Truth be told, there have hardly been any attempt at documenting world’s dumping sites scientifically. In fact, the definition of dumping sites or dumping grounds are often confused with that of landfills when the latter has nothing whatsoever to do with the former. This article is based on a the World Waste Atlas by D-waste that has defined monstrous dumping sites globally through crowdsourcing.
Dumpsites are simply the land area where waste is “dumped” with little or no treatment. Year after year, it collects leading to gigantic mountains of decomposing garbage collects on which informal sector workers scavenge to collect recyclable material that they can then sell in the market. Along with the rising garbage heaps, the rise in population and urbanisation in the surrounding area markedly raise the risks of contaminating the immediate groundwater, soil, air and water sources exposing the population nearby to health dangers.
With almost half of the world’s population lacking access to even the most basic waste collection and disposal services, the open dumping is not just a local or national problem but of global scale. The 50 biggest active dumpsites in the Waste Atlas affect 64 million people daily, almost the population of France. Their total waste volume is about 200- 300 times the volume of the Great Pyramid of Giza. It is no surprise that most of these sites are located in developing countries, with poor financial and human resources to implement a sound waste management system.
The World’s Waste Atlas report is the first such list with most important dumpsites in the world. Since the closure of these dumpsites is more than just a local or national issue, it adds on the collective responsibility of the international community.
From African dumpsites in Lapite, Epe, Arlington to Latin American ones in Cancharani, K’ara K’ara and Bariloche to few in Caribbean and Europe, we come to the three monstrous Indian dumpsites among the other 18 Asian ones that made the cut.
1. Deonar Dumping Site, Mumbai:
Set up in 1927, it is India’s oldest and largest dumping ground. Spread over an area of 132 hectares, it receives receives about 6000 metric tonnes of waste, 600 metric tonnes of silt and 25 tonnes of bio-medical waste daily. In the decade since active, it has accumulated anywhere between 11.9 to 17 million metric tonnes of garbage. With the closest settlement being just about 500 meters away, complain of asthma and other respiratory ailments are common. Study by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and KEM Hospital that two localities bordering Deonar dumping site had high concentration of Formaldehyde, a potentially cancer-causing substance. Sea only 3.5 km away and Mithi river 7 km away are the closest natural resources at risk.
The last government had promised to close the site by 2009 but no action so far has caused protests from locals. While the government explores alternative dumping sites, a sustainable sanitary landfill site is the need of the hour.
2. Ghazipur, New Delhi:
Though not as big in land area, it stands as a tall hillock that from a distance resembles an actual hill. But as you move closer, the mountain gets odorous and incredibly filthy. In operation since 1984, it receives household waste, animal waste from poultry, fish market, slaughterhouse and C & D (construction & demolition) waste.
An estimated 420 human scavengers work on the site; 180 children among them. Most of whom suffer from asthma, tuberculosis, skin diseases and burns from fires. Around 3 million inhabitants reside within its 10 km radius which is 2.5 km from Sanjay lake and 7 km from Yamuna river. There are indications that the groundwater has been polluted with heavy metals.
3. Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) (Mandur), Bangalore:
Over last few years, Bangalore has been touted as the “garbage city”. Mandur dumping site became operational in 2008 and has since around 2.8 to 4 million tonnes of MSW (Municipal Solid Waste). The residents of nearest settlement 1 km away have been protesting for its closure for sometime now with signs of respiratory and kidney problems and illnesses like malaria becoming common. groundwater contamination from leachate percolation resulting in health issues. Besides, surface water pollution of nearby lakes Hoskote, Yellamma, Rampura and Bileshivale have been a major cause of concern for many.
In conclusion, such reports apart from raising awareness among citizens of the very real ignorance towards the urban environment and apathy for the waste workers, also highlight the government’s systemic failure to act. As we explore more and more of such monstrous kachra mounds, we come closer to making an attempt to address and remedy them.