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Environment

This Mountain of Trash in India Will Soon Rise Higher Than the Taj Mahal

Why Global Citizens Should Care
The world is witnessing a massive waste problem that has major health consequences. The World Health Organization reported last year that 93% of children across the world breathe air with toxic pollutant levels exceeding their guidelines. Greenhouse gas emissions, land clearing, and the burning of waste all contribute to severe air pollution in India. The United Nations’ Global Goals call on countries to reduce all kinds of pollution and to ensure good health and well-being for all. You can join us in taking action on this issue here.

An already overflowing landfill in Ghazipur, New Delhi, is set to rise higher than the Taj Mahal by next year, the Times of India reported today. The landfill currently encompasses an area greater than that of 40 football fields and grows nearly 10 meters taller every year.

Though the landfill reached its official maximum capacity in 2002, the site was not shut down, and trucks continue to arrive every day, unloading enormous amounts of trash. The pile is already 65 meters (213 feet) high, according to Arun Kumar, east Delhi’s superintendent. And if new waste continues to be added at the current rate, the landfill will soon be 73 meters tall — about the same height as the iconic Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world.

“About 2,000 tonnes of garbage is dumped at Ghazipur each day,” a Delhi municipal official, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Times of India.

Delhi’s poorly managed landfills are contributing to the life-threatening air pollution levels in the city. And toxic air across the country killed about 1.24 million people in 2017.

India is home to 22 of the 30 worst cities for air pollution, Greenpeace and AirVisual, an air quality monitoring company, reported. And Gurugram, a city to the southwest of New Delhi, is the world’s most polluted city overall.

In addition to air pollution that stems from sources like car emissions and burning coal, improper waste management and neglect also contribute to toxic air. In April, a part of the massive Ghazipur landfill caught fire and burned for 10 hours releasing harmful chemicals into the air, making it more hazardous to breathe.

“The landfill site expired its due limit in 2002 but no alternative site has been allocated to us. Such fires are caused by the production of methane gas from decomposing organic matter in the garbage,” a senior official at the municipal corporation said.

Residents of the surrounding area regularly complain about the poisonous gas the landfill emits, which makes it impossible for them to breathe properly.

"The poisonous smell has made our lives hell. People fall sick all the time,” Puneet Sharma, one such resident, told the Times of India.

Large landfills not only harm the environment, but also pose many risks to the health of humans, animals, and plants. In 2017, an accidental collapse of trash led to two deaths. And the waste from landfills and other sources may enter oceans and other water bodies where they can harm marine life and contaminate water sources.

Economic development, growing populations, and increasing consumerism have led to more waste production in recent years. About 80% of the total plastic produced in India is discarded instead of being recycled, often ending up in landfills.

Without large-scale efforts to reduce plastic production and usage and better more sustainable waste management methods, both people and the environment stand to be harmed as waste continues to pile up.