Lakhodair landfill’s methane generation poses concerns

Nothing has been done to curb the open garbage dumping site’s environmental pollution


Asif Mehmood July 24, 2022
PHOTO: AFP

LAHORE:

Despite methane gas being recognized as a major cause of environment pollution, which causes gradual increases in temperature, local administration has largely ignored its immense presence in Lahore’s landfills.

Back in 2016, the Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC) built the open air landfill site Lakhodair and even then experts warned about methane potentially accumulating at the dumping area but such fears were shrugged off as the site was supposed to be Lahore’s first environmentally friendly garbage dump.

However, back in August of 2021, the fears came true as Sentinel 5P, a satellite launched by the European Space Agency for observing the Earth, captured some images of Lahore, in which clouds of methane gas were seen in the atmosphere of Lahore. The rate of methane release from these clouds was estimated at 126 metric tons per hour. The data collected also showed that this was not the only incident of its kind, but methane clouds were seen in the atmosphere of Lahore at least 15 times in 2019 and 2020.Now nearly a year later, Punjab’s provincial capital’s methane problem is as prevalent as ever.

When asked about the inattention towards a gas which is extremely dangerous for humans, the Director of the Environment Protection Department, Naseem Rehman, pinned LWMC as the problem. “We have asked LWMC several times to take measures to prevent the release of methane gas from the dumping site or to ensure its safe utilisation or disposal,” Rehman said, “but they always assure they are working on it.” The Express Tribune also asked Umar Chaudhry, Senior Manager Communications for the LWMC, about the company’s alleged disregard for residents’ health and was told that the company had several plans for the methane generated at Lakhodair. When asked about these plans, Chaudhry replied: “The first priority is to stop the emissions of methane altogether. We are going to put a layer of clay on top of the garbage heap. A thick layer of soil will nullify the dangers of the gas.” Chaudhry further said that they were also considering inserting pipes into the garbage and releasing methane elsewhere. “We have already laid down new pipes in preparation for this.

The third plan is to incinerate the methane generated at Lakhodair.” While Chaudhry did not give a timeline as to when the burning process would start, he said that various foreign companies were being contacted so that the gas could be disposed of “in a scientific and technical way.” With LWMC still figuring out which out of its several plans is the best one, Professor Dr Zia-ul-Haq, Head of the Department of Climate Change at Punjab University, believes the longer the matter lingers on, the greater the threat to Lahorites. “This gas has no smell, but its emission not only increases the temperature, but in areas where the gas is present, there is a lack of oxygen, which makes it difficult to breathe, and an excessive exposure to it can lead to unconsciousness.”

He further added that the monsoon rains would only aggravate the effects of the gas. “Due to the ongoing downpour in Lahore, the rate of gas generation increases and when the pressure increases, the gases will wreak havoc to breathable air. Therefore, the process of collecting and refining the gas should be expedited,” Dr Zia-ul-Haq told The Express Tribune.

 

Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2022.

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