Jaipur landfill burns for weeks amid lockdown

Administration has hard time in finding fire brigades to spare due to lockdown

By Madhav Sharma
Published: Monday 20 April 2020

The primary landfill of Jaipur has been burning for the last 26 days even as the city has been under lockdown due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Sewapura solid waste depot is a gram panchayat of Jaipur district’s Amer tehsil. The Jaipur Municipal Corporation has been dumping the city’s garbage in the area for the last several years.

The fire was doused a bit after a light drizzle on the morning of April 20, 2020. But locals say it is still smoldering and can ignite again once the heat returns.

“In summer, there are many incidents of fire. Garbage pickers also set fire to the dump several times. About 20 villages have been affected by the fire,” Ummed Singh Charan, a resident of Sewapura told Down To Earth (DTE).

The most-affected villages include Luniawas, Bhairu Khejda, Hanumanpura, Bishangarh, Deeppura, Lakshminarayanpura, Badharana, Khairwadi, and Mangra Dhani.

“The fire has been burning in the garbage dump for many days,” Harsh Chaudhary, resident of Nangal Purohitan, a village in the Sewapura Panchayat, said.

“Smoke has filled our houses and animal enclosures. Our eyes and bodies have started to get itchy. We are having trouble breathing,” he added.

The level of pollutants, especially PM10, has also increased in the entire area due to smoke from the fire. The Central Pollution Control Board measures the amount of pollution in the Shastri Nagar area of Jaipur, 15 kilometres from Sewapura.

PM10 levels increased by more than four times in the last 19 days, according to CPCB data from Shastri Nagar.

On March 31, PM10 was just 36.24 micrograms per cubic metre. On April 19, it had increased to 158.6 micrograms per cubic metre.

The levels of PM2.5 have also increased slightly. The levels were 26.58 micrograms per cubic metre on March 31. On April 19, it had increased to 54.54 micrograms per cubic metre.

The Rajasthan Pollution Control Board did not maintain separate pollution data for Sewapura, MC Sharma, regional officer, Rajasthan Pollution Control Board, Jaipur North, told DTE.

“We use the figures of Vishwakarma Industrial Area or Shastri Nagar only,” he added.

Fire brigade engaged in sanitation

“The municipal corporation used to send only one fire extinguishing vehicle every day. But since the area of fire is much bigger, it has not been controlled yet. The staff accompanying the vehicle said all fire tenders were busy in sanitation work due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Charan said.

“Wet waste is also sent to the Sewapura waste depot. As it keeps on lying there for a long time, methane is produced. In summer, it catches fire and such incidents happen,” Jaipur Municipal Corporation Commissioner, Vijay Pal Singh, said.

“We have sent four-five fire brigade vehicles there and the fire has now been controlled,” he added.

However, locals disputed this and said the dump was still on fire. They added that staying at home due to the lockdown and having to bear the smoke caused by the fire had made life extremely difficult for them.

“The Sewapura landfill site has a capacity of 250 metric tonnes. But the waste accumulated exceeds capacity. That is why even waste treatment cannot be done,” Singh said.

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