While the civic body admits that its waste management system has not been effective, it has no concrete plan in place to find an answer.
“We are exhausting our landfills quickly by dumping all the waste collected. Contractual issues have bogged down plans and management of waste has not been effective,” said Mohan Adtani, additional municipal commissioner.
Instead of attempting to resolve the issue of lease deeds that has stopped waste processing work at all three landfill sites, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is now looking to float an Expression of Interest for waste to-energy (WTE) projects.
Its officials, however, admit that the current technologies have not failed.
Finance minister P Chidambaram had announced incentives in his Budget speech for WTE projects, offering repayable grants, low-cost capital and viability gap to civic bodies.
“We think the waste-to-energy model can be effective and in the new development plan, we will earmark 10 locations of 10 hectares each that can host these plants,” said Adtani, who however admitted that it would be “tough to select these locations as many will be close to the coast”.
The BMC remains unfazed by an inquiry constituted by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to look into malpractices involving awarding of waste management contracts.
Maybe there’s little reason for concern - four months after Chavan announced the formation of the two-member special investigation team (SIT) following allegations of irregularities in the bidding process and selection of contractors, the inquiry is yet to begin, said one of the SIT members.
Experts said most WTE projects across the country have failed to achieve the desired results, besides harmful emissions. “Unless one has an idea about the composition and calorific value of the waste, WTE projects won’t succeed. Across India, waste management needs an integrated approach. This should include segregation at the source into dry and wet waste.
After segregation, dirtied dry waste such as packaging material and leather can be sent to WTE plants.
But the quantity of such waste is low and their energy output is ordinarily only 5%,” said Shyam Asolekar, professor, Centre for Environmental Science and Engineering, IIT-Bombay.
“With immense paucity of land, there should not come a time when the city’s waste has to go outside Mumbai. How will the BMC have spaces for 10 sites? Decentralisation of waste and segregation are our best options,” said Stalin D, director, projects, NGO Vanashakti.
Adtani admitted that the BMC needs to focus on waste segregation. “Before [looking at WTE projects], we want to start door-to-door collection and segregation so that we need to send only 15% of the total waste to landfills.”