Delhi's Garbage Mountains Will Take 197 Years To Clear at Current Pace

Delhi has accumulated 27.6 million tonnes of garbage across three different dumps at Okhla, Bhalswa, and Ghazipur.

Climate Change
3 min read
Hindi Female

Delhi has now accumulated over 27.6 million tonnes of garbage across three different dumps at Okhla, Bhalswa, and Ghazipur, which is a marginal decline from the 28 million tonnes being produced two and a half years ago.

This has been a result of the Rs 250 crore programme to clear these landfills. However, questions are being raised about the Municipal Corporation of Delhi’s capability to complete the task in just 16 months.


Removing Legacy Waste Would Take 14 Years

The average amount of garbage being cleared on a daily basis is 5,315 tonnes. Accounting for the additions to the garbage dumps, clearing the landfills could take over 197 years to complete. Only 5.1 million tonnes of waste has been removed yet, over the last 34 months.

If the goal was simply to remove the legacy waste, ignoring the new waste being added on the daily, the landfills would still take 14 years to be cleared entirely.

According to the official estimate submitted by the municipal corporation to the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban affairs, the budget for the project has increased significantly and will now cost approximately Rs 1,864 crore.

Unfortunately, the project is severely affected by a number of different variables, especially during the monsoons when processing is down due to rains and the garbage being wet.

There was also slow progress after an increase in garbage during the start of the year and the waste to energy plants being closed due to maintenance and repairs.


Legacy Waste Clearing Deadlines Have Been Extended Time and Again

The estimate submitted to the Union government also stated that the largest of the three landfills, Ghazipur, has only seen 7.8% of progress, and that is only taking legacy waste into account. On the other hand, the MCD's latest report, received in August, stated that 30% of the waste at Okhla, and 31.8% at Bhalswa has been cleared which amounts to 5.5 million tonnes out of the 28 million tonnes target.

As reported by the MCD, the corporation dumps approximately 5,500 tonnes of the 11,120 tonnes of waste produced by the city. The data shows that the average waste clearing rate is 1.94 million tonnes annually.

In December 2020, the state-level monitoring committee was informed that 50% of the legacy waste that has accumulated in the three landfills will be cleared by June 2022. Now, the monitoring committee has been told by the municipal corporation that they will require time till July 2023.

The original order for this project, issued by the National Green Tribunal, stated that the dumps were to be cleared of legacy waste within one year, with substantial progress being made within six months. However, this order has undergone several revisions with the deadlines being extended too.

According to Atin Biswas, the programme director of the municipal solid waste sector at the Centre for Science and Environment, only eight-nine months of the year can be used to predict timelines, because wet waste is difficult to clear.

After the failure to meet deadlines, the MCD has now issued tenders to hire an outside contractor to remove 3 million tonnes of legacy waste from the Okhla, Bhalswa, and Ghazipur landfills.

There has also been talk of setting up a new plant at Narela Bawana to increase the capacity of processing of the Okhla plant.

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