Acrid smoke hung over New Delhi for a second day on Wednesday after a massive landfill caught fire during a scorching heat wave, forcing informal waste workers to endure hazardous conditions.
The landfill in northern Delhi’s Bhalswa is taller than a 17-story building and covers an area bigger than 50 football fields. Waste workers who live in nearby homes had emptied onto the streets on Tuesday evening.
But by Wednesday morning, the thousands of people who live and work at the landfill had begun the dangerous process of trying to salvage garbage from the fire.
“There’s a fire every year. It is not new. There is risk to life and livelihood, but what do we do?” asked Bhairo Raj, 31, an informal waste worker who lives next to the landfill. He said that his children studied there and he couldn’t afford to leave.
The Indian capital, like the rest of South Asia, is in the midst of a record-shattering heat wave that experts said was a catalyst for the landfill fire. Three other landfills around the Indian capital have also caught fire in recent weeks.
After the hottest March on records, preliminary data suggests April 2022 is the 4th hottest in Indian climatic history. In the Northern and Central regions, it’s the hottest ever. Waiting for the Pakistani data,where April, like March, will probably be confirmed as the hottest. https://t.co/bc3Ac2e3NE
— Extreme Temperatures Around The World (@extremetemps) April 30, 2022
The landfill in the latest fire was planned for closure more than a decade ago, but more than 2,300 tons of the city’s garbage is still dumped there every day. The organic waste in the landfill decays, resulting in a build-up of highly combustible methane gas.
“With high temperatures, this spontaneous combustion will take place,” said Ravi Agarwal, the director of Toxics Link, a New Delhi-based advocacy group that focuses on waste management.
Today 29 April highest temperature in India was 47.4C at Banda.
More monthly records of highest temperatures for April were set:
Jhansi 46.2C tied
More records are expected tomorrow. Stay tuned https://t.co/9ORwRphfXt
— Extreme Temperatures Around The World (@extremetemps) April 29, 2022
Several fire engines rushed to the landfill on Tuesday to try and douse the fire. At night, the landfill resembled a burning mountain and it smoldered until early morning.
March was the hottest month in India in over a century and April has been similarly scorching. Temperatures crossed 43 degrees Celsius (109.4 F) in several cities Tuesday and are forecasted to continue rising.
We should stop spraying our skies in our atmosphere… [ABC News]
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