When I took oath as the MP from East Delhi, the biggest challenge before me was literally a mountain of garbage. But Ghazipur is no ordinary mountain of mud or soil, it is Asia's largest mountain of garbage standing tall at over 60 metres with officials telling me that it may soon cross the height of Qutub Minar. The Ghazipur site was allocated for waste dumping in 1984 and is now spread across 70 acres. It had already crossed it's capacity of holding waste in the year 2002.
My first reaction on confronting the problem was to go on top of the mountain to get a better perspective. Soon I realised that successive politicians and officials concerned, including the Chief Minister of Delhi, had never visited the landfill site. The same officials claim that the corporation does not have a secondary site to dump waste collected from around 4.5 million of East Delhi's residents.
Around 700 trucks dump 3,000 metric tonnes of garbage everyday at this landfill. Made up of combustible substances, garbage and sewage effluents, Ghazipur has made the lives of local residents beyond fathom.
The strong and pungent stench from the heap would even surpass the windows of a car. Seeing children living in nearby colonies was shocking and overwhelming. A lady offered me a glass of water and it was brown in colour. It was certain to me then that action needs to be taken on a war footing.
The action plan
The first part was to consult experts who have tackled similar problems. We held meetings with senior bureaucrats and officials including the municipal commissioner of Indore to understand their experiences.
The biggest issue with Ghazipur was legacy waste accumulated over 25 years. However, after several rounds of discussions we finalised on machines with cutting edge technology which could not only process the legacy waste but also ensure that the output is more than the inflow of waste per day.
In October 2019, we brought in trommel machine-cum-ballistic separators, which are mechanical screening machines used to separate solid waste and inert materials. Currently, 12 such machines with a combined capacity of 1,800 tonnes per day segregate and lift waste from the site. The trommels have processed more than 7,48,800 metric tonnes of wastes in two years.
The trammels divide waste into three parts - construction and demolition wastes; plastic and combustible wastes for use as fuel, and enriched soil-like and inert materials, which is around 50 per cent. Around 15 per cent of the waste is used as Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) and sent to energy plants in Ghazipur for producing electricity.
Nearly 20 per cent waste is sent to construction and demolition waste plants of EDMC for making bricks, tiles and sand.While soil-like material, which comprises over half of the waste derived, is sent to NTPC's eco-park where so far 8,000 tonnes of waste has been sent. The remaining waste is sent to parks of EDMC.
Several other experts have also suggested that tackling the problem of the Ghazipur landfill is bioremediation and bio-mining. The objective is to basically separate the substances that can be useful, for instance, separating organic materials that can be used for farming as well as removing materials such as clothing materials that can go into cement-based plants and so on.
As a result of our continuous efforts, the height of East Delhi's tower of shame reduced by 40 feet for the first time in 25 years. This was a major boost for us and a turning point which signalled towards moving forward with our strategy.
Very soon the height started to reduce from certain ridges across the 70 acre area as well. As per the surveys done by various news networks, several people crossing the landfill on a daily basis noticed a steep reduction in height.
The biggest achievement was people living around the landfill claiming that the stench had reduced. Our objective is to process 50 per cent of the legacy waste by the year 2023 so that there is a visible difference in the height of the mountain and a positive impact of the lives of people.
Several Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) and civil society members have come forward to contribute to this massive fight in making our urban spaces cleaner and healthier. The biggest achievement of my public life would be to reduce this blot on my constituency as much as I can and give a healthier East Delhi to future generations.
(Former Indian cricketer is MP from east Delhi)