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Just how big is India's 'Mount Everest of Trash'?
The Ghazipur dump keeps growing and growing every year, catching fire and leaching toxins into the ground. What can be done about it?
- The Ghazipur dump in Delhi has become so overgrown that locals refer to it as "Mount Everest."
- In 2017, a landslide from the dump spilled over onto adjacent roads, killing two locals.
- The dump is a serious health risk and source of pollution, but it also serves as an example of India's broader challenges with waste management.
Delhi is home to some incredible sights; the Lotus Temple, the Lodi Gardens, India Gate, and a slew of temples and tombs. Delhi has also acquired another eye-catching structure, although it's probably one the city would rather not have. The locals call it "Mount Everest" — a mountain of trash that stands 213 feet tall, or 65 meters, located in the eastern area of Ghazipur. And this trash mountain is growing.
Municipal officials claim that between 2,000 and 2,500 tons of waste are dumped every day. That works out to be roughly 33 feet (10 meters) a year. At this rate, the Ghazipur landfill is slated to grow taller than the Taj Mahal by 2020.
The hazards of the Ghazipur landfill
This image shows how closely residential buildings are placed next to the gigantic mountain of trash. Photo credit: PRAKASH SINGH / AFP / Getty Images
The site was originally designed to reach a maximum height of 67 feet (20 meters), but once this limit was met in 2002, the city continued to rely on the dump for waste disposal, and this has had some disastrous consequences. On September 1, 2017, one of the dump's slopes failed, sending an avalanche of waste into roads and adjacent canal. "It was a flood of trash," said Vishal Kumar, a local who was caught up in the landslide. "I saw heaps of garbage coming down the hill like a flood and suddenly, we were swept into the canal. For a moment, everything went dark," he said in an interview with Al Jazeera. Kumar emerged relatively unharmed. However, two others, including Kumar's cousin, were killed in the landslide.
Landslides aren't the only threat that this mountain of trash poses. All landfills produce a substance called leachate, which is produced when rain passes through the waste, absorbing toxic chemicals. For this reason, most landfills include impermeable liners beneath them to collect the leachate. This is not the case at the Ghazipur landfill, where the leachate flows freely into the ground and nearby canal.
As microorganisms digest the material within landfills, they produce what's known as landfill gas, which is mostly composed of methane and carbon dioxide. The waste at the Ghazipur landfill is particularly prone to producing landfill gas since it is uncompacted and exposed. The combination of loose material and methane means that Ghazipur regularly catches fire, taking days to extinguish.
As one can imagine, the pollution coming from this dump is a major health risk, too. Locals claim that people fall sick more frequently in the area, and the smell makes daily living unbearable. A local doctor said that they see about 70 people per day, most of whom suffer from respiratory and stomach issues caused by the pollution.
Making a stink about landfills
Indian workers sort through the garbage at the Ghazipur landfill recyclable materials to sell. Photo credit: Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images
Fortunately, some measures are being taken to deal with the Ghazipur landfill. Members of Aam Aadmi, Delhi's ruling party, responded to a petition demanding that the landfill be cleared up. As a result, the landfill is no longer being used to collect waste, though no actions have been taken to clear the area, either. Instead, Aam Aadmi has pledged to clear the dump within two years by using the waste material in a productive way, such as in road construction.
Even if the dump isn't cleared, there are steps that can be taken to improve it. A report written after the September landslide concluded that the dump could be made safer by giving it a gentler grade to reduce the risk of landslides, compacting the waste, and using suppressants rather than water to put out fires, as water can weaken the dump's slopes. Ultimately, however, the only solution to the Ghazipur dump is identify a new dump site. This has proven to be challenging; the East Delhi Municipal Corporation has proposed setting up two new dump sites on an active floodplain right next to the Yamuna river, sparking significant resistance by locals.
Urban areas of India generate 62 million tons of solid waste per year, and this number is expected to reach 165 million by 2030. Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India, has vowed to abolish all single-use plastics by 2022, which, if achieved, will be a significant step in the right direction. Hopefully, by implementing more effective waste management policies, such as recycling, composting, and developing biomethanation plants to generate electricity, India can avoid building more Ghazipur landfills in the future.
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Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
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Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
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