Bhalswa Landfill Fire: Air Quality Reveals Why Locals Are Gasping

Days after fire was doused, smoke worsens air quality in nearby colonies, raising health concerns.

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3 min read

Cameraperson: Akanksha Kumar
Video Editors:
Vivek Gupta & Vishal Kumar


Everyday, around 2,200 metric tonnes of waste is dumped into the Bhalswa landfill in north west Delhi.

That roughly translates to 73,333 buckets of unsegregated waste being offloaded into Delhi’s largest dumping ground.

This includes plastic wrappers, waste from hospitals including empty blood bags, worn-out bags, shoes and polythene bags. And of course, there is organic waste like vegetable peels, leftover food, etc.

But in the absence of a proper mechanism for recycling of waste, it all lands up straight in the Bhalswa landfill site, with trucks driving up the kuccha lane alongside the mountain of waste every ten minutes.

So, when huge flames were seen coming out of the Bhalswa landfill on 20 October, it was no surprise that Delhi’s air quality began to worsen.

The Quint did a reality check on air quality at the Bhalswa landfill and nearby colonies to gauge the seriousness of situation.


Air Quality Index ‘Hazardous’ for Health

Days after the fire had subsided at the landfill, smoke is still rising from the mountain of trash. There are numerous spots which are still smouldering and suddenly burst into flames with a pall of smog visible from 300 metres.

The AQI (Air Quality Index) at Bhalswa landfill was recorded to be at 475 during the morning hours which is hazardous for health.

It was no better for the neighbouring colonies that recorded AQI, which was either ‘hazardous’ or ‘very unhealthy'.

Days after fire was doused, smoke worsens air quality in nearby colonies, raising health concerns.

Respiratory Problems Not New in Nearby Colonies

According to locals who reside in the colonies near the landfill site, this khatta (dumping ground), a term used for the place where waste is thrown, has been in existence before Independence.

In Swaroop Nagar, which lies 5 kms from the Bhalswa landfill, shopkeeper Gulab Singh says he often experiences shortness of breath. Singh, a former DTC driver claims that respiratory problems in his neighbourhood have increased since the last few years.

“I used to be a healthy man, now I can’t walk ten steps because of breathlessness. The doctor says it’s due to pollution.”
Gulab Singh, Resident of Swaroop Nagar

Gita Devi, who has been living in Shraddhanand Colony for the last 20 years, says there has been a sudden rise in TB patients in her locality.

Barely 3 kms from the Bhalswa landfill, residents of the Shraddhanand Colony complain of difficulty in breathing. They are also angry with the Delhi government for not acting on their pending demand of relocating the landfill to somewhere else.

“Many people here are suffering from TB. I’m suffering from breathing trouble. The doctor is saying that there’s something around that poses difficulty in breathing.”
Gita Devi, Resident of Shraddhanand Colony

Even the doctors who are working in the area admit to the ill-effects of the landfill on the health of people.

“Respiratory problems are common here because the quality of air, as you must have noticed, causes suffocation. In winters, comparatively a greater number of such patients come here as their problem gets aggravated due to cold and environmental factors.”
Dr Chandrasekar, Medical Officer In-Charge (Kalendar Colony)

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