Health Hazards Suffocate Slum Dwellers In Delhi

Residents explain the aftermath of a Waste-to-Energy plant outset close to Hazi colony in New Delhi.

Photo Credit : Reuters,

"We are living worse than stray animals", says Dildar Khan, a resident of Hazi colony, Sukhdev Vihar in New Delhi. The place has been in news for past few months due to the establishment of waste-to-energy (WTE) plant behind it. Resulting which, poisonous gases are emitted that is adversely affecting the lives of people residing here.

The WTE has been operating on the backside of the colony, inhabited by nearly 500 people for the past few decades. The recent installation of a 40MW boiler and a chimney has increased the smoke emission and poisonous fumes. “The smoke that comes from the plant makes it even more difficult to inhale in these congested squalors piling up on our utensils and infects our food,” reported the residents.

Due to the lack of sanitation and basic amenities of life the people of slum suffer adversely. Poor sanitation along with rampant anaemia and lack of nutritious food in the slum-dwellers causes these environmental pollutants to effect early, even in the young vulnerable population. Some of the diseases that sanitation has brought to the slum are Diarrhoea, water diseases, parasitic infestation and faecal orals diseases. When asked about the harmful effects of such WTE plants, Savitha Kuttan, CEO, Omnicuris said, "It is not recommended to live in such places where the wastes are burnt as burning waste releases lethal gases like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and other polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Exposure to these gases can also upshot health in the long term.”

The plight of the expectant ladies in the slum doesn’t end here explains Anurag Saxena, Physician and Head, DE Consultant, Department of Internal Medicine, Primus Super Speciality Hospital to Business World.  He said, "The developing foetus is most sensitive to dioxin exposure. Toxins produced from WTE plants causes severe lung diseases and impedes adequate child growth making them prone to be stillborn, pre-term birth, and low birth weight, who are highly predisposed to becoming severely malnourished, and in many cases, death. “

Another predicament is the heaps of garbage from across the city, accumulating behind the colony for further treatment that causes mosquito breeding and parasitic infections. A recorded number of 200-250 trucks carrying garbage come to the plant site every day. When asked about the harmful effects of waste incineration Savitha Kuttan, CEO, Omnicuris said, “Waste incineration systems produce a smorgasbord of pollutants that are detrimental to human health. The dioxin released is a highly toxic compound can cause cancer and further leads to neurological damage, also disrupts reproductive, thyroid and respiratory systems, of the factory workers and residents of that area."

Despite various protests by the residents, no stringent measures have been taken by the authorities and the squalors of the capital continue to doom the health of innocent inhabitants needing immediate redressal.

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