Groaning under garbage
Tired of asking the civic authorities to clean up Mehrauli and the area around the Qutub Minar, a World Heritage Site, that could well lose its claim to fame and history if the profusion of litter and garbage is not removed, residents of ward 7 and 8 of Mehrauli have taken up the job themselves to collect and burn garbage.
The operation, which began on the last Saturday of April, will continue every Saturday till the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and those responsible for keeping the area clean are shamed into finding an alternate garbage site to the one in ward 7 which has one of the finest views of the Qutub Minar, says a member of the Residents Jhaadu Brigade. Earlier, there were two garbage dumps in Mehrauli but now there is just this one in which the refuse of entire the entire area is deposited. Pigs, cattle, dogs and even street urchins, collecting plastics and polythene, make forays into the dirt piles hoping to find food and plastics.
The overpowering stench from the dump forces the residents to keep their windows shut throughout the day and night. Yet their homes have the most amazing views of not just monuments but the green canopies of the keekar (Prosopis Juniflora) that abound in the forest areas. Peacocks, kites and an abundance of birdlife can be found in these green lungs of Mehrauli.
The importance of keeping Mehrauli spick and span cannot be overemphasized, says eminent photographer Raghu Rai, who moved into the area some 10 years ago because of the fabulous view of the Qutub Minar, the historical gullies and a landscape that dates back to the 11 century.
Gurmeet S. Rai, conservation architect, who also lives in the area, says the Mehrauli zone is both historically and culturally important. It is home to tangible as well as intangible bonanza of Delhi's heritage.
One of holiest shrines of Delhi, the Dargah of Qutubuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, the well known disciple of Moin-uddin Chisti of Ajmer Sharif, is in the heart of Mehrauli. People going to Ajmer Sharif on a pilgrimage start their journey at Nizamuddin and stop at the Dargah of Qutub-uddin Bakhtiar before proceeding further.
The Department of Tourism, Delhi, through INTACH, Ms. Rai says, is preparing the nomination dossier to inscribe Delhi as a World Heritage City. The archaeological park in Mehrauli is one of the core areas of the six heritage zones in Delhi's Master Plan. In fact, she says, Mehrauli is the first city of Delhi. Lal Kot Qila, on the northern side of the Qutub Minar, Qila Rai Pithora, another fortification wall of the area, Balban's tomb, Gandhak ki Baoli, dating back to Mughal ruler Aurangzeb's time and several other monuments have enriched the cultural significance and heritage of Mehrauli. Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last of the Mughal rulers, started the Phool Walon ki Sair from Mehrauli, adding to the cultural plurality of the area.
However, all this history and culture is overshadowed by the garbage and stench of the dump and the litter — plastic bags, left over food and construction material. The Archaeological Society of India, the MCD (south), Delhi Development Authority and the Forest Department have jurisdiction over different chunks of Mehrauli. Removal of garbage is the responsibility of the MCD.
The DDA has no cleaning or garbage removal wing so if someone chucks a plastic bag full of potato peels or even sanitary napkins into the DDA land, there is no one to remove it.
There are also a lot of encroachments in the area. The garbage and littering of Mehrauli is not just a problem of the residents alone. It is a problem of Delhi and those interested in conserving heritage spaces and keeping Delhi clean and green. They should express solidarity with the Mehrauli residents and begin simultaneous campaigns elsewhere!