This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The Ghazipur Disaster Shows Everything That’s Wrong With How Delhi Gets Rid Of Its Waste

More from Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group

By Chitra Mukherjee:

A large portion of the 50m high Ghazipur landfill, almost matching up with another majestic towering structure of Delhi, the Qutub Minar, collapsed on September 1, 2017.

The Ghazipur landfill is the oldest operational landfill in Delhi. The landfill, one of the four dump sites in Delhi, commissioned in 1984, reached its saturation point in 2002 when it reached 20m in height and yet continued receiving 3000 metric tonnes, about one-fourth Delhi’s total waste generation, of mixed waste every day. This waste comprises of rotting food waste, recyclable scrap like plastic, paper, cardboard, metal, glass, bio-medical waste like bandages, injections, medicines, hazardous electronic waste like used cell phones, batteries, sanitary napkins, diapers, rusted knives, blades, broken CFLs, tube-lights and much more dangerous, toxic and hazardous material that Delhi generates and throws away every day without segregating, composting or recycling.


The landfill is like a sanitary dump, without linings or systems to collect leachate or any means to flare landfill gas. The current practice includes covering the waste with earth and insecticides. Some compression is also undertaken, but not routinely. The landfill itself comprises of smoky patches, where spontaneous combustion takes place, likely resulting in the release of dioxins and furans. Greenhouse gases are also released from this landfill, and occasional explosions from methane have been observed.

The Ghazipur landfill is not built according to the Municipal Solid Waste Rules of 2000 which mandates that all landfills need to be scientific ones and should follow several strict criteria like having non-permeable liners to take care of toxic leachate to avoid water pollution, should have proper garbage management facilities installed, etc. So this is for all purposes a dump site which pollutes the air, land, and water of Delhi and creates cancer clusters around it. If you climb up to the top, you can see the dense development around it. Apart from residential areas, there is a planned fish and chicken market, a slaughterhouse with waste disposal facilities, and highly controversial waste to energy plant that receives 1200 m tonnes of waste every day from the dumpsite and proposes to make energy out of it, a very expensive, polluting and questionable plan.

It is also home to about 1500 families of informal waste handlers who collect 20-25% of the waste being dumped every day on the dump site. They brave hazardous and highly unsafe work conditions to collect more than 40 different kinds of recyclable scrap including PET, plastic, metal, glass, and even human hair.

With the landfill collapse, an inevitable blame game has started among the local government and the municipality officials whose jurisdiction the landfill falls under. A proposal has been made to shift the waste coming in at Ghazipur in East Delhi all the way to a fresh dump site at Rani Khera, in North West Delhi on the Delhi Haryana border.

All this begs the question – why are we not looking at long term solutions for waste management? Our governments have always been infamous for their knee jerk reactions in the face of crisis, and disaster management methods that instead of mitigation only create potentially bigger threats to the environment.

The solution to managing waste isn’t creating bigger and newer landfills. The solution isn’t dumping the waste from the cities to the hinterland and causing NIMBY (not in my backyard) agitations. And the solution is definitely not creating waste to energy incinerators for burning waste and generating carcinogenic dioxins and furans.

We need to read our very progressive Municipal Solid Waste Rules, 2016 which has mandated reducing and recycling waste. We need to consider decentralized models for processing waste instead of carting all the waste from the source of generation to a far away dump site incurring huge expenses in transportation and manpower. We need to look at including and integrating the informal waste recycling sector of waste-pickers, kabbadis, scrap dealers who work, collect, and process waste, making India one of the countries with the highest recycling rates in the world. This sector is responsible for recycling 20% of India’s waste and are the true environmentalists. It is high time they got their due and are not treated like the trash they pick up and recycle. We need them to keep our cities clean and green. So let us not rob them of their livelihoods, their children of their education and a basic right to a healthy, safe and secure life. They help prevent the creation of landfills. But for them, we would have more Ghazipurs, Bhalaswas and Okhlas that threaten to swallow up our cities with their waste.

Manuja, a waste-picker who stands to lose her livelihood as the waste from Ghazipur shifts to Rani Khera, says, “I start work at 4 am every morning and pick plastic bags, bottles and metal scraps from the landfill. I sort these out and sell them to a dealer who buys scrap from me. I earn ₹50 every day from this. I don’t know if I am keeping the city clean by recycling scrap that would have otherwise gone to the landfill, but I do know that I have no livelihood now. Is the government not responsible for poor people like us?

You must be to comment.

More from Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group

Similar Posts

By Juhi Smita

By Kanan Kumari

By Rahul Meena

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below