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Health Hazards of the Okhla Waste Management Zone – and Possible Solutions

okhla waste management zone delhi

Okhla Waste Management Zone, Delhi

The plant has adverse effects on the health of over 1 million people in nearby residential areas. An Urbanist based in Delhi shares her analysis through this informative video, and offers solutions through detailed research.

Okhla Waste Management Zone : Background

Previously, attempts were made to cover the hazards of the plant, but Samreen, an urban planning PhD candidate at Jamia Millia Islamia University, has done extensive studies to highlight the problem and suggest solutions:

  • Visit to the plant and surrounding localities
  • Taking stock of the waste outside the plant
  • Interviewing residents and understanding their problems
  • Sample testing of the drain water
  • Suggesting solutions to clean up and revitalize the public space

It is crucial to maintain cleanliness in the residential areas adjacent to the plant. Problems of ground water contamination and diseases like cancer, respiratory ailments and bone deformation have become a recurring problem in addition to toxic air.

There are four existing waste management plants in Delhi – at Okhla, Ghazipur, Narela and Bhalswa. Two additional plants are proposed at Bhati Mines and Jaitpur. More than 3,000 metric tonnes of waste is dumped at the Okhla landfill daily, with the pile being 3 times higher than the permissible limit. In the past, environmentalists have complained about the situation with orders of closure and cleaning. However, the process needs to be expedited.

The situation also presents an opportunity for municipal authorities, waste management startups and urban design professionals to work on a landfill-free future and regeneration of the urban space.

Watch the complete video here (Narrative by Ar. Samreen Sultan):

Disclaimer: The views and information shared in the video belong to the author. LocalFeedback.Org has verified overall factual correctness of the issue highlighted and has shared the video on its platform to create awareness of the pressing problem.

Growth of Okhla as a Residential Area in South Delhi

Okhla Waste Management zone and drainage area was set up in 1940s, prior to independence. It was then a fringe area of Delhi. Earlier, small settlements were present in the surrounding areas – Okhla Gaon, Jasola Gaon (1910), Madanpur Khadar, Sarai Julena, to name a few.

1 evolution of area
Gradual growth of Okhla – Courtesy Ar. Samreen Sultan

At present, there are several authorized (Sukhdev Vihar, Ishwar Nagar, Sarita Vihar, Jasola) and unauthorized (Haji Colony, Okhla Gaon, Yamuna Riverfront, Shaheen Bagh) residential colonies in the area. However, some of the houses are located as close as 35 metres from the landfill and are causing severe damage to people’s health and infrastructure.

The Okhla Waste Management Area

Major components of the Okhla Waste Management zone are:

  1. Okhla STP – Sewage Treatment Plant operated by Delhi Jal board (DJB)
  2. Okhla compost Plant by IL&FS
  3. Waste to Energy Plant by Jindal
1 okhla waste management zone
Okhla Waste Management Zone – PC Ar. Samreen Sultan

Existing Problems

The urban designer has made an effort to interact with residents, and may as well be speaking with the plant management and other stakeholders involved.

Proximity to the compost plant is rendering the inhabitants vulnerable to the residues from the incinerator and fly ash dust.

“When we put out clothes for drying, the fly ash and dust collects in the clothes. They turn black. But slowly we have become used to it now.”

“There is foul smell, and new people who come to the area would notice that immediately”

Among health hazards, the most impending ones are borne by the new borns, who are showing signs of acute bronchitis. The elderly population is suffering from other lung diseases, deformation and bone cancer. If not controlled, the situation could turn into a public health epidemic, as thousands of residents are moving out of the nearby areas. A population of 1 million or 10 lakh people are being impacted directly or indirectly.

okhla waste management zone delhi
Public feedback on the issue reveals grave threats to health

Recent additions to the plant have led to the creation of an integrated waste management area. However, unsustainable planning has given way to all forms of pollution.

public protest okhla waste zone
Peaceful protest by Sukhdev Vihar residents – Courtesy Change.Org

The major problems identified are:

  • mixing of dry and wet sludge
  • dumping of solid waste
  • deposit of foam lines in water bodies
  • contamination of the vegetation
  • bio hazards due to incomplete disposal of the waste
6 bio hazard
Residual content from the incinerator is a serious health hazard
5 waste impact toxic veg
Adverse effects on vegetation

Regeneration of the Urban Precincts at Okhla : A Proposal

As part of her thesis research, the urban professional has also taken samples and tests to check contamination levels of water from SDMC drain. The effluents from the plant are discharged here.

4 sampling and testing of drain water
Collection of sample from SDMC drain – Courtesy Samreen Sultan

Design intervention would be a way forward in bringing the change in this area. Given below is a brief outline of the various measures, along with stakeholders involved, who can help in transformation of the area:

  • SDMC – Treating effluents before discharge into drain; Playground with plants on 1.5 acres of land –
  • DJB – Waste Museum within public park; setting up congregation spaces for public use in association with Harijan basti
  • DJB + IL&FS – Creation of open composting and nursery on a 7 acres area
  • DJB + MCD – cleaning and phytoremediation on 100 acres of retained land; creating a large nursery of 23 acres, with intervale farms
  • DJB + Jindal Group – constructing bunds along a 2 km stretch of the drain

Better coordination among the administration team of Waste to Energy Plant (Jindal) and Compost Plant (IL&FS) is also a must. Segregation of household waste at source, and provision of only segregated waste to the plants is the need of the hour. Appropriate use of bio-digesters would go a long way in decomposing the waste matter.

These actionable measures lie at the cusp of environmental, technological, social, managerial, policy and economical innovation. Phase-wise implementation of these measures can lead to remarkable transformation and conversion of the waste land into usable public spaces.

8 proposal

Proposal to transform the Okhla Waste Management Site – Courtesy Ar. Samreen Sultan

Few snapshots of possible future developments are shared in this article:

10 makeover
Active public space – Courtesy Samreen Sultan
9 makeover
From ‘wastescape’ to greenscape – Courtesy Ar. Samreen Sultan

For more ideas on this issue, you can share your thoughts at

About the Author

Samreen Sultan is an Architect and Urbanist from Jamia University in New Delhi. She has been working with DUSIB and UnAcademy, and has keen interest in topics related to urban regeneration, women’s participation in planning, and water pollution.

“Recently, i concluded my thesis on Okhla Waste Management area of Delhi and designed a master plan for the polluted site. I am a resident of Jasola therefore I could connect with site and understand its issues in a better manner.

The Okhla Waste Management Zone lies amidst heavily densified settlements and the pollution it creates has an impact on the lives of 10 lakhs people. I made a short documentary on this. I believe these environmental hazards that exist at local neighborhood level really need public attention,else it would create a public health emergency situation in no time.”

The team at LocalFeedback.Org would be working actively to take the cause to the authorities and agencies concerned.

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