(ORDO NEWS) — At the Bhalswa landfill in northwest Delhi, India, a constant stream of trucks zigzag up the rubbish pile to dump more rubbish into a pile more than 62 meters high.
Fires flare up periodically, caused by high temperatures and methane gas. This year, the Delhi Fire Department responded to 14 fires, some of which could smolder deep under a pile for weeks or months.
Men, women and children work nearby, sorting through the rubbish in search of some items to sell.
Some residents living in Bhalswa say the area is uninhabitable, but they cannot afford to move and have no choice but to breathe toxic air and bathe in polluted water.
Bhalswa is not the biggest dump in Delhi.
It is about three meters lower than the largest, Ghazipur, and both contribute to the country’s total methane production.
Methane is the second most abundant greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, but it is a more powerful source of the climate crisis because methane traps more heat.
India generates more methane in landfills than any other country, according to GHGSat, which monitors methane levels using satellites.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said efforts are being made to eliminate these mountains of rubbish and turn them into green spaces.
India is trying to reduce methane production, but it has not joined the 130 countries that signed the Global Methane Pledge, a pact to collectively reduce global methane emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030.
Methane emissions are not the only danger associated with landfills such as Bhalswa and Gazipur.
For decades, dangerous toxins have seeped into the ground, polluting the water supply of thousands of residents living nearby.
According to Rich Singh of the Center for Science and the Environment (CSE), the amount of inorganic salts and organic matter dissolved in water taken near the Bhalswa site is between 3,000 and 4,000 mg/L.
“This water is not only undrinkable, but also unsuitable for skin contact,” he said.
“Therefore, it cannot be used for purposes such as bathing, cleaning dishes or clothes.”
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