Mumbai’s largest dumping ground is up in flames for the second time in less than two months, engulfing India’s financial capital Tuesday morning in a thick layer of smoke.
The landfill at Deonar – an eastern suburb close to Mumbai’s center and adjacent to the city’s Bandra Kurla Complex business district – caught fire Sunday. For the past three days, the Mumbai fire brigade has deployed 100 firemen, 12 fire engines and eight tankers to bring the flames under control, said Chief Fire Officer P.S. Ranghdale.
It is unclear how many more days firemen will need to bring the situation under control at the 111-hectare landfill, where more than half of the city’s daily 10,000 tons of waste is dumped, Mr. Ranghdale said. The total volume of the waste piled up in the 8 decade-old dumping yard is close to 16 million tons, with hills of trash as tall as 8-floor buildings .
“Landfill fires are like bush fires, when you put them out in one place they spring up somewhere else,” said Mr. Ranghdale. “I hope we’ll be done in a couple of days, but it’s difficult to say.”
Air pollution in the city has spiked. The U.S. consulate, which monitors particulate concentration in India’s largest cities, said the air quality index for Mumbai was 181 at 11 am Tuesday, higher than any other large city in the country, and significantly higher than New Delhi’s 101 reading.
The Deonar fire sheds light on India’s trash problem. In Mumbai, junk produced by 21 million people – the population of Florida, or twice as many as those who live in Portugal – isn’t separated ahead of being taken to the dumping ground. Slumdwellers who live nearby instead scavenge plastic, metal, glass and other items they can sell for recycling from the dump.
“It’s still not clear if the fire is intentional or accidental,” said Deputy Superintendent Sangram Nishandar. The Mumbai police have opened two cases against unknown individuals for igniting the fire and carrying out sabotage, but no arrests have been made, Mr. Nishandar said.
Officials say the fires may have started when methane gas emitted when waste decomposes caught alight. Methane is highly combustible and has a lower explosive limit. There only needs to be a concentration of 4.4% of the gas in the air for an explosion to be possible.
In Deonar’s dumping ground the concentration of methane varies between 35% and 58%, according to a study by the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai.
Students from the school submitted in January a proposal to the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, or BMC, to safely eliminate the gas from the dumping ground. But digging a well at the dump yard to extract the methane may be too dangerous, BMC officials said in January.
The rag picking business is another possible cause of the problem, an official said. Rag pickers routinely ignite fires to burn waste to enable them to collect scrap metal more easily. An official said they often can’t predict how large the fire will grow.
The BMC ramped up security at the site after last month’s fire, which lasted for a week: the number of guards has tripled, and 50 more will be added now, said Kiran Dighavkar, Assistant Municipal Commissioner of M East Ward. Twelve CCTV cameras were installed last month to identify people who enter the site, and now the BMC plans to add 15 more night-vision cameras, Mr. Dighavkar said.
A fire broke out in Deonar on Jan. 27, producing a plume of smoke that could be seen from space.
Coordinates: 19°04′02″N72°55′11″E / 19.0671°N 72.9197°E / 19.0671; 72.9197
The Deonar dumping ground is a waste dumping ground or landfill in the city of Mumbai. Located in the city's Deonar, an eastern suburb of the city, it is India's oldest and largest dumping ground, set up in 1927. The dumping ground is managed by the city's civic body, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (also known as Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai), which also manages two other dumping ground in the city; one in the neighbourhood of Mulund and one recently opened in Kanjurmarg.
The dumping ground extends over 132 hectares and receives 5,500 metric tonnes of waste, 600 metric tonnes of silt and 25 tonnes of bio-medical waste daily. Between March and June the daily amount of silt rises to more than 9,000 metric tonnes because of drain cleaning in advance of the monsoon season.
The dump rises to around 114 ft. high. However, in February 2012, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai sought permission from the Airport Authority of India (AAI) to increase this to around 164 ft. As of December 2014, the waste had reached the height of an 18-storeyed tower.
There is another old dumping ground in Mulund in the north-eastern part of the city, where about 2,000 metric tonnes of garbage are dumped daily. In March 2015, a new dumping site was opened in the city by the city's civic body in Kanjurmarg which happens to be the first dumping site which is processed scientifically.
