Journal of Environmental Protection, 2011, 2, 399-407
doi: 10.4236/jep.2011.24045 Published Online June 2011 (
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Assessment of Methane Flux from Municipal Solid
Waste (MSW) Landfill Areas of Delhi, India
Manju Rawat, AL. Ramanathan
School of Environmental Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.
Received March 21st, 2011; April 27th, 2011; May 18th, 2011.
Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are the major Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), which emit from landfill areas
and contribute significantly to global warming. Moreover, that the global warming potential of methane is 21 times
higher than that of carbon dioxide and it has highest generation (60%) than other gases. Therefore, there is immense
concern for its abatement or utilization from landfill areas. Compared to the west, the composition of municipal solid
waste (MSW) in developing countries has higher (40% - 60%) organic waste. This would have potential to emit higher
GHGs from per ton of MSW compared to developed world. Beside that landfills areas in India are not planned or en-
gineered generally low lying open areas, where MSW is indiscriminate disposed. This leads to uncontrolled emission of
trace gases, foul s mell, bird menace, ground and surface water pollution etc. Due to scarcity of land in big cities, mu-
nicipal authorities are using same landfill for nearly 10 - 20 years. Hence, the possibility of anaerobic emission of
GHGs further increases. In the present paper we had quantified the methane emission from three MSW landfill areas
of Delhi i.e., Gazipur, Bhalswa and Okhla. The results showed that the range of methane emission various in winter
from 12.94 to 58.41 and in Summer from 82.69 - 293 mg/m2/h in these landfill ar eas. The paper has also reviewed the
literature on methane emission from India and the status of landfill a reas in India.
Keywords: Landfill, Municipal Solid Waste, GHG Emission, India
1. Introduction
Due to fast economic growth in developing countries,
there is tremendous increase in Municipal Solid Waste
(MSW) generation in the last few decades. The MSW
generation in India has increased from 6 million tons/
year in 1947 to 48 million tons/year in 1997, with per
capita increase of 1% - 1.33% per year [1]. According to
CPCB [2] and IIR reports [3], the annual MSW genera-
tion in India ranges between 40 -55 million tons/year and
this figure could be 270 million tons in 2047 (Figure 1).
The cumulative land requirement for MSW disposal was
10 Km2 in 1997 and estimated to be 75 Km2 by 2007
(assuming 80% collection) [4] and would be 1400 Km2
by 2047 [5]. Figure 2 is showing the world scenario of
MSW disposal.
In India, the municipalities need to follow “Municipal
Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2000”,
under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) 1986,
according to these rules it is mandatory to use sound and
sustainable practices for management of MSW [6]. These
rules have been divided into four Schedules, I-IV. The
Schedule I has the Implementation schedule for setting
up landfill areas, Schedule II is about the improved tech-
niques for the management of MSW, Schedule III is
about specification for the MSW landfill sites- layering,
capturing of GHG’s, collection of leachates etc., and
Schedule IV is about the MSW compost standards,
Figure 1. Trend of MSW generation in India. Source: Singhal
nd Pandey [5]. a
Assessment of Methane Flux from Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Landfill Areas of Delhi, India
Figure 2. The World scenario of MSW generation (million tons/year). Source: Wang and Nie [7], World Bank [8].
treated leachates and Incineration of MSW. But still
compliance to these rules is not evident.
