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A Mountain of Opportunities

An area the size of close to 40 football pitches and scaling more than 65 metres, the Ghazipur landfill rises by 10 metres a year. And there is no end to its foul-smelling growth. The continuous dumping has polluted the air and groundwater.

Ghazipur Landfill

Unable to deal with the mountain of waste for years, the National Green Tribunal are now pushing ahead with a bioremediation and biomining plan to reduce the height of the 65-metre mountain of waste, according to a recent Times of India article. The panel ordered a 250-crore bioremediation and biomining plan to reclaim the land at the landfill. The bench headed by NGT chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel focused work on this to begin by October 1.

Ghazipur was opened in 1984 and reached its capacity in 2002 when it should have been closed. But the city’s garbage has kept on arriving each day in an average of 500 trucks per day, says a Delhi Municipal Official. In 2018, a portion of the Ghazipur landfill collapsed in heavy rains killing 2 people. Dumping was banned after the deaths, but the measure lasted only a few days because authorities could not find an alternative.

The Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Limited has set up a waste to energy plant at the Ghazipur landfill, which receives more than 2000 tonnes of waste per day. The waste to energy technique is the process of generating energy in the form of electricity or heat from the incineration of waste source, according to an India Today study.

But locals say that the smoke emitted by the plant due to burning garbage is also poisonous. “People continuously fall sick. Residents constantly fall prey to diseases like chikungunya and dengue. My cattle fall sick too.” says a worker of the Ghazipur dairy farm which is located next to the landfill. According to the 2017 WHO (World Health Organisation) study ‘Chikungunya’, the disease is caused by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Stagnated water is home to such infected mosquitoes and their bite transmits the virus (genus Alphavirus) into humans causing diseases such as dengue and chikungunya.

Even though the landfill is a health hazard, the Ghazipur rag pickers don’t mind working in such unhygienic conditions. The landfill is used to support an entire ecosystem of other small-scale businesses. A local rag picker says that most of the items that have been discarded is often valuable to them. It could be stale food, clothes, hair etc. He continued by saying that a kilo of hair (preferably long ones) sells for Rs 1400-1500 and food can fetch up to Rs five per kg.

According to an article by The Times of India, bioremediation and biomining have successfully been followed in Indore and Ahmedabad. The process is used to treat contaminated water, soil and subsurface materials. The waste will eventually be converted into soil and the remaining items, such as plastic can be compressed and used to make roads. Microbes will be added to the organic waste which will cannibalise the garbage into dirt. The treated waste mixture will be moved into trammelling lines through conveyor belts. Then, the waste will be sifted into various components such as plastics, textiles and stones.

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