The severe diseases afflicting people living in the city and its surrounding areas are caused by the open disposal of waste, finds environmental studies carried out by The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI). TERI’s report was compiled using data it received from various government authorities from 2008-14 and submitted to the MMRDA in March last year.
The study focuses on factors responsible for the hazards caused by Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), such as inadequate infrastructure, irresponsible practices of waste disposal carried out by citizens, scarcity of land, poor waste collection systems and inefficient technology.
It recommends that ‘urgent attention’ be given to the scarcity of land for waste disposal in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, citing it as the biggest cause for concern.
“Landfill sites and open dumping sites severely affect the quality of air and ground water sources. Leachates — liquids from landfills — seep into creeks and water bodies. Due to a scarcity of land, the waste is disposed of in the open, leading to severe health issues affecting residents in the surrounding regions,” says the report.
The studies say that finding suitable land where waste can be disposed of is a major hindrance for Urban Local Bodies (ULB).
“Most of the ULBs find it difficult to identify appropriate pockets of land for waste disposal. Factors such as the rising demand for land and finding land far from human settlements come under consideration. According to MSW rules, the disposal site needs to be away from habitation clusters, forests, water bodies, monuments, national parks, wetlands and places of cultural, historical and religious interest,” it says.
The waste generated includes e-waste, biomedical waste and hazardous waste. According to the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), the region generates more recyclable waste than waste which can be incinerated.
Though municipal corporations and councils say they have introduced advanced disposal facilities, the major share of waste is still dumped in the open.
The city generated 13,000 metric tonnes of waste daily in 2014, the highest compared to other metropolises in the country.
The issue of open landfills had received great criticism following frequent and massive fires at the Deonar dumping ground, which had caused people to fall ill. The civic agency aims to shut all three landfills – Deonar, Kanjurmarg and Mulund –in phases, and replace them with waste disposal facilities, a plan that was announced in March.
A disposal facility is under construction in Taloja, where ULBs such as the municipal corporations of greater Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan- Dombivali, Bhiwandi, Navi Mumbai, Virar- Vasai, Mira-Bhayander, Ulhasnagar, and municipal councils at Ambernath, Panvel, Uran, Alibaug, Badlapur, Pen, Karjat, Khopoli, and Matheran are expected to send waste to be disposed of scientifically. MMRDA officials blamed the ULBs for not showing active interest in this facility.
Citing a lack of adequate means of transportation, Bhalchandra Patil, an expert member on the MPCB committee, called for a localised solution.
“If disposal facilities with a capacity of about 200 metric tonnes are built at various locations, the problem can be addressed effectively,” said Patil, who retired as the deputy commissioner of MCGM.
TERI studies find that per capita waste generation is highest in Matheran, where it generates 2.1 times Mumbai’s waste. It cites the tourism in this region as the main cause.
“The dumping of PET bottles and packaging materials still remains unattended to and needs immediate attention, given that Matheran is an eco- sensitive region,” reads the report.