National Green Tribunal or NGT gave an earful to the three municipal authorities with some stern directions to clear the mess created by the landfills that are threatening the underground water as well as River Yamuna
Alarmed by the water hue that has turned yellowish-orange which is threatening the people living near the landfills at Bhalswa, Ghazipur and Okhla, the National Green Tribunal reprimanded the three municipal corporations on Wednesday.
The panel has ordered a Rs 250-crore bioremediation and biomining plan put into place to reclaim the land at the landfills.
The bench headed by NGT chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel has directed work on this to begin by October 1 and gave the three corporations a year’s time to inform the tribunal of the result. The project’s cost is to be borne by Delhi government and the municipal corporations, with New Delhi Municipal Council and Delhi Cantonment Board putting Rs 20 crore each into an escrow account.
NGT warned that if the civic bodies failed to deposit their share, the salaries of their officials would be withheld. The matter will next be heard on November 19. “This problem has to be tackled. Today is the day we have to start dealing with it,” said justice Goel, pointing out how the yellow and orange leachate at Bhalswa, Ghazipur and Okhla was not only contaminating the groundwater, but also reaching the Yamuna.”
“There are heavy metals in the groundwater and other parameters are several times beyond the permissible range,” he added. The bench pointed out, “This bioremediation is already being followed in Ahmedabad. It is a scientific and cost-effective method. All you have to do is temporarily hire machines and labour. No tender is needed for either. All this indecisiveness and blaming each other need to stop.”
Bioremediation is a process that treats contaminated water and soil by creating a new environment through the introduction of microorganisms to degrade the pollutants. Because the rains are likely to cause instability, work on the bioremediation at the landfills can begin from October 1 onwards, NGT suggested.
Accordingly, this will also give the civic bodies enough time to procure trommel machines that can sort the material at the landfills. In this regard, NGT was heavily critical of North Delhi Municipal Corporation for carrying out the capping of the Bhalswa site and estimating the cost of remediation there at Rs 1,200 crore.
When Varsha Joshi, the commissioner, argued that its scientific advisory committee had opted for capping to solve the methane and leachate problem, the bench said experts consulted by NGT had opined capping was not an efficient solution. In the short term it might be okay, but over time it created problems both for human health and environment, the green panel said. “Have you studied the Indore model? Why can’t that model be copied?” asked Goel, when told of the cost estimate.
“The figure is totally on the wrong side when Indore has done it at a cost that is far far less.” NGT was referring to the work of Dr Asad Warsi, the expert member referred to in the case, in successfully reducing the landfill height in Indore over 3-4 years.
Warsi told the tribunal that three million tonnes of waste could be reduced in a year’s time if 20 trommel machines were employed. Ahmedabad started with 12 machines and is now planning to increase this to 50.
With space created by the processing of waste, more machines can be used. CPCB member-secretary Prashant Gargava also informed NGT that capping landfills was not advisable and that the biological oxygen demand (BOD) levels of the groundwater at these places had gone up as high as 93 mg/litre against the ‘healthy’ limit of 0 mg/litre NGT also created a monitoring committee for the remediation work, putting the Delhi chief secretary at its head and roping in the urban development secretary, commissioners of the three corporations, NDMC chairman and member-secretaries of Central Pollution Control Board and Delhi Pollution Control Committee as members. “Once the land is reclaimed, a biodiversity park or a waste processing plant can be set up,” the bench suggested.