Toxic Fumes Are Silently Killing Deonar’s Residents       

Toxic smoke and respiratory illnesses are silently killing residents living around Deonar dumping ground in Mumbai.

3 min read

Camera: Ankita Sinha
Video Editor:
Kammaljiit Kainth


Asthma, skin diseases and breathlessness – almost every family living in the areas surrounding Mumbai’s Deonar dumping ground will tell you about at least one family member who suffers from these ailments.

Spread across an area of 132 hectares, Deonar is the largest dumping ground in Mumbai. At least 7,500 metric tonnes of garbage is dumped here every day. Deonar is also home to the toxic fires that continue for days and cause smog that envelopes the surrounding Govandi area, choking the locals.

“There are chemicals, plastics and all sorts of things in the garbage that arrives in the dumping ground here. Because of this, there’s pollution. This is compounded when there is a fire,” Kaneez Zohra, a Govandi resident, told The Quint.

People find it difficult to breathe. Especially during the night, there’s a thick smog that forms. 
Kaneez Zohra, Govandi resident

“There’s no smog today but you will see small fires at least two-three times every year,” says Zohra.

In February 2016, a massive fire raged inside the dumping ground for over a month. The Air Quality Index recorded was at a worrying 345-300, which is nearly three times above normal. Plumes of smoke were spotted by NASA’s satellite.

Usually, mosquitoes bite us when we go to sleep in our homes every night. But when smog fills the area, the mosquitoes die. If the smog is capable of driving away a species from the area for 15-20 days, you can imagine how poisonous it must be. 
Ateeque Khan, Govandi resident
Toxic smoke and respiratory illnesses are silently killing residents living around Deonar dumping ground in Mumbai.
Children rummage through trash from the dumping ground.
(Photo: Ankita Sinha/The Quint)

In a bid to prevent a repeat of the massive blaze in 2016, the BMC announced plans to construct a plant to convert waste to energy, inside the dumping ground. The civic body had set a deadline of 32 months, from start to finish of the project – including approvals, design and construction of the plant. However, two years on, they are yet to even find bidders who would be interested in the project.

Another fire broke out, in March this year, and the area around the dumping ground in smog for days on end.

This delay in setting up the waste-to-energy plant could prove costly for residents like Sehrunnisa Shah. The 42-year-old told The Quint that she has contracted tuberculosis four times in the last 10 years. Her doctors tell her the constant exposure to pollution and filth from the dumping ground is the primary reason for her illness. “I have spent Rs 2 lakh in the last 10 years on treatment. Each leaf of tablets is about Rs 190 and lasts for about 5 days. When I go to JJ Hospital, I have to get X Rays, MRI scans, those are different expenses,” she says.

Because the dumping ground is just next door and there’s smoke coming out of it often, it’s difficult. Someone or the other at home is always sick because of the dumping round.
Sehrunnisa Shah, Govandi resident

Doctors who treat patients from areas around Deonar say chronic respiratory illnesses are common among the residents. “Since there is always a baseline element of burning in the dumping ground, initiation of the disease to the first exposure and actual causation of the disease is around 2-3 years,” said pulmonologist Kuntal Pal.

You will definitely find patients affected with chronic bronchitis, interstitial lung disease. Over and above other places, I see at least 20-25 more patients suffering from respiratory diseases due to pollution caused mostly due to the dumping ground.
Kuntal Pal, Pulmonologist 

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
Read More