- Delineate the reasons for frequent landfill fires.
- What is the difficulty in dousing landfill fires.
- Suggested corrective steps.
A landfill site, also known as rubbish dump, garbage dump, or dumping ground, is a site for the disposal of waste materials. There have been frequent recent occurrences of landfill fires : Ghazipur landfill fire – Three incidents of fire have been reported this year at east Delhi’s Ghazipur landfill site. Bhalswa landfill fire – The massive fire that broke out at the Bhalswa landfill began on April 26 evening. Other instances are Perungudi dump yard fire, Dadumajra landfill fire.
Reasons for frequent landfill fires :
- Landfills are the largest source of methane emissions which are highly flammable and plays a major role in the ignition of landfill fires. The decomposition of waste is largely anaerobic in a landfill, which results in the production of large quantities of methane and carbon dioxide.
- Surface fires at dumpsites are also caused by equipment related factors. This includes debris trapped under machines, heat from equipment (exhaust pipes) and welding.
- Fires are also a result of human factors. Waste pickers who scavenge the waste may inadvertently start a fire by smoking in the landfill.
- The temperature of a region also aids in fire generation. For instance, the ongoing heat wave in Delhi enhanced the probability of fire in a landfill.
Difficulty in dousing landfill fires : The unscientific construction of a landfill site and their mammoth size make it very difficult for the firemen to douse off fire quickly. Further, multiple ignition points, lack of constant water supply, and the danger involved in climbing steep garbage mounds enhances the total time to extinguish a landfill fire.
What corrective steps can be undertaken ? :
- There should be a clear Landfill Waste Management plan.
- Prompt disciplinary action should be taken against officials who are responsible for management of municipal waste in the area, as a punitive precedence.
- State governments should provide adequate funds to local bodies so that they can take requisite measures to tackle the creation of giant landfills.
- States must also learn from good practices of each other to tackle the menace of landfills. For instance, the Delhi Government has agreed to study a system installed in Mumbai to capture methane from the rotting waste and replicate it to prevent fires at the landfill site.
- India also has to develop skilled and trained professionals to operate and maintain the entire waste management chain.
- There should be proper implementation of Solid Waste Management and Plastic Waste Management Rules so that less waste flows into landfills.
- The idea of a circular economy should be promoted. Further, the government should do greater procurement of recycled materials in order to incentivise the private sector.
The menace of landfills is a result of decades of poor solid waste management practices adopted by the Governments and the masses. The rising number of landfill fires is a testimony to the huge magnitude of damage that a big landfill site can cause to citizens. It is therefore imperative to take proactive measures towards their reduction, thereby helping in achievement of SDG 15 i.e., Life on Land.