Globally too, landfill has been used for many years as
a most economic method of refuse disposal. On the
global scale approximately 653 0 billion tones of waste is
land filled [9,10]. The organic componen t in landfill mu-
nicipal refuse results in GHG emission via microbial
decomposition by anaerobic condition. The average com-
position of landfill gases is 50% methan e and 45% carbon
dioxide, 5% Nitrogen gas, <1% hydrogen sulphide and
2700 ppmv non-methane organic compounds (NMOCs)
such as trichloroethylene, benzene, and vinyl chloride
Due to an increase in population and subsequently in-
crease in waste generation, landfills could become a ma-
jor source of atmospheric methane [13]. Methane, at its
current atmospheric concentration of 1.7 ppmv, accounts
for about 15% of the anthropogenic greenhouse effect
and concentration is on the increase [14,15]. Global
methane emissions from landfill are estimated to increase
app. 30 million tons every year. Most of this landfill
methane currently comes from developed countries, where
the levels of waste generation per capita are high. It is
reported that solid waste disposal is the landfill is the
main emitter of methane in the atmosphere around 80%
Generally, 50% of carbon emissions in the landfills are
transformed into methane [17]. It has been reported that
13% of landfill emission or 36.7 Tg/year of methane is
emitted from municipal solid waste landfills in the World
[12]. Other reports said that the global projection of
methane flux from landfill areas would be 63 - 93
Tg/year by 2050 [18], which will be due to population
growth and subsequently increase in waste dumping in
landfills. Some author’s had tried to evaluate the accu-
racy of methane inventories in India [19].
In India, the MSW management (collection, storage,
transportation, processing and disposal) has been done by
municipal authorities in cities and by local bod ies in rural
areas. The MSW management scenario is more severe in
Indian metro cities, where with large population growth,
MSW generation rate is increasing but waste manage-
ment strategies are not in pace with it. Like any other
country, in India too landfill remains the most popular
method of disposal of MSW as landfill is more economic
way of disposal of waste. The present scenario is such
that landfills in metro cities have been used for almost
15-20 years and there is big mountain of MSW in it
(Table 1). Scarcity of land in the cities and awareness
among the citizens (NIMBY) made it difficult to find
new landfill sites. At present, Environmental Impact
Assessment (EIA) has become compulsory to construct
any waste processing and landf ill area in India. Therefore,
the planned landfill sites, methane gas utilization and
reusing material has made compulsory in India. After 5 -
10 days from MSW management scenario might be
At present, the GHG emission from insecure landfills
remains the big issue for MSW management in India.
Landfill gas release represents physical (explosion),
chemical (substances in ambient or indoor air or odor),
and quality of life public health concerns for those who
live near or work in landfill. Indiscriminate land filling
leads to deterioration of water quality in neighborhood
areas. This has adverse health impacts on people living
nearby landfill and they are in the constant fear of exp lo-
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Assessment of Methane Flux from Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Landfill Areas of Delhi, India401
sion of accumulated methane g as. The methane gas utili-
zation as an energy resource is not well studied and prac-
tice in India. Whereas, large number of studies are
available in western countries on landfill gas utilization
as renewable energy source. It has been reported that
there are around 955 energy recovery landfills in the
world and maximum are in United States, 325 nos. [12].
Approximately, 26 - 27 million tons/year of MSW in US
have been utilized for converting waste to energy. Some
other studies are on improvement in emission of GHG
from landfills and its utilization in electricity generation
The GHG emission from landfill areas in India has
come into focus in last ten to twelve years and there is
more number of studies on methane emission from land-
fill areas. In 1980 and 1990’s, the GHG emission from
Paddy field remained the main research area of study.
The earliest studies reported on landfill improvement and
GHG’s was by Shekdar et al. [23] and Bhide [24]. Bhide
[24] had reported total methane flux from Indian cities as
0.33 Tg/year. Recently, there are few studies reported on
CO2 and N2O emission from landfills. Among them,
there are some studies on field experiments and many
others are theoretical estimation using various calcula-
tions methods. In the present study an attempt has been
made to calculate the methane flux from three lanfill ar-
eas of Delhi i.e., Gazipur landfill area (GLA), Okhla
Landfill area (OLA) and Bhalswa landfill area (BLA),
which is one of the highly populated city if India (Table
2). This study has also reviewed the research work done
on GHG emission from landfill areas in India.
2. Mechanism of Formation of Methane
Emission from Landfill Areas
The various Landfill gases viz., carbon dioxide, methane
and nitrous oxide are produced primarily produce by
Table 1. Status of landfill sites in some million plus cities of India.
