Asthma, recurrent chest infections, shortness of breath and other respiratory illnesses are common, frequent fires in families living in the shade of the Gazipur landfill site, Delhi’s highest garbage mountain. A regular issue in election manifestos and often the subject of political blaming, the Gazipur dumping yard area has long been a problem with allegations of serious health risks to residents in the vicinity.
The fire that broke out in the dumping yard on March 28 could be controlled for more than 50 hours, forcing locals to stay indoors. No casualties were reported in the blaze, but thick blankets of smoke engulfed the area. Jummal, 55, who lives near the landfill site in Gazipur, East Delhi, says he suffers from asthma and has been suffering from frequent respiratory infections for the past nine years.
“I have stopped coming out of my house since I had health problems. When the fire broke out on March 26, we were out of breath. We can just close our windows and stay indoors. There was no other option for us, ”said Jummal. He added that they “tried several times to contact the relevant authorities but got no response.”
Eyewitnesses told PTI that during the recent fire, residents were “either at home or rushing to the hospital”. Riazuddin, who has been living in Gazipur since 1983, said everyone in his family was suffering from some form of illness because he blamed frequent fires and constant stench in the area for their health problems.
“My wife has asthma because of the toxic air here. The MCD never looked at our problems. Politicians only go to the area during elections. They come to us for voting and make huge promises, but the problem remains, ”he said. Gazipur Landfill is under East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC).
Most parents in the area say they are concerned about the safety and health of their children because they often get sick because of the polluted air and the smell of the area. They say their children often have allergies and infections.
“My children are suffering from allergies and shortness of breath. When the dumping yard caught fire, we all wore masks inside our house. We are used to it but we are worried about our children, ”said Asin, a resident of Gazipur.
Another resident, Shabnam, claimed that his youngest daughter, Sabina, had been receiving treatment for a respiratory infection at a government hospital for more than a decade.
“The concerned authorities have not taken any action to solve their problems. Politicians never go to the area after winning an election, ”he said.
For several years, residents of Gazipur have been demanding the relocation of the landfill site by stopping the dumping of garbage in the area. Locals said they had lodged multiple complaints and staged protests to get their demands met.
“Nothing worked. The situation is deteriorating day by day. A few years ago, a garbage dump collapsed, killing two people. Nothing has been done about this dumping yard, ”said Mohammad Furkan, another Khattar resident.
According to data shared by the Delhi Fire Department, a total of 16 fires broke out last year, “12 in Valsawa and four in Gazipur”. Fifteen such fires occurred in 2020, with 37 similar fires in 2019, the report said.
Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai has directed the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to submit a report on the latest incident within 24 hours. In April last year, DPCC fined EDMC Rs 40 lakh after a fire broke out at the Gazipur landfill site.