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With increasing urbanisation putting additional pressure on landfill sites in urban areas, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has taken the first step towards documenting what it considers “undoubtedly the most complex” of all air pollution problems — odour. Urban landfill sites with biodegradable waste in sprawling cities are a major source of odour pollution.
“Our country is very big and there are no standards as yet on how to go about measuring odour, monitoring it or setting parameters for odour pollution,” a senior CPCB official told The Indian Express. Ambient standards are hard to come by, like for air or noise pollution, “the database is non-existent”, the official said.
In early September the CPCB released ‘Odour Monitoring and Management in Urban Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Landfill Sites’, nine years after it first came up with guidelines calling for “accurate, precise and acceptable” measurement of odour, and a need to come up with a database of information to capture the magnitude of odour pollution.

The Centre’s Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, identified odour as a “public nuisance”. The CPCB official said the standards in place are all laid down by foreign countries. “These are not applicable to India since the characteristics of the garbage are very different here,” he said. “This is the first step to even understand how to go about measuring and understanding odour pollution.”
The 2017 guidelines use East Delhi’s Ghazipur landfill site as a “pilot study”, “which recognises the diverse climatic zones of our vast country, hence odour surveys at MSW landfill sites cannot be generalised but to be assessed on a case-to-case basis, taking into account the unique regional — temporal and spatial influences of each MSW landfill site,” the guidelines note.

They reiterate recommendations from the 2008 guidelines, calling for a green belt around landfill sites with selection of “appropriate plant species for vegetation cover” to assist in reducing odour pollution. They also suggest the need for installation of sensor-based continuous odour measurement systems that are currently in place for air, water and noise pollution.

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