NEW DELHI • India's tallest rubbish mountain is on course to rise higher than the Taj Mahal next year, becoming a fetid symbol for what the United Nations considers the world's most polluted capital.
Hawks and other birds of prey hover above the towering Ghazipur landfill on the eastern fringe of New Delhi, while stray cows, dogs and rats wander at will over the huge expanse of smoking filth.
Taking up an area of more than 40 football pitches, Ghazipur rises by nearly 10m a year, with no end in sight to its foul-smelling growth.
According to East Delhi's superintendent engineer Arun Kumar, it is already more than 65m high.
At its current rate of growth, it will be taller than the iconic 73m-high Taj in Agra next year.
India's Supreme Court last year said red warning lights will soon have to be put on the dump to alert passing jets.
It was not meant to be that way. Ghazipur was opened in 1984 and reached its capacity in 2002, when it should have been closed. But the city's detritus keeps on arriving.
"About 2,000 tonnes of garbage are dumped at Ghazipur each day," a Delhi municipal official said.
Last year, a section of the hill collapsed in heavy rain, killing two people. Dumping was banned after the deaths, but the measure lasted only a few days because the authorities could not find an alternative dump site. Indian cities are among the world's largest garbage producers, generating 62 million tonnes of waste annually.
By 2030, that could rise to 165 million tonnes, according to government figures.
Ms Chitra Mukherjee, head of environment advocacy group Chintan, said waste has become a huge challenge as India's growing wealth drives consumerism and the production of extra garbage that the country cannot dispose of properly.