Monday, April 10, 2017

INDIA - Towering Landfills

"Tackling India's towering landfills takes cultural innovation" PBS NewsHour 4/3/2017


SUMMARY:  In Delhi, India, the capital of the world's fastest growing economy, there's a towering symbol of the environmental cost of development; tons of festering, toxic trash, piled up 10 stories high, with more and more added every day.  Efforts have been made to turn that trash into energy-producing fuel, but cultural hurdles remain.  Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO (NewsHour):  In India's capital, new housing sprawls as far as the eye can see, a symbol of the world's fastest growing major economy.

There also are towering symbols of the environmental cost of all this.  Just look for the birds.  Under thousands of hovering vultures are the city's landfills.  This is one of three covering some 70 acres in a low-income area called Ghazipur.

I'm standing near the top of the Ghazipur landfill site, an accumulation by now of more than 10 million tons of waste.  It's more than 10 stories high.  Behind me, it towers over the surrounding skyline.  And trucks are all around here, bringing in an additional 2,000 tons of unsorted garbage every day.

MAHESH BABU, Managing Director, IL & FS Company:  You can't dump more in that mountain there.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO:  Mahesh Babu heads an infrastructure company that's been contracted by Delhi's government to tackle a trash problem that he says is a crisis at many levels.

MAHESH BABU:  Keep in mind Delhi is on the seismic zone.  So, you are really…

FRED DE SAM LAZARO:  If you had an earthquake here, God forbid.

MAHESH BABU:  Yes.  You have an earthquake, you will have that mound just sliding down.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO:  And even without an earthquake, he says the festering garbage is toxic.  Methane from the dump explodes daily in dozens of spontaneous fires that spew toxins into the air, while a stew of heavy metals and organic and inorganic pollutants washes into the soil when it rains and into Delhi's main river.

MAHESH BABU:  Yes, the dark liquid right here is what we call leachate.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO:  Babu showed me a sample of this so-called leachate.

MAHESH BABU:  What we do is basically treat it, so that it removes all the toxic impurities.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO:  But of the millions of tons that are not treated yet, this is the stuff that's going into the Yamuna River.

MAHESH BABU:  Especially during monsoon.

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