The Taj Mahal is becoming a fetid symbol due to the co-existence of the tallest rubbish mountain in India which according to the UN is – the world’s most polluted capital and this rubbish pile is on course to rise even higher than Taj Mahal, one of the 7 wonders in the world, by next year.
The birds of prey such as Hawks and others hover around the towering Ghazipur landfill of 213ft on the eastern fringe of New Delhi including stray cows, dogs, and rats that wander over the vast expanse of smoking filth at will.
Ghazipur landfill covers the area of more than 40 football pitches and rises per year by nearly 33ft with its never-ending foul-smelling growth.
In 2020, it is expected to be taller than the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra of around 239ft height considering its current growth rate.
Last year India’s Supreme Court warned to put red warning lights on the dump at the earliest to alert jets passing over.
However, the present scenario would not have surfaced if authorities handled the matter more diligently.
After opening up in 1984, when Ghazipur reached its capacity in 2002, it should have been closed. However, each day, hundreds of trucks of the city’s detritus kept on arriving making the situation even worse.
‘About 2,000 tonnes of garbage is dumped at Ghazipur each day,’ a Delhi municipal official said on condition of anonymity.
A section of the rubbish hill collapsed due to heavy rains in 2018, killing two people. Dumping was banned after the deaths, but as because authorities could not find an alternative; the measure lasted only a few days.
Regular fires get sparked and spread by methane gas released from the dump, and take much longer time to extinguish.
According to Shambhavi Shukla, a senior researcher at the Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi, methane belching from the garbage when get mixed with atmosphere, can become even more deadly.
Leachate, a black toxic liquid, discharges into a local canal from the dump as well.
‘It all needs to be stopped as the continuous dumping has severely polluted the air and groundwater,’ said Chitra Mukherjee, head of Chintan, an environmental advocacy group.
Residents say, often breathing becomes virtually impossible due to the dump.
‘The poisonous smell has made our lives hell. People fall sick all the time,’ said 45-year-old resident Puneet Sharma.
As protests do not work, many people are now leaving the district.
Above all, a plant next to the dump that recycles waste into energy increases their misery because it releases poisonous smoke by burning the trash, they added.
Local doctor Kumud Gupta said, each day she examines about 70 people, including babies, suffering mostly from respiratory and stomach problems caused by polluted air.
A recent study disclosed that the dump was a health risk, including cancer for people living within three miles.
Delhi, the Indian capital, is already notorious for its pollution because of heavy industry, traffic-clogged streets, and burning of fields annually in regions around.
As per a government survey conducted between 2013 and 2017, Delhi witnessed 981 deaths from acute respiratory infection while 1.7 million and more residents suffered from diseases.
In the coming years, India’s garbage mountains will only get bigger at an alarming rate.
Presently Indian cities are among the largest garbage producers in the world, generating 62 million tonnes of waste every year. The government figures showed that it could rise to 165 million tonnes by 2030.
Chitra, of the Chintan group, said, as India’s growing wealth drives consumerism, waste has become a considerable challenge, and the country cannot properly dispose of the of extra garbage produced.
Operation Clean India launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he came into power in 2014. Tens of thousands of public toilets have been built under this program, and in 2016 new waste management rules were introduced.
However, watchdogs, including the Supreme Court, have repeatedly accused warring authorities of Delhi for not taking the waste crisis seriously. A single party controls this region while the right-wing party of Modi runs the city authorities.