Deonar fire: Police custody for the newly arrested duo
Two of those arrested today in connection with the Deonar dumping ground fires were sent to police custody by a Mumbai court till 25 April. Previously, the police had arrested 4 people on 18 April and 9 others on 17 April. Those arrested were booked under IPC sections 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance) and 437 (intend to destroy something).
Deonar dumping-yard, setup in 1927 in Mumbai is one of the oldest and biggest waste-dumping ground in India spread over 132 hectares. The yard collects around 6,000 tonnes of waste, including silt, biomedical waste, biodegradable waste, etc. In 2008, after receiving complaints of air pollution and health issues by neighboring areas, the municipality had partly closed the yard to generate power by extracting methane.
In 2008, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation had produced 8 MW of power, generating Rs.40 crore of BMC's revenue. After few months, BMC had shut down a second part of the yard to provide power, adding over Rs.70 crore to BMC's revenue.
The landfill causes numerous health issues to the residents of neighboring areas and has multiplied the air pollution in Mumbai. Frequent fires at the landfill releasing toxic smokes have made the surrounding areas unfit to live in. The infant mortality rate in the neighboring areas is 60.8 for every 1000 births, which is alarmingly high compared to 35.2 in other areas in Mumbai.
A fire at the Deonar dumping ground had resulted in toxic smog in neighboring areas such as Govandi, Chembur, and Ghatkopar. BMC had tried to control it with the help of special machinery to prevent the remaining garbage from catching fire. Heavy toxic smog had covered South Mumbai for over three days, and the BMC had shut down 74 schools in the affected areas.
The Deonar landfill fire had increased the pollution levels of Mumbai by 40%. The residents of Wadala, Govandi, Sion and other neighboring areas had complained of breathing difficulty, respiratory problems due to the foul smell of the smoke.
Exactly after a month, another fire had broken out at Deonar landfill and increased the toxic levels in Mumbai which were already high. Smaller fire incidents had continuously been reported after the massive fire breakout on 29 January. Due to resistance from the residents of the illegal hutments, BMC officials were forced to halt the demolition drive to reclaim the land for waste management.
A fire had started at the Deonar landfill for the third time in two months and began releasing toxic smoke. Three water tanks and two fire-engines had reached the spot but, couldn't put out the fire, which had intensified the following day. Govandi Corporator Rais Shaikh had stated that the government and municipality had failed to keep up their promise to solve the issue.
The fire that had broken out at Deonar landfill continued to blaze and spread to three square kilometers as the fire couldn't be controlled even on the third day. Residents of the South Mumbai areas complained of breathing problems and discomfort due to the thick, toxic smoke. Residents blamed BMC and its inefficient waste management policy and overloaded landfills for the fire.
At a meeting of the Union environment minister and a civic team led by BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta, the centre directed the BMC to close the Deonar dump in three months. The plan is to close Deonar scientifically along the lines of the Gorai dumping ground. Environment Minister Prakash Javedekar said they aso discussed "short, medium & long-measures for effective integrated waste management."
The two-member committee, set up by the environment ministry to investigate the Deonar fire, recommended criminal action against the BMC as none of the guidelines issued by central government were followed. The ministry expressed its displeasure over the manner in which the unprocessed waste is being dumped at Deonar. BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta said that "new guidelines for waste management should be framed."
The fire at the Deonar dumping ground which started on 19 March has yet to be put out. The Mumbai Fire Brigade is still at the dump, trying to douse the reoccurring pockets of fires errupting within the 132 hectares of the dump.