MCD fined Rs 50 lakh for not taking proper steps to prevent the Bhalswa fire

In a blame game between the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and Delhi Fire services regarding the fire that kept raging at the Bhalswa landfill site for more than ten days, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) has fined Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) stating that it did not take proper steps to prevent the fire

The landfiill site has been on fire for the 5th day now.

The fire kept on raging for more than 10 days, exacerbating the already polluted air in the nearby areas. The pollution control body noticed inadequate compacting of municipal waste at the dumpsite, and said “methane pockets could lead to subsurface fire at the landfill”.

Waste compaction in a landfill site helps save valuable airspace and extends the lifespan of the dumpsite. It also minimizes the risk of collapses, cave-ins and fires.

The DPCC also observed that the slope stability at the dumpsite spread over 70 acres was not adequate. The fire occurred in fresh municipal solid waste around 5:30 pm at the top of the dumpsite on the side facing the Delhi-Chandigarh national highway. MCD officials reported that the fire affected around 300 square metres of area. However, it spread rapidly due to strong winds, the DPCC said in a report.

“The reason reported for the fire incident was excess release of methane gas, high temperature and dry atmospheric conditions,” it said.

In its response to a show cause notice issued on May 15, the erstwhile North MCD told the DPCC that around 2,500 metric tonnes of fresh waste was being dumped at the landfill site every day due to land constraints.

“In this position, the height (of the dumpsite) is increasing and the slope is becoming steeper day by day due to which slope stabilization is a very challenging task. However, construction and demolition waste is consistently being used for the stabilization of waste and regular turning and compacting is being done,” it said in its reply.

Initially, the fire started in a short area but it spread quickly due to high temperature, generation of uncontrolled methane gas in garbage, presence of combustible material like plastic, dry leaves, papers etc. and strong winds, the North MCD said.

It said if a dedicated fire vehicle from the Delhi Fire Services were present at site when the fire broke out on April 26, it could have been doused at the initial stage only and the situation could have been controlled much earlier.

Bioremediation of legacy waste is underway at the landfill site that started operating in 1994. Around 25 lakh tonnes of the 80 lakh tonnes of the legacy waste at the dumpsite has been bio-mined since October 2019. The deadline to flatten the dumpsite is December 2024.

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