S. No Name of city
(No. of
landfill sites)
Area of landfill
Life of landfill in
Years/New site
proposed S. No.Name of
City (No. of landfill
Area of
Life of landfill in
Years/New site
1 Indore (1) 59.50 -/No 22 Itanagar (1) - -/No
2 Bhopal (1) - -/No 23 Surat (1) 200.00 -/No
3 Dhanbad (3) - -/No 24 Rajkot (2) 1.20 -/Yes
4 Ranchi (1) 15.00 -/No 25 Pune (1) - -/No
5 Bhubaneshwar (4) - -/Yes 26 Simla (1) 0.60 -/No
6 Ahmedabad (1) 84.00 30/Yes 27 Madurai (1) 48.60 35/No
7 Nashik (1) 34.40 15/No 28 Jaipur (3) 31.40 - /No
8 Bangalore (2) 40.70 -/No 29 Kochi (1) - -/No
9 Agartala (1) 6.80 14/yes 30 Coimbato (2) 292.00 -/No
10 Agra (1) 1.50 30/No 31 Chandigarh (1) 18.00 -/No
11 Allahabad (2) - -/ No 32 Thiruvananthp uram (1) 12.15 - / No
12 Faridabad (3) 2.40 -/No 33 Panjim (1) 1.20 30/No
13 Lucknow (1) 1.40 3/Yes 34 Hyderabad (1) 121.50 -/No
14 Meerut (2) 14.20 -/No 35 Gangtok (1) 2.80 -/No
15 Visakhapattnam (1) 40.50 25/No 36 Varanasi (1) 2.00 -/Yes
16 Dehradun (1) 4.50 -/Yes 37 Kanpur (1) 27.00 -/No
17 Guwahati (1) 13.20 -/No 38 Port Blair (1) 0.20 6/Yes
18 Amritsar (1) - -/Yes 39 Srinagar(1)
30.40 -/No
19 Delhi (3) 66.40 -/No 40 Greater Mumbai (3) 140.00 -/No
20 Kolkata (1) 24.70 35/Yes 41 Jammu (1) - 10/Yes
21 Chennai (2) 465.50 24/17/No 42 Chennai (2) 465.50 24/17/No
Source: CPCB-NEERI [25], -data not available.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Assessment of Methane Flux from Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Landfill Areas of Delhi, India
Table 2. Showing three landfill sites of Delhi with their present scenario.
Name Location Area (hectares) Start year Waste received
(Tpd) Zones supplying waste
Bhalswa North Delhi 21.06 1993 2200 Civil Lines, Karol Bagh, Rohini, Narela, Najaf garh and West
Gazipur East Delhi 29.16 1984 2000 Shahdara (South), Shahdara (North), City, Sadar Paharganj,
and NDMC
Okhla South Delhi 16.2 1994 1200 Central, Najafgarh, South and Cant onment Board
bacterial decomposition of organic waste. Methane has
21 times more Global Warming Potential (GWP) then
the carbon dioxide. Atmospheric methane concentration
has more then doubled during the last 100 years and
continues to rise. This h as been estimated that more then
10% of global anthropogenic source of methane is from
MSW landfills [26].
Methane: Methane is produced in large quantity in
landfills, as a consequence of the degradation of organic
matter under anaerobic conditions [27]. Landfills often
accept waste over a 20 - 30 years period, so waste in a
landfill may be undergoing seve ral phases of decomposi-
tion. This means that older waste in one area might be in
a different phase of decomposition than more recently
buried waste in another area. It escapes from landfills
either directly to the atmosphere or by diffusion through
the cover soil. Methane in landfill area results from the
metabolic activities of a small and highly specific bacte-
rial group. The bacteria metabolise glucose, amino acids
and fatty acids to organic acids (primarily acetic and
propionic) and carbon dioxide, hydrogen gas, ammonia
gas, nitrogen g as and wat er [11].
