A thick blanket of smoke continues to engulf the east Delhi’s Ghazipur dumping yard after a fire broke out in the area on Monday.
Firefighters, who reached the spot on Monday afternoon, are battling swampy stretches, a hostile terrain which their vehicles can't tread, to put out the flames which continue to smoulder.
— ANI (@ANI) March 30, 2022
But, what exactly happened at the dumping yard to cause such a blaze is yet to be ascertained. Here’s all we know about the incident and the fallout of such an incident.
Fire breaks out
At 2.30 pm on Monday, the fire department received a call about a fire at Ghazipur's Khatta.
The Ghazipur landfill site, commissioned in 1984, is spread across an area of 70 acre. When last measured in 2019, the garbage dump site had grown 65 metres (213 feet) high, with experts saying it would dwarf the Qutub Minar (73 metres) in a few years if no action was taken.
As per reported information, around 700 trucks dump 3,000 metric tonnes of garbage every day at this landfill. Made up of combustible substances, garbage and sewage dump, it has made the life of the people residing nearby miserable.
The fire at the landfill site in Ghazipur on Monday, led to a huge cloud of smoke enveloping the region and neighbouring areas. No casualty was reported.
Immediately after the blaze, the fire department pressed two fire tenders with nearly 10 firemen and at least half a dozen earth movers to the spot to douse the flames.
On Tuesday morning, though the blaze was brought under control, there were some sporadic places where the fire kept going owing to the strong winds and the presence of inflammable items in the garbage dump such as plastics and paper.
According to the Hindustan Times, the fire department then deployed two more fire tenders and nearly 30 firemen to bring the blaze under control. The operation still continues at the time of this report being published.
The fire at the landfill is very hard to contain and douse, according to Delhi Fire Services chief Atul Garg. He was quoted as saying that as the blaze was spread across a large part, it was difficult to contain it. Moreover, the roads at the site are swampy and moving around the hill with fire tenders loaded with water can be risky.
As firefighters continued their efforts to douse the flames, the Delhi Police on Tuesday registered an FIR against unknown persons in connection with the fire.
"An FIR has been registered under sections 278 (making atmosphere noxious to health), 285 (negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible matter) and 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others) of the Indian Penal Code against unknown people," Deputy Commissioner of Police (East) Priyanka Kashyap was quoted as saying to news agency PTI.
Raising a political stink
The fire at the Ghazipur dumpyard has also led to a political row between the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
On Monday, the AAP asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah to tell the people how do they plan to deal with the “crisis”. The party alleged that the dumping yard in Ghazipur area along with two other "garbage hills" on the borders of Delhi has been given to Delhiites by the BJP-ruled municipal corporations.
AAP's Atishi held the BJP-ruled East Delhi Municipal Corporation responsible for the fire incident, saying it has done nothing to solve the problem "even though it knows very well that a fire can break out at this garbage hill anytime leading to a dangerous situation for those coming here to dump the garbage and also the people living in the area".
AAP's Kondli MLA Kuldeep Kumar said the region has become a "gas chamber" after the fire broke out at the Ghazipour dumping yard.
"This is not happening for the first time. Imagine how do people live in this area," he rued.
Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai directed the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to submit a report on the incident within 24 hours.
Not the first time
This fire at the landfill is the fifth such incident in this year alone. Fire department data reveals that a total of four such incidents at landfill sites — two each at Bhalswa and Tughlakabad — took place in this year alone.
The data showed that in 2021, a total of 16 fire incidents took place of which four occurred at Ghazipur.
The blaze has led to toxic fumes choking local residents who have complained of breathing.
"My son was the first to start itching his eyes and coughing," Shyam Biswas, who sells flowers in the local wholesale market was quoted as saying by The Guardian. “Then my father began and when we went out on the balcony we saw the sky filled with black smoke.”
For people living in the areas surrounding it, the air is always toxic. The decomposing waste releases noxious gases, exacerbating the already heavily polluted air.
A World Air Quality report last week found that Delhi was the world’s most polluted capital city in 2021 for the fourth consecutive year.
With inputs from agencies