The Supreme Court on Thursday, 12 July, castigated the Delhi Lieutenant Governor over for his attitude of being "a superman" but doing nothing to get the "mountains of garbage" of the city cleared, with one of the dumping sites even reaching a height close to that of the Qutub Minar.
Terming the situation in Delhi as "absolutely bizarre", the top court 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 the 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 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 do nothing. This is the attitude”.
Referring to the affidavits filed by the office of the L-G 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 L-G has the authority to issue directions in this regard under the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act.
Who Is Responsible for Managing Waste?
"Is the office of the L-G 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 it was an "indication of inaction or action" of the L-G's office which has failed to remove solid waste from these sites.
The bench also observed that despite the L-G convening 25 meetings on the issue and making certain field visits, "nothing has happened" and it was 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.
Your State Policies Are Utopian: SC
The bench also dubbed as “utopian”, the state policy on solid waste management strategy, which has been framed by the L-G’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 L-G to file an affidavit by 16 July indicating the steps which it supposed to 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 has come down by around 10 metres in the last eight months and by March next year, it was likely to reduce seven metres further.
‘Be Inspired By Nagpur’
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 Gurgaon also.
He said environment-friendly steps had been taken in Nagpur to deal with solid waste and it has been very successful there.
The apex court, while asking the commissioner of Gurgaon Municipal Corporation to remain present before it on 16 July, said the L-G's office could also take advise from him about the availability of expertise to deal with the situation.
Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, appearing for the L-G’s office as well as the Delhi government, told the court about the steps being taken by the L-G in this regard.
Anand said that at the intervention of L-G, 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 has given its report in the matter.
During the hearing, the bench observed that the height of the landfill sites in Delhi has gone up to 160 feet but the waste processing proposed by the authorities was much less than what was required.
"We do not know what is the use of power when he (L-G) 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 L-G Anil Baijal or to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
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