1. Complex organic matter------Soluble molecules
2. Acetogenesis
C6H12O6 -------- C2H5OH + CH3COOH + 2CO2 + 2H2
3. Methanogenesis
2CH3COOH ---------- CH4 +CO2
4. This process also involves red uction of:
CO2 + 8H ---------- CH4 + 2H2O
The process invol v es breakdown of acetic acid as:
CH3COOH -------- -- CH4 +CO2
This process also involves redu ction of:
CO2 + 8H ---------- CH4 + 2H2O
3. Conditions Affect Landfill Gas Production
The rate and volume of landfill gas pro du ced at a sp ecific
site depends on the characteristics of the waste (e.g.,
composition and age of the refuse) and a number of
environmental factors (e.g., the presence of oxygen in the
landfill, moisture content, and temperature).
The waste composition—The more organic waste
present in a landfill, the more landfill gases is produced
by the bacteria decomposition [28]. The more chemicals
disposed of in the landfill, the more likely NMOCs and
other gases will be produced either through volatilization
or chemical reactions [12].
The Age of refuse—Generally, more recently buried
waste (i.e., waste buried less than 10 years) produces
more landfill gas through bacterial decomposition,
volatilization, and chemical reactions than does older
waste (buried more than 10 years). Peak gas production
usually occurs from 5 to 7 years after the waste is buried.
Kumar et al. [29], noticed the highest methane emission
using modified triangular method (MTM) in 5 - 6 years
old landfill.
pH of waste—At pH 6.8-7.4 and at higher moisture
contents, the methane emission in landfill areas reported
to be high [28]. Ladapo and Bariaz [30], had reported pH
near to neutral as good for methanogenesis as observed
by them for landfill areas.
The Moisture content—The presence of moisture
(unsaturated conditions) in a landfill increases gas
production because it encourages bacterial decomposition.
Moisture may also promote chemical reactions that
produce gases [18,20,29].
The Temperature—As the landfill's temperature rises,
bacterial activity increases, resulting in increased gas
production [29]. Increased temperature may also increase
rates of volatilization and chemical reactions. The in-
crease in methane flux at day time when temperature is
30˚C - 40˚C, it is an optimum temperature and an impor-
tant factor for the production of methane [18,24].
4. Methane emission from Indian landfills
The total methane flux from landfill areas of Indian cities
was reported as 0.33 Tg/year [24]. Whereas, most of the
study done on landfills in India are on characterization,
quantification and management practices of solid waste,
not on emission of landfill gases and their utilization.
Garg et al. [31] had mentioned in their study that 10% of
methane emission is from waste sector of all. They had
estimated that the total CO 2, CH4 and N2O emission from
India from all sectors was as 778.00, 18.00 and 0.30 Tg
in 1995 and in 1990 it was 592.5, 17.00 and 0.2 Tg re-
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Assessment of Methane Flux from Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Landfill Areas of Delhi, India403
spectively. They compounded the annual growth rate
(CAGR) from India as 6.3, 1.2 and 3.3% for CO2, CH4
and N2O respectively. They further stated that MSW
disposal by urban population generates 0.045 Kg meth-
ane per kg waste [32]. According to Garg et al. [31], the
methane emission in 1990 was 4.9 kg/capita/year and
increased to 5.7 kg/capita/year in 1995. The total meth-
ane emission from Indian landfill calculated by them was
1.8 Tg/year in 1995.
Bhattacharya and Mitra [33] reported methane emis-
sion from MSW in India was 0.56 Tg in 1990 and 0.93
Tg in 2000. Mor et al. [34] had estimated the methane
emission from Gazipur landfill area of Delhi using first
order decay model as 15.3 Gg/year. They have further
estimated the methane generation from Indian landfills as
1.25 - 1.68 Tg/year. Similarly, Kumar et al. [29] esti-
mated the methane emission from Okhla landfill area of
Delhi by using modified triangular method (MTM) as
14.0 Gg for 2000-2001 and by field experiments as 1.8
Gg per year.
The GHG emission calculated from the waste by
Sharma et al. [35] as 1003 Gg of methane, 7 Gg of N2O
and total CO2 equivalent emission as 23,233 Gg per year
from India in 1994. They had also done preliminary es-
timation as 14,133 and 28,637 Gg CO2 equivalent emis-
sion in 1990 and 2000 respectively. The CAGR calcu-
lated by them from waste as 7.3% (1994-2000).
