India still needs to tackle its solid waste problem | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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India still needs to tackle its solid waste problem

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Oct 03, 2019 02:53 AM IST

Although the state governments has made huge progress in managing solid waste in the past five years under the Centre’s Swachh Bharat Mission, the 2018 cleanliness survey found that only 10% of 471 cities segregated household waste.

New Delhi: India was declared open defecation free (ODF) on Wednesday, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, but the big challenge ahead is solid waste management. Indian cities generate about 1.5 lakh tonnes of garbage every day, of which only one-fourth gets processed.

India was declared open defecation free (ODF) on Wednesday, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, but the big challenge ahead is solid waste management.(Raj K Raj / Hindustan Times)
India was declared open defecation free (ODF) on Wednesday, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, but the big challenge ahead is solid waste management.(Raj K Raj / Hindustan Times)

Although the state governments has made huge progress in managing solid waste in the past five years under the Centre’s Swachh Bharat Mission, the 2018 cleanliness survey found that only 10% of 471 cities segregated household waste.

The urban development ministry, which conducted the survey, found out that 4% of the all solid waste generated in the country is treated and 10% is dumped in landfill sites, many of which are unscientifically built and do not do a good job of preventing ground water and soil contamination.

The ministry estimates that the volume of solid waste generated in cities will increase to 4.5 lakh tonnes per day by 2030 as people move from villages to cities.

“How will our cities manage this gargantuan amount of waste, considering that they struggle to manage even the current quantities?” asked Chandra Bhushan, former deputy director general of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

The first big challenge is proper, segregated door to door collection of garbage, which has been mandated under municipal laws by most local bodies.

The results have been mixed.

Among the metros, Delhi had the lowest (39%) collection of garbage from homes, and Ahmedabad the highest (95%) , according to a study released by ICRIER in January. Mumbai and Chennai, two other big metros covered under the study, had 80% of door to door garbage collection.

Most of the homes in the 19 cities surveyed fared badly on segregation on the waste at homes. Except Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu, Suryapet in Telangana and Alappuzha in Kerala, segregation at homes was less than 50%. In Delhi and Mumbai, it was as low as two percent.

“Segregation at home will not happen unless there are economic incentives and disincentives,” Bhushan said.

Some cities such as Muzaffarpur in Bihar and Indore in Madhya Pradesh have improved segregation at source by including a fine for failure to segregate and a rebate in property tax for doing so. In Muzaffarpur, the fine is of 100 and rebate of 10% of the property tax. In Indore, the fine is 1,000.

Indore, which won the cleanest city award started in 2017 and 2018,has eliminated garbage dumps, ensured 100% household collection of waste and converts waste to usable products such as compost and fuel. The award was started in 2016. “If Indore can manage its urban waste, other cities can also do,” said Swati Singh Sambyal, programme manager at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

Experts say the other challenge is scientifically disposing solid waste, which the union government has been trying to address through waste to energy plants. .

Niti Aayog has set a target of constructing 800 MW of waste to energy plants, to deal with growing urban waste problem. Under this programme, some cities have come up with innovations. Indore has successfully converted waste into compressed natural gas (CNG), a model that 72 countries under the aegis of United Nations Environment Programme want to replicate. Dehradun is working on generating bio-oil from urban waste.

Although work has started on some pilots, Bhushan said the problem with waste to energy plants is that they can’t work efficiently in India because of low calorific value of garbage, high moisture content and improper segregation.

“We need to look at local solutions which is building small bio-gas plants and pushing for recycle and reuse,” he said.

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