Terming the situation in Delhi as ‘absolutely bizarre’, the Supreme Court, on July 12, 2018, referred to the ‘mountains of garbage’ at three landfill sites in Ghazipur, Okhla and Bhalswa and said there was a 65-metre mound at Ghazipur, which was ‘only eight metres less than the historic Qutub Minar’. A bench of justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta, also questioned the attitude of Delhi’s lieutenant governor (LG) and said no official from his office had bothered to attend a meeting chaired by the Delhi’s health minister, on the issue of solid waste management.
“Here, nobody from the LG’s office bothered to attend the meeting and he (LG) says that I have the power and I am the ‘superman’,” the bench observed, adding “This is nothing but passing the buck. The (municipal) corporations are doing this, so it is their duty. Because I (LG) am a powerful man, nobody can touch me and I will not do nothing. This is the attitude.” Referring to the affidavits filed by the office of the LG and the Delhi government, the bench said both of them have said that the question of solid waste management in Delhi, was the responsibility of the municipal corporations and the LG has the authority to issue directions in this regard, under the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act.
“Is the office of the LG responsible? According to your affidavit, the answer is yes. Then, do not bring the chief minister into this,” the bench said.
The court said the height of the dumping sites have reached such an extent that this was an ‘indication of inaction or action’ of the LG’s office, which has failed to remove solid waste from these sites. The bench also observed that despite the LG convening 25 meetings on the issue and making certain field visits, nothing had happened and it could be anybody’s guess, about what happened in these deliberations. “In spite of these meetings, there are mountains of dumps in Delhi,” it said, adding that the national capital required serious attention, on the issue of solid waste management. “What about Ghazipur, Okhla and Bhalswa. Last time, we were told that it (Ghazipur landfill) had a 62-metre mountain of garbage. Now, your affidavit says it is 65 metres, which is only eight metres less than the Qutub Minar,” the bench observed.
The bench also dubbed as ‘utopian’, the ‘state policy on solid waste management strategy’, which has been framed by the LG’s office and observed that, perhaps, it would be impossible to implement it as the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) and North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) do not have funds, to carry out day-to-day affairs. “We find it rather surprising that due to shortage of funds, parts of Delhi will be converted into dump sites,” it said.
The bench directed the office of the LG to file an affidavit by July 16, 2018, indicating the steps which it would take, to deal with the situation.
Meanwhile, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) told the bench that the height of one-fifth of the Okhla landfill site, had come down by around 10 metres in the last eight months and by March 2019, it was likely to reduce seven metres further. Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, assisting the court as an amicus curiae, referred to the steps taken by the Nagpur Municipal Corporation, to deal with the issue of solid waste management and said similar efforts were on in Gurugram also. He said environment-friendly steps had been taken in Nagpur, to deal with solid waste and it had been very successful there.
The apex court, while asking the commissioner of the Gurugram Municipal Corporation to remain present before it on July 16, 2018, said the LG’s office could also take advice from him, about the availability of expertise to deal with the situation. Additional solicitor general Pinky Anand, appearing for the LG’s office, as well as the Delhi government, told the court about the steps being taken by the LG in this regard. Anand said that at the intervention of the LG, the Department of Science and Technology of the centre, had set up an advisory committee under Dr Manoj Dutta of IIT Delhi and the panel had given its report in the matter.
During the hearing, the bench observed that the height of the landfill sites in Delhi had gone up to 160 ft but the waste processing proposed by the authorities, was much less than what was required. “We do not know what the use of power is, when he (LG) is not doing anything. He has to act and not hold meetings. Do not tell us about these 25 meetings. Do not try to justify this. You have to accept that nothing has happened,” the bench told Anand. Anand told the court about the steps which were already taken and which the agencies have proposed to take.
Referring to the affidavits filed before it, the bench said, “It says everything, except about cleaning of garbage.”
The apex court had, on the last date of hearing, asked the centre and the Delhi government to clarify who could be held responsible for clearing the ‘mountain loads of garbage’ in the national capital – those reporting to LG Anil Baijal or to chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.