Malkhan Singh was walking back home from work around 7.45 pm on Monday when a foul smell reached him. When he reached Devi Lal park in Sector 22, Gurgaon, he saw flames from a nearby vacant area. It didn’t take him long to understand it was a pile of garbage on fire. The flames could be seen from even 500 m away. He clicked pictures and shot a video of the burning garbage and shared it on WhatsApp. “I really want to know what fellow Gurgaon residents have to say about this. Despite the atrocious levels of pollution in the city, this is what actually happens,” said Singh, who is the RWA president of Sector 23A.
It was not only him — residents of sectors 21, 22 and 23, among others, also saw the fire and inhaled the thick, toxic and stench-filled smoke.
The dump kept burning for hours, they said, and many of them clicked pictures and sent them to the district administration, Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) and Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) on WhatsApp and other social media handles. But did any of them do anything? No.
Ruchika Sethi, a social activist, said, “Despite being a punishable offence, the open burning of garbage continues in the city. This is proof of MCG’s poor waste collection, segregation and disposal system. Although MCG uses a private agency to ensure that waste from the city is regularly collected and disposed of, this incident demonstrates what a shoddy job it is doing.”
As air pollution in the city touched alarming levels on Diwali last year, the administration announced a host of mitigating measures. The “crackdown” on open burning of garbage was one of them.
Bhawani Shankar Tripathy, a resident Sector 23 A, said, “The garbage in Sector 23A was lying there for months. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the MCG’s sanitation department that actually set fire to it.”
According to residents, the plot had initially been earmarked for a hospital, and later chosen for the construction of a Gymkhana Club, as proposed by former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. But neither of the proposals saw the light of day.
When Yashpal Yadav, administrator, HUDA, was asked about it, he didn’t have much else to say other than: “I have sought a report about the vacant plot from engineers and will take appropriate action.”