The Deonar dumping ground has caused health issues for the residents from Mumbai's neighbourhood of Chembur, Govandi and Mankhurd. Recurrent fires at the dump have caused conditions unfit for habitation for residents of the adjacent area. In 2008, around 40 residents of Chembur went on a hunger strike to protest against the frequent fires and smoke. Again in 2012, Chembur residents complained to the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai about the smoke coming out of the dumping ground, which has been affecting asthma patients. In 2015, neighbourhood surrounding to the dumping ground was identified as the city's most polluted area. Another fire broke out at the Deonar dumping ground in January 2016 causing the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to shut down 74 schools run by it for two days, as the smoke from the ground veiled the area causing breathing difficulties.
Infant mortality has also been a concern in the nearby areas; as the rate stands at 60-80 per 1000 live births, which is double the average of 35.2 for the entire city.
In August 2008, it was reported that after receiving complaints from and pollution from the dump, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had decided to close down a section of the dumping ground and use it to generate 7 to 8 MW of power by methane extraction, adding ₹400 million (US$6.1 million) to BMC’s revenue. A few months later, BMC granted a contract for the scientific partial closure of the dumping ground for ₹7.04 billion (US$110 million). Partial closing was to take place in two phases, 65 hectares in the first phase, and in the second phase construction of a processing plant and sanitary landfill on the remaining 55 hectares.
- ^Desai, Shweta (3 November 2008). "Deonar dump ready for Rs 5000-cr makeover". The Indian Express. Mumbai. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
- ^Jawdekar, Prachi (5 August 2010). "Mumbai scam: Rs. 2600 crore for services that are free". NDTV. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
- ^"Activists withdraw PIL on dumping ground". The Times of India. 23 March 2012. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
- ^ abc"45% of Deonar dumping ground to be cleared by May". DNA India. 28 March 2011. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
- ^ abSuryawanshi, Sudhir (15 August 2008). "65 acres of Deonar dumping ground to be closed down". Mumbai Mirror. Mumbai. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
- ^"BMC in the dock over toxic gases at Deonar dump". The Times of India. Mumbai. 26 November 2008. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
- ^Sayed, Nazia (8 December 2009). "Gang attacks deonar docs". Mumbai Mirror. Mumbai. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
- ^ abSuryawanshi, Sudhir (30 November 2010). "Soon, city will have no place to dump trash". Mumbai Mirror. Mumbai. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
- ^"45% of Deonar dumping ground to be cleared by May". 23 March 2012. inchembur.com. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
- ^"Mumbail locals 'raise' stink over Deonar dump height". DNA India. Mumbai. 15 March 2012. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
- ^Kunal Purohit; Poorvi Kulkarni (14 December 2014). "Maximum city, maximum garbage". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
- ^Tanushree Venkatraman (3 September 2015). "Dumping grounds: Will shut only Mulund dump yard, says BMC". The Indian Express. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
- ^"Fire Burns in Mumbai Landfill". Mumbai. 28 Jan 2016. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
- ^Kulkarni, Poorvi (5 March 2012). "Deonar dump smoke makes locals Fume". Hindustan Times. Mumbai. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
- ^"Residents protest fire at Deonar dumping ground". The Indian Express. 25 March 2008. Archived from the original on 31 July 2012. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
- ^Times News Network (18 May 2012). "Chembur residents fume over smoke from Deonar dumping ground". The Times of India. Mumbai. Retrieved 18 May 2012.
- ^Richa Pinto (23 October 2015). "Chembur city's most polluted suburb, thanks to dump fires and industries in neighbourhood". The Times of India. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
- ^"Deonar dump fire chokes suburbs; smog across city". Mumbai. 28 January 2016. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
- ^"Smog from dumping ground fire shuts down 74 schools in Mumbai". Mumbai. 28 January 2016. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
- ^"Govandi residents raise a stink, CM vows solution to Deonar deadlock". Mumbai. 11 January 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
- ^Desai, Geeta (10 November 2008). "BMC mulls record Rs 704 cr contract to close part of Deonar dump yard". Mumbai Mirror. Mumbai. Retrieved 23 March 2012.