It is not uncommon to see mountains of garbage on the outskirts of most Indian cities in what are designated as dump yards. Apart from being an eyesore, they also emit an overpowering stench that filters through air-conditioned, closed confines of the vehicles when you drive along.
Over the years, due to changing lifestyles, waste generated per household, especially in urban areas has gone up dramatically. Municipal corporations have earmarked specific sites as landfills and hundreds of tonnes of all types of garbage get dumped in these landfills. The ugly sight and the offensive smell are just superficial problems. The huge garbage mounds hide hazards that in the long term can be very damaging. What kind of hazards do these dump yards pose?
- Climate Change: Municipal dump yards are known to be one of the largest generators of Methane a greenhouse gas that is considered to be 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide which is also emitted. Garbage is also the source for other offensive gases such as Hydrogen Sulphide and Ammonia which are the causes for the strong odour
- Public Health: The gases that are released into the atmosphere, have a direct impact on the health of people exposed to them. Further, the rotting garbage is a source of pathogenic bacteria which can trigger the spread of diseases – For instance, the prime cause for the plague that shook Surat a few years ago was accumulated garbage.
- Air pollution: Apart from the pollution caused by greenhouse gases, garbage tends to self-ignite due to the accumulation of methane and this results in dense smog, worsening the air quality
- Water pollution: The piles of garbage tend to generate large quantities of leachate which is extremely toxic and is loaded with pathogens. The leachate percolates and contaminates groundwater making it unusable – Jawahar Nagar in Hyderabad is the centralised dumping area for the entire city. The seepage of leachate has polluted groundwater so badly that for an area about 1.5 kms around the dumpsite, the groundwater has been declared to be unfit for any use whatsoever.
Sounds frightening? Need not be. Let us examine some solutions tomorrow!