Gurugram landfill on fire, spews toxic smoke - Hindustan Times
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Gurugram landfill on fire, spews toxic smoke

By, Gurugram
Apr 24, 2024 06:28 AM IST

This was the fourth fire at the Bandhwari landfill this month and one of the biggest in the last two years

A fire broke out in the Bandhwari landfill on the Gurugram-Faridabad border early Tuesday morning and was doused in an 11-hour-long operation, people familiar with the matter said, adding that no injuries were reported.

Smoke billows from the fire at the Bandhwari landfill on the Gurugram-Faridabad Road near Bandhwari village in Gurugram on Tuesday. (HT Photo)
Smoke billows from the fire at the Bandhwari landfill on the Gurugram-Faridabad Road near Bandhwari village in Gurugram on Tuesday. (HT Photo)

The fire was reported to the Gurugram Sector 29 fire station at 5.15am after which 10 fire tenders from Faridabad, Pataudi, Manesar, and Gurugram along with 35 firefighters rushed to the scene and controlled the blaze by 5 pm, fire officers said.

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“We suspect that combustion of methane gas may have caused the fire as there is a higher concentration of the gas at the site. Fire incidents are regularly reported from the landfill during summer. The exact cause is still unknown. There are also possibilities that someone may have thrown a cigarette butt or any chemical that led to the fire incident,” said Gulshan Kalra, deputy director (technical), of Haryana fire services, who also holds the charge of deputy director (technical) of the fire station at Sector 29.

This was the fourth fire at the Bandhwari landfill this month and one of the biggest in the last two years — a fire is adjudged big when it hampers the landfill’s functions. The Bandhwari landfill is 32 metres tall. It gets most of Gurugram’s 1,300 tonnes of daily waste, and 1,000 tonnes of waste from Faridabad every day, according to officials of the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG).

The fire began in the inner area of the landfill and quickly spread over half an acre, releasing thick clouds of smoke in the air. Saurabh Khaitan, a commuter from Faridabad, said that large flames combined with thick fumes could be seen at the site at 7am. “The flames were very high and intense, and the smoke made it difficult to breathe,” he said.

Naresh Kumar, joint commissioner of MCG, said all senior officials and sanitation wing staff were present at the site till Tuesday evening. Fire officers said that though the blaze had been brought under control, the process of cooling down in the affected areas will continue for some time. Despite containing the flames, residual heat and smouldering debris pose ongoing challenges, necessitating continued monitoring and efforts to prevent any resurgence of the fire, fire officers said.

“The Bandhwari landfill catches fire in summer because of the presence of flammable materials and biodegradable waste that composts faster. We suspect that the fire could have been ignited by glass pieces when sunlight fell upon them. The intense heat from the sun’s rays acted as a catalyst, causing the glass pieces to heat up and igniting nearby flammable materials. We are still investigating. This unexpected ignition added to the challenges faced by firefighters in their efforts to contain the blaze,” said MCG joint commissioner Kumar.

Vaishali Rana, a city-based environmentalist, said, “Fire incidents at Bandhwari landfill are quite common during summers because Solid Waste Management (SMW) rules are not followed. The higher temperatures cause organic matter present in the waste to decompose more rapidly, thereby emitting greater quantities of methane, which, under enough pressure and oxygen intrusion into the landfill, spontaneously combust. The only solution is to monitor and ensure that everyone is following rules and regulations at the site,” she said.

Another environmentalist, Roma J Vinayak, said carbon monoxide levels in Gurugram exceed the permissible limit by 70 times, and PM2.5 and PM10 levels are also high. “There have been four major fires at the Bandhwari landfill in April. Aside from that, there have been 150 reported waste-burning incidents in March with no data on unreported cases. The government should ensure adherence to the Solid Waste Management Rules of 2016 to avoid such fire incidents,” she said.

MCG officials said they have been monitoring the operations and violations according to the guidelines.

A major fire in 2013 caused the Bandhwari waste management plant to become defunct. Since then, civic bodies in Gurugram and Faridabad have continued to dump more than 1,000 tonnes of untreated garbage at the site every day.

On December 30, to resolve the issue of excess legacy waste at Bandhwari, a state committee constituted by the National Green Tribunal decided that from February 15, 2023, 70% of fresh waste generated by Gurugram and 50% of waste from Faridabad will not be sent to the landfill. The deadline was extended till March 31 and will now be extended by a few more months since the agencies have failed to process the waste, said senior MCG officials.

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