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Trash heap 62 meters high
At the Bhalswa landfill in northwest Delhi, a steady flow of jeeps zigzag up the trash heap to dump more garbage on a pile now over 62 meters (203 feet) high.
Fires caused by heat and methane gas sporadically break out – the Delhi Fire Service Department has responded to 14 fires so far this year – and some deep beneath the pile can smolder for weeks or months, while men, women and children work nearby, sifting through the rubbish to find items to sell.
Some of the 200,000 residents who live in Bhalswa say the area is uninhabitable, but they can’t afford to move and have no choice but to breathe the toxic air and bathe in its contaminated water.
Bhalswa is not Delhi’s largest landfill. It’s about three meters lower than the biggest, Ghazipur, and both contribute to the country’s total output of methane gas.
Methane is the second most abundant greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, but a more potent contributor to the climate crisis because methane traps more heat. India creates more methane from landfill sites than any other country, according to GHGSat, which monitors methane via satellites.
And India comes second only to China for total methane emissions, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Global Methane Tracker.