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Bhalswa Landfill: Delhi’s Toxic Gas Chamber

Bhalswa Landfill: Frustration mounts as Bhalswa residents grapple with urban neglect. Residents live amidst towering mounds of garbage, acute water shortages, and a litany of unfulfilled promises by politicians.

By The Probe team
New Update

Frustration has reached its peak among the residents of Bhalswa, a locality in Delhi, as they grapple with an insurmountable crisis involving towering garbage mounds, acute water shortages, and a litany of unfulfilled promises by politicians. The Bhalswa landfill, an ominous representation of urban neglect, has become a symbol of the city's ongoing struggle with waste management.

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Suman Devi, a long-time resident of Bhalswa, poignantly expresses the prevailing sentiment, "When we don't get water on time, how will the trash be removed? We don't get water in the winters, and the water that we get during the winters stinks. Does Kejriwal ji drink the same water?"

The Bhalswa Landfill: A Monument of Neglect

The Bhalswa landfill looms large over the lives of its predominantly underprivileged residents, casting a shadow of despair over their daily existence. Subhash, another resident who has witnessed the landfill's growth over three decades, laments, "The problem is that waste is clogged all over. The pipe to supply drinking water is completely clogged and rusted, and the same water is being supplied for various purposes. There is no other use for this supplied water."

Uday Kumar, who has spent a lifetime in Bhalswa, adds, "We have garbage and drainage related issues. We don't even have a road to commute."

The Elusive Basic Necessity: Water

Bhalswa's woes extend beyond the towering garbage mounds. The community grapples with acute water issues, exacerbating their already challenging circumstances. While many in Delhi enjoy free access to water, the people of Bhalswa, burdened by poverty, are forced to pay exorbitant prices for this essential resource. The cost of water is a heavy burden, and taps, commonplace in most households, are a luxury few in Bhalswa can afford.

Suman Devi voices the frustration shared by many, "Nobody listens to us. There is absolutely no water. We had submitted an application for taps, but even that was denied. When the government needs votes, they call us mother, sister, brother, and come to take votes. After that, they don't even recognize who we are."

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Anju Chauhan, another resident, echoes the water crisis, "Water is the biggest problem; it is way too much. We have to fetch water from far away, and there is no facility for anything. The water problem here is severe."

Bhalswa's Infrastructure Deficit: A Matter of Life and Death

Beyond the towering mounds of garbage and chronic water shortages, Bhalswa residents face yet another perilous challenge - a lack of proper roads. This glaring absence of infrastructure not only hinders daily life but also endangers lives during emergencies, as ambulances struggle to navigate the area's makeshift paths.

Uday Kumar highlights the dire situation, "We don't have a toilet; those here are always dirty. We don't have a road, and it's difficult to travel. If any problem occurs in any household, then no ambulance can reach our homes, and no fire brigade can come through our streets. Though a road could be constructed here, it hasn't been done."

Shabana, another resident, echoes the sentiment, "Many problems exist here. The first and foremost thing is the unavailability of roads and drinking water. There are way too many problems here. If there is an emergency in this area, no ambulance or 4-wheeler can enter the streets."

The lack of sanitation infrastructure makes matters worse, as Uday Kumar explains, "The sanitation work was being done, but now it's halted. Due to the waste accumulation, the road is on a higher level than the toilet, so the toilet gets submerged in wastewater."

Pappu, another resident, emphasises the dire need for better infrastructure, saying, "Ambulance doesn't come here. There is no road. How will the ambulance get here? Whoever wins elections, they come here, see, and then go back, never returning to this place."

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Bhalswa's Hidden Health Crisis

In stark contrast to more affluent areas of Delhi, Bhalswa's struggles often remain concealed behind the heaps of unmanaged waste. The Bhalswa landfill, with its towering waste mounds, has evolved into a source of serious health concerns for the local community. Prolonged exposure to the site's pollutants has led to a rise in respiratory issues and other health problems among residents.

Babulal, a resident, expresses his concerns, "They have been saying that this landfill will be removed in one year, two years, but I can see the landfill has been here as it is for the last three years. More than half of it has been removed, but there is still a lot left, and this smoke... When the landfill is being removed, its smell is too strong. Whatever they are picking, its smell is unbearable. And this is causing a lot of breathing related problems for the people."

Shabana recounts a harrowing personal experience, "My mother came yesterday after getting discharged from the hospital. Due to this landfill, her lungs got completely blocked. After eight days, we finally got her discharged."

Bhalswa's Ongoing Struggle: Broken Promises and Government Neglect

When asked about the persistent issues plaguing Bhalswa, residents unanimously point to one root cause - government neglect and apathy. The cycle is all too familiar: politicians show up during election time, make grand promises, and then vanish once the votes are cast.

Subhash, laments this recurring pattern, "They come during election time when they want votes. When the election gets over, they don't. We have seen for the past 30-32 years, whenever they require votes, they come, and after that, they don't."

Uday Kumar, concurs, "Sometimes, once in a year or two, when MLAs or politicians need to conduct a program or something, then they come; otherwise, they don't. They come only during election time."

The unfulfilled promises have left Bhalswa's people feeling disillusioned. Their lives are still marked by the same persistent issues, with little improvement in living conditions. This unending cycle of broken promises has ignited a deep sense of anger and hopelessness among the residents.

Anju Chauhan expresses her concerns, "They only come when they have to take our votes. After that, they are not seen here. Aren’t we humans? Don’t we deserve a dignified life?"

Babulal highlights the government's lack of action, saying, "Politicians of this area come and say, 'The landfill will be removed, a park will be made,' and MPs say, 'It is about to be made; it is happening.' It has been three years, and nothing is happening."

MCD Councillor: A Mute Spectator 

In an effort to address the concerns of Bhalswa's residents, we reached out to the MCD councillor of the area, Timsy Sharma. However, it was her husband, Suresh Sharma, who took the forefront during our interview.

Throughout the interview, MCD Councillor Timsy Sharma remained a mute spectator, while her husband, Suresh Kumar Sharma, detailed his plans for Bhalswa. He stated, "It's been a year since the elections. Firstly, we tried to improve the cleaning facilities for the area. See, these drains in the area… No work had been done for the last fifteen to twenty years."

When questioned about the lack of visible improvements, Suresh Sharma responded, "For this, I will meet the higher officials of DUSIB. This has been a longstanding issue. We will solve this as well."

Despite some assurances provided in the lengthy interview, questions arise about the role of the MCD Councillor, an elected representative who remained silent during crucial discussions. This leaves us wondering if she will actively engage with her constituents when she doesn't speak up in important matters.

Residents of Bhalswa have a simple plea for the authorities: to step in and address the numerous issues plaguing their community. From sanitation problems to critical water scarcity, they want their pleas to be heard. Anju Chauhan states, "We want them to make this a better place. They should solve all our problems. Solve sanitation issues. Water is a very big issue."

Subhash appeals, "I desire that we should have access to basic facilities, as it would be advantageous for our children and their future."

The people of Bhalswa deserve better. It is unacceptable for them to live in the shadow of a mountain of garbage, deprived of basic necessities like water, sanitation, or roads. For years, the community in Bhalswa has been waiting for change, but election after election, they have been met with government apathy. It's high time for the government to be held accountable, or else the cycle of neglect in Bhalswa will persist.