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Delhi's trash towers: Why India's capital is drowning in its own garbage

Here is how Delhi's 'solution' to its waste management challenge four decades ago has snowballed into a full-blown crisis as we kept disregarding common sense. And if we don't wake up even now, it will be a catastrophe.

In the early 1980s, Delhi had a challenge. Heaps of rotting and stinking rubbish littered its lanes and streets. Under the pressure of a population boom, the city needed a vast tract of land to dispose of its daily discard. Authorities finally settled for a site in East Delhi in 1984.

A decade later, markets had opened up and consumerism took root, changing our lifestyles and consumption patterns. More cash in hand made us feel powerful and disregard the old-world wisdom of waste segregation, recycling, reuse, and composting.

Use and throw defined our behaviour. We bought more and more packaged material, including food and juices. Use of single-use polybags became rampant.

To accommodate this new waste, another site chosen was in Northwest Delhi's Bhalswa. Two years later, in 1996, when more homes, hotels, restaurants, and offices came up, a third landfill site became operational in South Delhi's Okhla.

Dictionaries define the word landfill as the process of getting rid of large amounts of rubbish by burying it or a place where rubbish is buried. By definition, it's a process by which something goes in and not the other way round. You fill the land and the air.

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