Who can smell the smoke? Municipal solid waste causing air pollution in Patna

28 April 2016

Steam and smoke has been emerging from the designated dumpsite at village Bairia on the Gaya road in Patna for the last six days! The site has a total area of 80 acres, and it handholds wastes from across 72 wards of Patna Municipal Cooperation and from the three ULBs of Danapur, Phulwari and Khagaul. The fire may have resulted due to the methane gas emitted from waste decomposition. Methane is highly combustible and has a lower explosive limit.

Approximately 630 tonnes of trash from all across Patna Urban Agglomeration Area is dumped daily in this yard, and it mainly comprises of organic waste (51%) and Plastic (6%).

As the designated dumpsite is in flames a thick plume of smoke is rising into the atmosphere. The smoke coming out from the plume poses a direct health hazard to population of about 20,000 residing adjacent to the dumping site. A thick haze is not only a potential threat to human health by choking the adjoining inhabitants but the toxic gas coming from the site also leads to alarming level of air pollution in the region. Additionally, the potential spread of fire poses a serious threat.

Minimum compliance to solid waste rules and lack of waste segregation is a major reason for the fire incident. This dearth of segregation at source and the improper disposal facility leads to a higher level of methane emission, which can otherwise be regulated with proper techniques. Besides methane, prevalence of unmanaged plastic in the dumping yard of Patna also contributes to frequent burning of wastes.

The burning not only affects health but also leads to wastage of the portable water, when yesterday liters of water were used to drown the fire at the site.

Ankita Jyoti works as a Programme Manager with CEED.