India is a part of the world that many admire from afar, knowing sexism and homophobia are a considerable shift from western societal norms. When people deep dive into India today, they will not only hear about the current Ghazipur fire, which is suffocating locals with its smoke, they’ll also learn that last week, a World Air Quality report found Delhi to be the world’s most polluted capital city for the fourth consecutive year.
On Monday, 28 March, a massive fire broke out at one of Asia’s largest waste dumps, the Ghazipur fire. Following the first day the fire raged, the Delhi Fire Service released a statement saying that ninety firefighters worked nearly twenty-four hours to calm the fire. As the smoke continued to consume any available oxygen left in the air, the people of India were merely trying their hardest to survive. Today marks the fourth day that fire has been wreaking havoc in Delhi and its people.
The Ghazipur landfill is a towering mountain of rubbish in eastern Delhi. BBC reported that it exceeded its capacity more than a decade ago, but 2,500 tons of waste continue to be dumped on it every day. The exact cause of the seemingly eternal fire has yet to be known. However, many believe that due to the excessive heat on Monday being the hottest day in India’s capital this year, experts believe, “…the heat could have increased the amount of methane generated by decomposing waste. Once methane crosses a certain limit, a fire gets ignited.”
Waste management does not seem to be at the top of India’s list of things the country needs to improve on. Like other Indian cities, Delhi has no waste disposal and treatment system other than dumping it in landfills. The Ghazipur landfill acts as a constant health hazard. Last year, fires broke out at least four times. Alongside the overflowing mountains of trash lives 20 million residents of Delhi, people who deserve to know how it feels to take in a deep breath of fresh air.
With no way for vehicles to assist in killing the fire, locals are left to take on the monstrous fire with a ‘digger’ slowly clearing a way for people to go in and diminish the fire little by little, with their only protection being their clothes, shoes, hats, and goggles.
As the waste moves, responders will put out the little fires by suffocating them with water. This long-drawn-out process keeps most of Delhi’s firefighters busy as they told the BBC they take eight-hour exhausting shifts. Every day, the men gamble their lives with the possibility of getting burned and the possibility of getting buried to death under the garbage.
Experts have since called for the mountain to get flattened once the fire rests. Locals fear the worst as they fear having to wear masks, struggle with air quality, and feel a burning sensation in their eyes from the continuous exposure to the toxic fumes getting blown into the air. Many fear the overpowering smell and hardened breathing will affect their brain’s functionality.