Out of Breath: The Bhalswa Landfill

Filmed by Nabina Chakraborty 

Just a few kilometres further from Delhi’s Jahangirpuri metro station lies a ‘hill’ that will leave you staring at it in bewilderment. From afar, the average viewer would believe this to be a mountain with a single peak standing over 40m tall, one that is especially lovely at night when it is lit up beautifully. As you move closer, you realize that this peak—more than half the size of the Qutub Minar—is made entirely out of the excess waste coming out of Delhi. To make matters worse, the lights are in fact useless articles of paper or plastic that are burnt so that the more expensive scrap metals can be easily dug out. To top it all off, overlooking this pile of trash are a number of birds circling around, just waiting to scavenge. This is not a mountain. This is the Bhalswa Sanitary landfill in North-West Delhi.

Delhi produces 90,00,000 kilograms of garbage a day. A significant amount of this waste finds its way to one of the city’s four landfill sites—Ghazipur, Okhla, Bhalswa and Narela-Bawana. As it currently stands, three of the four landfill sites operate beyond capacity.

With a hazardous Air Quality Index (AQI) score of 384, the people near the Bhalswa landfill face a multitude of issues ranging from severe air pollution to lack of access to drinking water. Yet, there seems to be a significant population living around the clutter. For them, segregating and selling particular waste materials found in the landfill has become their primary source of income. However, given the sheer amount of garbage accumulating in Bhalswa, one can only imagine the conditions under which these waste-pickers are working every day. Today, Nabina Chakraborty aims to give you a glimpse of exactly that.


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