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Delhi’s Landfills: A Methane Menace



  Feb 15, 2024

Delhi’s Landfills: A Methane Menace



Delhi’s towering “trash mountains” in the neighborhoods of Ghazipur, Bhalswa, and Okhla have been identified as significant methane emission hotspots, according to satellite data. These landfills, receiving over 10,000 tonnes of the city’s waste daily, are contributing to the global issue of greenhouse gas emissions, with methane being particularly concerning due to its potent heat-trapping capabilities.

Key Insights:

Methane Emissions: Satellite data from Kayrros, an environmental intelligence agency, revealed that since 2020, Ghazipur, Bhalswa, and Okhla have experienced at least 124 methane “super emitter” leaks. Methane, known for trapping 82 times more heat than CO2 over 20 years, exacerbates global warming.

Waste Composition: A significant portion of the waste in these dumps is biodegradable “wet waste” from food scraps and vegetable peelings, constituting over 50% of the daily rubbish. Lack of segregation and proper waste management in Delhi has led to these materials decomposing and producing methane in large quantities.

Challenges in Management: The absence of a gas capture system, a method used in developed countries to contain and repurpose methane, means that this gas freely enters the atmosphere from the Delhi landfills. Efforts to compost the organic waste are hindered by land availability issues and the lack of a market for compost, leading to continued dumping and methane production.

Government Response: While the Delhi government aims to clear these dumpsites by the end of 2024, the goal is challenged by the continuous inflow of unsegregated waste. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has started removing legacy waste but admits it’s lagging at Ghazipur. This biomining process, however, doesn’t address the fresh biodegradable waste contributing to methane emissions and air pollution from landfill fires.

Environmental and Health Impacts: The methane emissions and resultant fires at these sites pose significant health risks to nearby residents and workers, including ragpickers who depend on these dumps for livelihood. The toxic smoke from landfill fires exacerbates Delhi’s air pollution, which is already among the worst in the world.

Looking Forward:

Experts advocate for a shift away from landfilling and mixed waste dumping towards sustainable waste management practices, including rigorous waste segregation and the adoption of socially inclusive systems that account for the livelihoods of those involved in waste sorting and selling. Although waste-to-energy plants are being considered as alternatives, their operational transparency, regulatory compliance, and environmental impact remain concerns. Reducing methane emissions from waste is crucial not just for Delhi but for global efforts to limit temperature rises and combat climate change.

SRIRAM’s


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