New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: More than 16 hours after a massive fire broke out at the Bhalswa landfill site in the national capital, the blaze was still raging on Wednesday. Currently, five fire tenders are engaged in dousing the flames at the dumpyard. The residents of the area have started complaining of itchy eyes and breathing problems as plumes of thick smoke, billowing out of the burning garbage mountain, have engulfed the whole area.

As per Delhi Fire department officials, the process to put out the fire completely will still take some time. "We may need a JCB to excavate the dumping ground in pockets and put soil on it to extinguish the fire," said the official. The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained, however, officials said the rising temperature these days allows the formation of methane gas at the dumpyard site which is extremely flammable.

Notably, it is the second major incident of fire at a dumping yard in the past 30 days. Earlier on March 28, a similar incident was reported from east Delhi's Ghazipur landfill site. A thick blanket of smoke was seen at a section of the dumping yard, where the fire broke out. The fire continued for 2-3 days and polluted the atmosphere to its core.

Why landfill fires have become so frequent nowadays?

The major problem leading to these massive fires is that the dumpsites here are not scientifically planned. As per the rules by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, only non-recyclable, non-biodegradable and non-combustible waste should go to a sanitary landfill. However, the majority of these landfills receive mixed waste including ignitable material.

Another reason, experts say, is the generation of methane gas and heat when the breakdown of organic waste in the absence of oxygen takes place. This process is called anaerobic decomposition. The content of methane gas in and around the landfill sites is very high compared to the normal atmosphere and if there is anything combustible at the dumpsite, it can catch fire.

Experts have time and again said that to prevent such incidents at the dumping grounds, a layer of soil should be placed regularly after dumping the waste on the trash mountain. Soil acts as a fire suppressant and restricts the passage of oxygen that is required for combustion

Why dousing fires at landfill sites is a tough task?

This problem arises when the landfill is not scientifically designed. When the waste material is fermented under high temperature and pressure, methane gas is produced. Methane is an inflammable gas and catches fire very easily. And, when the temperature reaches 40 degrees Celsius or above, there are many chances that a fire could be started at landfill sites. A lot of methane is already trapped at the dumpsite. Using water to douse fires at these sites means that it will generate leachate and heat. The best fire suppressant is soil or construction debris.

Posted By: Talibuddin Khan