WII to hold study on proposal to dump inert waste in Bhatti mines

| | New Delhi
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WII to hold study on proposal to dump inert waste in Bhatti mines

Thursday, 27 January 2022 | PTI | New Delhi

The Wildlife Institute of India (WII)  will conduct a study on how the dumping of inert civic waste in the  abandoned Bhatti mines, which are now part of the Asola Wildlife Sanctuary, can affect the flora and fauna of the region, forest department officials said.

   On behalf of the three municipal corporations in the capital, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) had in 2020 moved a proposal to use four 30-metre-deep pits measuring 477 acres for dumping of inert waste as they run out of space to store million of tonnes of inert material generated in the city.

The Ridge Management Board (RMB), a high-powered body mandated to protect the Delhi Ridge, considered the lungs of the capital, had set up a five-member panel in March last year to examine the proposal.

In its meeting held on July 29 last year, the panel had suggested that a study be conducted on the likely impact of dumping of inert material on the flora and fauna of the region. The WII, which also has a representative in the five-member panel, will conduct the environment impact assessment in this case, a senior forest official said. 

"The WII sent a proposal earlier this month and we have forwarded it to the RMB. The Board will take a call on it in its next meeting," he said.

The officials of WII have assured the forest department that the EIA will be completed as soon as possible once the RMB approves the study proposal, the official said.

Earlier, officials had said the proposal to dump the inert civic waste in the mines was likely to be rejected as majority of the members in the panel had opposed it on the ground that the area has over the decades become an ecologically-sensitive water recharge zone and habitat of variety of flora and fauna, including leopards.

The inert material, bio-remediated from solid waste dumps, will have adverse impact on the ground water, the panel members had reportedly said.

The SDMC had informed the panel that the Shri Ram Institute of Industrial Research had assessed the inertness of the waste and it complied with all chemical and biological parameters.

The city government had notified the mines as a wildlife sanctuary in 1991. The mined pits have undergone geomorphological processes which transformed them into water bodies that act as recharging zones. Some of the pits store rainwater even today, noted environmentalist  Prof C R Babu said.

According to orders of the National Green Tribunal and High Court, these water bodies cannot be used as dumping grounds, but should be restored and preserved for recharging groundwater. These water  bodies are the only source of water for wild animals, he said. Babu, who is part of the panel, had earlier warned that the leach outs may get mixed with groundwater, if the inert material has porosity, resulting in massive ground water pollution with toxic heavy metals and pathogenic microbes and even microplastics.

If the inert material has low porosity, it will lead to heavy surface  runoff into storm drains. This results in the drastic reduction in recharging leading to massive depletion of groundwater, he had told the committee.

Forest officials said the pits are home to threatened species, including a family of leopards.

Their nature has completely changed since 1994.  A wide range of animals and plant species are found in and around those mine pits.

In 1994, too, the erstwhile MCD had requested the city government to allow it to use the Bhatti mines for development of solid waste management facilities. The forest department and the National Green Tribunal had rejected that demand. Mining operations at Bhatti mines, spread over 2,166 acres, were stopped around 35 years ago.

According to the directions issued by the NGT in 2019, the municipal corporations are undertaking biomining of the legacy waste at the

Okhla, Bhalswa and Ghazipur landfill sites which is expected to generate 200 lakh metric tonnes of inert waste Biomining separates waste into four categories of construction and demolition waste, metals, plastic and rags, and soil and pebbles.While other components are sent to recycling units, soil needs to be dumped elsewhere. The SDMC alone needs 60 to 80 acres of land to dump the inert.  

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