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Frequent fires at garbage dumps affecting city’s air quality

Frequent fires at garbage dumps affecting city’s air quality

Smoke billows from garbage at the Bhagtanwala dump. Photo: Vishal Kumar



Tribune News Service

Neha Saini

Amritsar, May 15

Two dump fires recently at Bhagtanwala and Ranjit Avenue resulted in air quality index (AQI) in the city reaching unhealthy levels, between 200 and 300. With garbage hills at Bhagtanwala continuing to emit fumes for the last six days, locals have been reporting high quantity of ash residue and soot in air around residential localities and in walled city lanes.

AQI monitor installed in Amritsar. Photo: Vishal Kumar

But that is not the only problem for people in Amritsar, who have been forced to breath toxic fumes and air contaminants, generated by burning piles of garbage that has become a common practice all across the city. If Bhagtanwala was less of a problem, new landfills have been created at Fatehpur, Chabbal Road and in the outer area of Ranjit Avenue along the Amrit Anand Park, thanks to unauthorised dumping garbage in open spaces, making them vulnerable to fire outbreaks due to rising day temperature.

Inside the walled city, from narrow bylanes near Darbar Sahib to Ram Bagh, one can see numerous piles of garbage that are burnt at night in the name of disposal. Similarly, the stretch from Putlighar Chowk to Gawal Mandi Chowk also reveals a similar story. Two days ago, Voice of Amritsar (VOA), an NGO , along with some residents of localities near Amrit Anand Park, reported high levels of smoke and soot in the morning due to burning of garbage at an unauthorised dump near the park. Another fire was reported from a garbage heap lying on a vacant plot in front of the Red Cross office on Old Jail Road. “The AQI reported near the Red Cross office on Old Jail Road was near 399, which was quit dangerous. Ignoring these clarion calls by residents and the NGOs, the administration is just sleeping on a looming health hazard,” shared Rajwinder Pal Singh, a resident of Ranjit Avenue and one of the volunteers of the VOA.

The Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) has constituted a committee to monitor air quality in the city and check pollution, especially caused by vehicles and dump fires. Prof Adarsh Pal Vig, Chairman, PPCB , agreed that dump fires were an annual problem.

He said, “No solution has been found to the problem due to lack of any corrective measures. Open dumps generate methane gas that causes fire due to high temperature, resulting in further release of a cocktail of secondary toxic pollutants like carbon monoxide and sulphur compounds.”

He said, “Also, these dumps have plastic waste, e-waste, demolition waste and bio-medical waste which have chemical compositions and are hazardous when burnt. Although, the PPCB has been monitoring air quality through systems installed, the corrective measures have to come through a collaborative effort.”

Piles of garbage dot several localities

People living in the Bhagtanwala area have been cautioning the authorities for overlooking the soot and contaminants that fly over to the Fana Mandi, Bhagtanwala Central, due to incessant burning of the dump. Representatives of the Sanjhi Sangharsh Committee and the Food Grain Commission Warehouse owners say that whenever the wind blows, filthy articles, including used plastic bags, come flying all over the mandi area.

The city produces approximately 650 tonnes of garbage per day, but sources claim that less than half of the total waste collected reaches the dump. “Out of 650 tonnes, the remaining 350 stays back, unlifted at street corners, chowks and on roadsides of Amritsar. It is pressed and crushed under the human feet or under wheels of vehicles. People live in these conditions. Later, most of it is set on fire at night,” said PS Bhatty, president, Pollution Control Committee, Amritsar.

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