Buried, but not dead

  • 14/03/2007

Garbage from the past strikes microchips

Mindspace is a commercial area in Malad, a northwestern suburb of Mumbai. It houses a large number of companies like Morgan Stanley, J P Morgan and Otis, apart from several multinational BPOs. The complex has more than 1,000 computers and hundreds of sophisticated server rooms in each building. These machines face a peculiar problem: they are rotting away.

The complex has come up on what was earlier a dumpsite of municipal garbage. "Computer components contain metals like silver and copper, and are highly sensitive to gases such as methane and hydrogen sulphide, which are released from the rotting garbage underground,' says A K Sahu, president of the National Solid Waste Association of India. The ground emits these gases through crevices and openings. Several companies are forced to install expensive indoor air control systems.

"The biochemical reduction of an organic compound containing sulphur radicals can lead to the formation of malodorous compounds like methyl mercaptan and other sulfurous compounds,' says Sahu. The problem came to light last year. "Servers and computers have a normal life of at least one year. Here, they are breaking down within two-three months,' he adds.

The dumpyard of about 20 hectares received about 1,150 tonnes of garbage each day. The landfill was not planned with common sense: the garbage's decay wasn't properly estimated. The garbage had a high proportion of biodegradable waste

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