adding that MCD is asking the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to allow dumping at lower sites. “The cost of transportation is another challenge.”
The Delhi Economic Survey 2021-22 reveals that the city generates more than 11,119 metric tons of waste every day. The three waste-to-energy (WTE) plants in Ghazipur, Okhla and Bawana can consume 4,200 to 4,500 tonnes and some goes to composting plants. Without an alternative site, the rest – around 6,400 tonnes – is dumped in already saturated landfills.
Chitra Mukherjee, an expert in circular economy and sustainable livelihoods, wondered that even if the bio-extraction of legacy waste, which had already missed a deadline, could be completed in two years, how would MCD level the landfills with the fresh waste that arrives every day. .
“It is important to find a long-term solution and learn from successful examples in the country such as Mysuru and Allapuzha. Unless people are fined for not separating waste, the burden on landfills cannot be reduced,” Mukherjee said, stressing the need for decentralized treatment systems, which are largely absent in Delhi. “Details of how MCD will involve NGOs, waste pickers, RWAs, citizens also need to be detailed,” she stressed.
On April 26, even after the Bhalswa fire, the old northern company had no choice but to dump its waste on the other side of the landfill. Even though the three companies had managed to treat and bio-extract over 42 lakh tonnes of legacy waste after the National Green Tribunal’s direction in 2019, almost the same amount of fresh waste was added to landfills.
In East Delhi, the amount of waste at Ghazipur is almost double that of the other two landfills. For many years, the former eastern company had attempted to obtain an alternative site from DDA to divert fresh waste or set up an engineered landfill, but the finalized site at Gonda Gujran ultimately could not be transferred, an official said.
The WTE plant in Ghazipur, which has not been operational for more than six months, has only made the mess worse. “It was supposed to be ready in May, but during the visit of the new lieutenant governor, the concessionaire assured that it would be operational by mid-June,” said a city official.
The former eastern company finalized a plan last year for the appointment of a concessionaire who would process 50 lakh tonnes of waste in two to three years. With the merger of the three civic bodies, the project will now have to receive a new approval from the special officer appointed by the Center.
Thousands of tons of waste-derived fuel (RDF) in landfills, after processing old waste, also have no takers. “It has a low calorific value and cannot be used much in existing WTE plants because they get enough RDF from fresh waste. For Ghazipur, we pursued cement kiln associations to lift the RDF; we will have to put out a tender,” a city official said.