The methane emission by open dumping and improper
land filling of MSW contribute to 3% - 19% of the
anthropogenic sources in the world [36]. Talyan et al.
[36], had used systemic dynamics modeling approach for
projected the methane emission would be 254 Gg/year by
2025 from MSW of Delhi. They further anticipated that
future methane emission can unlikely to increase due to
intervention of policy proposed like energy recovery
from waste treatment and disposal. Gupta et al. [37], had
proposed the setting up of Bioreactor landfill for MSW
disposal in Delhi. This approach could reduce the
greenhouse effect from landfill gases. The other study
has estimated the methane generation in India at present
around 10 Tg/year and by 2047 would be 39 Tg/year
(Figure 3).
Figure 3. Trend of methane generation in Indian. Source:
Singhal and Pandey [6].
option has been not well utilized from landfill areas. Be-
side that efforts have not been put to gain, Carbon Emis-
sion Reduction (CER) points under CDM benefits, from
sustainable waste management practices in India. This
could be a way to generate finances for sustainable man-
agement of MSW in India.
5. Materials and Method
Methane samples were collected from three landfill areas
of Delhi, twice in December 2008 and in June 2009.
These samples were analysed using Flame Ionization
Detector (FID) of Gas Chromotograph.
5.1. Collection of Methane
Methane standard of 108 ppvm, EDT, London, UK was
used for the analysis of methane in collected samples.
Methane gas was collected using ‘Close Chamber’ tech-
nique. The gas was collected, stored and transported in a
number of vials and sealed immediately after collection.
Triplicates from every sampling site were taken. The
Perspex chamber inserted had a base of 12'' × 12'' × 3''
and chamber of 12'' × 12'' × 18'' dimensions. The Per-
spex chamber was embedded in the landfills a few hours
in advance to ensure that the ambient soil environment
was maintained. The gas collected in the chamber was
transferred to the sampling vials by displacement of wa-
ter. The sample was collected at regular intervals of one
hour started from the time the chamber was placed dur-
ing the course of the day. The landfills temperature at 5
cm depth and atmospheric temperature were also con-
tinuously monitored. The gas samples were analysed
using Porapak Q column by FID of Gas Chromatograph
(GC). Temperature in soil and atmosphere was measured
by pre-calibrated thermometer.
This is clear from the research work done in India on
GHG from landfill areas is that the most of the studies
are concentrated on bigger cities or metro-cities. The
Table 1 shows that there are 59, million plus cities in
India and they all have 1-2 landfill areas. There is need to
estimate the GHG emission in smaller cities too, which
are developing in very fast speed. The methane emission
estimated in most of the studies ranges from 0.33 - 1.80
Tg per year, nitrous oxide as 7 Gg per year [35] and total
carbon dioxide equivalent as 38.2 Tg per year from
MSW of India [31]. The energy or electricity generation
5.2. Quantification of Methane
The methane flux is measured using GC- FID, and cal-
culated by the fo rmula give n i n [2 7, 38].
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Assessment of Methane Flux from Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Landfill Areas of Delhi, India
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
6. Results and Discussion
The result for the samples analysed for methane is given
in Table 3 and Figure 4.
The winter samples had showed lower concentration
of methane emission then the summer samples collected
from three landfill areas of Delhi, India. This fact is well
known that organic components in MSW decompose
faster in summer the winter and optimum temperature for
methane emission is 30˚C - 40˚C. The highest methane
emission has been reported in GLA of Delhi (293
mg/m2/h) in summer samples at 3 pm, when the atmos-
pheric temperature was around 45˚C, followed by 264
mg/m2/h in summer samples of BLA and 260 mg/m2/h
in summer sample of OLA. The reason for higher
methane release from GLA might be due to presence
large quantity of slaughter house waste. Winter samples
were collected from 11 pm on words in day time. In
winter’s, the highest emission has been observed in OLA
as 58 mg/m2/h at 3 pm and the lowest in winter at
Bhalswa landfill area as 13 mg/m2/h at 5pm in evening,
when the atmospheric temperature was around 4˚C - 5˚C.
