Repeat of 2023: A day on, fire rages at Noida horticulture waste dumping yard

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A fire that broke out at a dumping ground in Noida’s Sector 32 on Monday evening continued to burn even on Tuesday evening, leaving residents of nearby sectors with choked lungs and a burning sensation in their eyes.

All horticulture waste from across Noida is dumped at that plot for conversion into compost. The guard who was on duty there on Monday evening said some two or three people had come there and set fire to the waste. They later fled the spot, he said. (Sunil Ghosh/HT Photo)
All horticulture waste from across Noida is dumped at that plot for conversion into compost. The guard who was on duty there on Monday evening said some two or three people had come there and set fire to the waste. They later fled the spot, he said. (Sunil Ghosh/HT Photo)

According to Pradeep Kumar Chaubey, chief fire officer, Gautam Budh Nagar, the fire started around 6pm Monday.

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“The fire control room was alerted on Monday around 6pm that a fire has started in the dumping ground in Sector 32 near Iskcon temple. When firefighters reached the spot, it was found that dry branches and leaves dumped there had caught fire. The fire has engulfed an area roughly 1.5km wide and 2km long,” he said.

According to officials of Noida authority, the vacant plot was being used as a dumping ground for horticulture waste by the relevant department.

It may be recalled that this is the same spot where a huge fire had broken out last year in May, and it was doused following continuous firefighting efforts that lasted over a week. The fire had started on May 18, 2023 and was doused after six days on May 23, HT had reported.

“Due to dry branches and leaves, the fire spread swiftly. Apart from branches, waste was also dumped there,” said CFO Chaubey, adding that as many as 15 fire tenders from surrounding fire stations and private fire tankers were pressed into service to douse the flames.

“All horticulture waste from across Noida is dumped at that plot for conversion into compost. The guard who was on duty there on Monday evening told us that some two or three people had come there and set fire to the waste. The guard tried following them but they fled the spot. After receiving information, Noida authority also rushed several water tankers to douse the flames,” said Anand Mohan Singh, deputy director, horticulture department, Noida authority.

At the time of writing this report, close to 300 water tankers had been used in the past 24 hours to douse the flames, he added.

Dense smoke from burning waste also reduced visibility in and around the ground.

“The water from the tankers and fire have turned the ground mushy, and several fire tenders got stuck in the slush before they could reach the areas where the waste was still burning. Thick smoke was also causing problems for firefighters,” said Yogendra Chaurasiya, fire officer, Phase 2, who started handling the situation on Tuesday at 6am and was still at the ground even late evening.

“Without wasting a minute, firefighters are continuously sprinkling water on the burning waste, but due to gusty winds, the fire is becoming impossible to control,” said a fire and rescue official, adding that it is yet to be ascertained who ignited the fire.

“As it is an open place and miscreants were spotted near the site, it is suspected that human hands ignited the fire.” said CFO Chaubey

Meanwhile, residents in nearby areas are finding it difficult to cope with the smoke and the ash.

“A thick cloud of fumes and residual ash has engulfed major portions of Noida on Tuesday morning. This fire is a clear indicator that authorities are not ready to learn anything from past mistakes and take corrective measures accordingly. We had a similar incident last year at the same location and it has repeated this year as well. Why didn’t the authority take steps to prevent a recurrence after last year?,” said Rajiva Singh, a resident of Sector 50 and president of Noida Federation of Apartment Owners’ Association (NOFAA).

“My lungs are choked since morning due to the thick smoke. I am unable to breathe and my eyes are constantly watery,” said Deepanshu Singh, a resident of Sector 51.

Noida-based environmentalists raised concerns regarding management of green waste.

“First of all, a dumping ground should not be located in the heart of city. Second, as dry waste is very inflammable, the dumping ground should have firefighting mechanisms in place and should be properly fenced by the Noida authority so that miscreants cannot access it,” said Vikrant Tongad, an environment activist.

Responding to the allegations, Noida authority’s deputy director Singh said, “The fire that took place last year was caused because the dry waste had not been covered with soil. However, this time, all dry waste has been covered with soil and this fire was deliberately set by some miscreants who were roaming around, possibly under the influence, as Monday was Holi. Other suggestions from environmentalists and residents will be considered for further action.”

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