Ghazipur landfill in the background | source: AFP

India’s tallest garbage mountain located in East Delhi’s Ghazipur area is on its way to rise higher than the Taj Mahal till 2020, becoming a vilifying matter for the Indian capital city.

Kites and other birds of prey hover around the towering Ghazipur landfill, while stray cows, dogs and rats can be seen wandering over the huge garbage hill.

The landfill in New Delhi, considered by the UN as the most polluted capital, could engulf over forty football pitches, rises by nearly 10 meters a year.

According to East Delhi’s superintendent engineer Arun Kumar, it is already more than 65 metres (213 feet) high. At its current rate of growth, it will be taller than the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra, which stands at 73 meter, by 2020.

Ghazipur landfill was opened in 1984 and reached its capacity in 2002, when it should have been closed. But the city’s waste has continuously been landing at the site, through hundreds of trucks.

“About 2,000 tons of garbage is dumped at Ghazipur each day”, told a Delhi municipal official, who didn’t wish to be named.

In 2018, a part of the hill crumbled in heavy rains killing two people. Dumping was, then, banned after the deaths. However, the directive lasted only a few days as no alternative could be found by the authorities.

Shambhavi Shukla, senior researcher at the Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi, while speaking to AFP, said methane emitted from the garbage can become even more deadly when mixed with atmosphere. Leachate, a black toxic liquid, oozes from the dump into a local canal.

While fires, sparked by methane gas coming from the dump, regularly break out and take days to extinguish.

“It all needs to be stopped as the continuous dumping has severely polluted the air and ground water,” said Chitra Mukherjee, head of Chintan, an environment advocacy group.

Residents have often complained that the dump often makes breathing virtually impossible. Protests have not worked and now many people are leaving the district. They say a plant that recycles waste into energy next to the dump increases their misery because the smoke released is also poisonous.

Local doctor Kumud Gupta told AFP that she sees about 70 people, including babies, each day mostly suffering from respiratory and stomach ailments caused by polluted air.

A recent study said the dump was a health risk for people living within five kilometres and may cause cancer.

Traffic on roads, fumes and exhausts from heavy industries and annual burning of fields in regions around Delhi have already made the Indian capital notorious for its pollution.

A government survey conducted between 2013 and 2017 reported that Delhi saw 981 deaths from acute respiratory infection while more than 1.7 million residents suffered from infections.

Indian cities are among the world’s largest garbage producers, generating 62 million tons of waste annually. By 2030, that could rise to 165 million tons, according to government figures.

In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, under which tens of thousands of public toilets have been built and new waste management rules were introduced in 2016.

The Supreme Court and environment conservation advocacy groups have continuously accused Delhi’s authorities of not taking the waste crisis seriously.

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