The total duration for a day samples was 5 hours starting
from, 10 am to 5 pm in a day time. Monitoring has been
done twice in each summer season and winter season.
The similar results were reported on landfill methane
emission by different authors like Jha et al. [39], and
Ankolar et al. [40]. They had estimated methane emis-
sion flux range as 1- 433mg/m2/h from two landfill areas
of Chennai and 0.273 -1.659 mg/m2/sec from Pune land-
fill areas in India, respectively. Quantity of methane
emission reported world wide from MSW landfill areas
is as, 0.54 - 320 mg/m2/h by Börjesson and Svensson
[18], from landfill areas in Sweden and Chen et al. [41]
quantified the methane emission from the closed landfill
site of 8.8 - 163 mg/m2/h for landfill area of Taiwan.
Similar, findings were reported by Bogner and Matthews
[42] for landfill methane emission.
The total major area covered by the selected three
landfill areas is given in Table 1. Taking methane emis-
sion average of both seasons the total methane flux cal-
culated for Gazipur, Bhalswa and Okhla landfill areas
were calculated as 0.24, 0.16 and 0.14 Gg/year respect-
tively [38]. Rawat et al. [27], had reported the methane
emission from six landfill areas i.e., Perungudi (Chennai);
Dapha (Kolkata); Okhla (Delhi); KCDC (Bangalore);
Pirana (Ahmedabad) and Doran landfill area (Dehradun)
of India as 0.21 Tg/year. As stated earlier that similar
results were estimated by Bhattacharya and Mitra [33],
reported methane emission from MSW in India was 0.56
Tg (1990) and 0.93 Tg (2000). Similarly, Mor et al. [34],
estimated the methane emission from Gazipur landfill
area of Delhi using first order decay model as 15.3
Gg/year and further estimation for all Indian landfills as
1.25 - 1.68 Tg/year.
Houghton et al. [43], suggested that the soils are con-
sidered as a significant sink for atmospheric methane.
They also reported that landfill covered with smaller soil
particles are important for attenuating fluxes of methane
and transforming methane to carbon dioxide, by means
of methane oxidation.
7. Conclusions
The total methane flux calculated for three landfill areas
of Delhi (Gazipur, Bhalswa and Okhla) is as 0.54
Gg/year, which is relatively in higher side as compare to
the total methane emission estimated fro m MSW landfill
sites in India i.e., from 0.30 - 1.8 Tg per year. This could
be that Delhi’s MSW generation is higher then the other
cities and most of the waste goes without segregation to
landfills. With the growing population, the generation of
solid waste has increased many folds. There is need to
initiate mitigation steps for decreasing GHG emission
from landfill areas. It can be done in first place by re-
ducing the dumping of organic materials in landfills,
Table 3. Showing methane emission from landfill areas in mg/m2/h.
Okhla landfill Area Gazipur landfill Area Bhalsawa landfill Area
Time (hour) Winter Summer Time (hour) Winter Summer Time (hour) Winter Summer
11 0 0 11 0 0 11 0 0
12 20.585 163.675 12 32.29 114.785 12 17.91 109.825
13 28.7623 161.55 13 29.715 162.255 13 28.315 126.83
14 37.71 145.96 14 45.52 123.29 14 50.89 168.635
15 58.41 260.035 15 39.68 293.335 15 37.265 263.58
16 43.965 134.625 16 23.2 180.68 16 19.685 138.165
17 30.26 140.29 17 14.79 152.31 17 12.94 82.685
Assessment of Methane Flux from Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Landfill Areas of Delhi, India405
Figure 4. Showing methane emission (winter and summer) from landfill areas of Delhi.
which is possible by segregating organic component
from solid waste, which can be effectively used for mak-
ing compost. Secondly, there is need to construct a
planned landfill site, from where GHG from landfill can
be trapped and used as green energy source, as practiced
in most of the developed countries.
8. Acknowledgements
Authors are thankful to the Department of Science and
Technology (DST), Government of India for the finan-
cial support to carry out this research work.
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