June 9, 2019

On the outskirts of Delhi, a mountain grows larger; its silhouette looming over the buildings and structures of Ghazipur, India. But this is not a mountain of dirt and stone. It is the Ghazipur landfill, a mountain of refuse for one of the world's most populous nations. And it's now grown so large that it's on track to exceed the nation's most famous monuments.

One is a towering monument to love. The other is a towering monument to waste.

The mountain of rubbish at the Ghazipur landfill on the outskirts of Delhi is growing so fast that it could be taller than the Taj Mahal within a year, bringing an unwelcome landmark to the Indian capital.

Taking up the area of more than 40 football pitches on the edges of a city which the UN says is the world’s most polluted capital, the Ghazipur dump rises by nearly 10 metres (33 feet) a year. According to east Delhi’s superintendent engineer Arun Kumar, it is already more than 65 metres high.

At its rate of growth, it will be taller than the 73-metre Taj in Agra in 2020.

The Ghazipur landfill was supposed to close 17 years ago, but without an alternate, was kept open and added to continually, suffering the occasional "trashslides" that have even killed people.

Unsurprisingly, the presence of a huge mountain of rubbish has proved to be a toxic element to the environment.

The dump is a health disaster area. A black toxic liquid leaches from it into a nearby canal. It emits methane gas, which fuels fires that take days to put out.

“The poisonous smell has made our lives hell,” a 45-year-old resident, Puneet Sharma, told AFP. “People fall sick all the time.” One local doctor reported seeing some 70 people each day, including babies, with stomach and respiratory problems caused by the dirty air.

The Ghazipur landfill only compounds the problem for the citizens of super-polluted Delhi.

Battling political parties have only paralyzed any effort to deal with the landfill, but perhaps with the global media calling attention to the sad milestone of outsizing the Taj Mahal, and the UN calling Delhi the "most polluted capital in the world" will encourage India's leaders to be more aggressive.

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