A massive fire broke out at the Bhalswa landfill site in India's national capital New Delhi on Tuesday and continues to burn until now. This is not the first time that the infamous mountainous garbage dump caught fire, releasing toxic fumes.

Nearly a dozen fire fighters have been trying to douse the fire since 5:45 pm local time. The officials worked until late in the night to put out the fire. According to the people involved in the operation, it will at least take another day or a two to douse it completely.

"It is not yet known whether the fire was caused by methane generation or some human activity," a municipal official told the Hindustan Times on the condition of anonymity. Three similar incidents have been reported in Delhi since March this year.

Delhi's Environment Minister Gopal Rai has now asked the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to submit a report on the Bhalswa landfill fire within 24 hours.

Previously, three other fires were reported from east Delhi's Ghazipur landfill site, also a huge garbage dump. The frequency of such incidents has increased with the rise in temperature in northern India. One such fire at Ghazipur had continued for three days and had engulfed areas in its vicinity with thick fumes.

"Methane gas spontaneously ignites under such weather conditions. It is a natural phenomenon. Such a major fire at Bhalswa has not occurred lately and we will look into the exact cause once the situation is under control," said another official.

Bhalswa and Ghazipur landfills along with Okhla landfill have all crossed their limits of handling the waste being disposed of at these sites on a daily basis. These mountainous garbage dumps are not only hazardous for the environment but also for the people who live nearby.

The harmful gases like nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide from the landfills can cause several health issues such as irritation in the eyes, headache and nausea along with severe breathing problems.

Despite this, the authorities have failed to take any concrete action to manage these garbage dumps. The political conflict between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which rules Delhi, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which controls the municipal bodies in the national capital, has ensured that people continue to suffer.

Children in a New Delhi landfill.
Children in a New Delhi landfill in November. Reuters