The outcry in Gurgaon over trash dumping deserves to be viewed for what it is: a warning to the rest of the country from its citizenry.
The story began innocuously enough, when residents protested trash being dumped in their backyard. Now they have moved court for relief from illegal dumping. Officials from the Haryana Urban Development Authority and municipality claim they are completing a state-of-the-art landfill in four months in Bandhwari, about 15km away. Point is, who lives at Bhandwari and how will they react to being dumped on? If they are poor, as they likely are, their voices won't go far.
By failing to reduce waste, municipalities are facing the inevitable crisis of its storage, disposal and handling. Most cities don't have land for dumping.
Reasons given by the Haryana officials — they will soon move to a landfill — are not good enough. You can’t take dumping away from one place to another. By now, there is enough evidence of illness and contaminated groundwater near landfills, making even high quality ones undesirable.
The officials have to come up with a holistic plan to reduce waste. This is possible through composting, which can take care of almost half. They should also work with local waste generators and kabaris to handle the recyclables. They only have to then dump the remaining inert, non-recyclable waste in these landfills. A lot of this is much less polluting. In any case, it is an essential modern day waste management approach that they ought to be able to perform. Nothing less should be acceptable.
Plastic bags won’t go
I am tired of sanctimonius inserts and advertisements urging us to use jute, cloth and paper bags instead of plastic bags. I avoid most plastic bags, but the government’s ads still annoy me. It's simple. We know the issues and the solution.
But from the government, I expect something only it can do — active policy instruments. Fiscal incentives for alternatives, for example. Without these, you'll always have plastic bags. Appealing to the public is not good enough.
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