Mumbai civic body, experts spar over amount of garbage generated in city

A study said the daily waste in city rose by 105% from 1999 to 2016; BMC claims 32% decline since then

mumbai Updated: Aug 05, 2018 00:43 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Mumbai currently has three dumping grounds, of which the one in Mulund is slated to be shut by October.(HT file photo)

While officials from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) have claimed that the garbage output has reduced over the past two years, urban waste management experts have expressed scepticism stating that this is highly unlikely. Data from EnviStats 2018, a study published by the Central government, has shown that waste generation in the city increased by 105% from 1999 to 2016. However, the civic body said that increased awareness among citizens and improvement in waste processing has resulted in a 32% decline in waste generation from 2016 to 2018.

Almitra Patel, member of the committee that drafted the Municipal Solid Waste Management (SWM) rules, 2000, said, “Both the consumption pattern and Mumbai’s population has steadily increased during this period. Even if full segregation is done and recyclables are removed from the waste, the proportion of organic waste going to dumping grounds is bound to increase as only a limited proportion will be treated at source, gardens and parks. They will be mixed with non-recyclable snack-food packaging waste. In mixed waste, wet waste is 60% by weight but by volume dry waste is 60% or more. Therefore, the focus has to be towards segregating that with high volume and treating that with more weight in order to reduce quantity.”

According to a senior official from BMC, the SWM rules, 2016 was a game changer for BMC. “Mumbai continues to be the largest waste generator in the country but with the new rules we have managed to penalise bulk generators. There are over 1,000 court cases and close to 900 (housing) societies and commercial establishments prosecuted under the new rules so far,” he said. “Currently, 25% of the city’s organic waste is being treated at source through composting, biomethanation, and other recycling efforts. We are now taking action through first-information-reports (FIR) under the Municipal Regional Town Planning Act against societies that were developed post 2007 that are not treating wet waste at source.”

Currently, there are 37 waste segregation centres in the city and private companies are being roped in to segregate and treat waste at four locations identified by BMC, the official said.

Rajkumar Sharma, member of the Bombay high court (HC) monitoring committee on Deonar landfill closure and petitioner of a 2014 PIL relating to the city’s SWM crisis, said, “Due to the coming of the new waste management rules in 2016, different types of waste – construction and demolition, biomedical, green and our daily solid waste – have all been divided into different categories and method of treatment. Thus, the figure projected by BMC is only for the daily dry and wet waste generated by societies and commercial establishments. At the same time, there is no proof submitted by the civic body as to how much they are actually treating at source. If there was, our oceans would not throw so much of waste along the coast every monsoon.”

The city’s waste management system is in a crisis. On Friday, a division bench of justices Abhay Oka and Riyaz Chagla from Bombay HC highlighted the increasing pressure on two dumping grounds in the city – Deonar and Mulund – and that they had reached saturation point. “We direct the state to identify a vacant land which is free of any legal disputes within a period of two months and allot the same to the civic body,” the bench said.

It noted that Mumbai generates 9,700 tonnes per day (TPD) of waste, which is sent to dumping yards at Deonar, Mulund and Kanjurmarg. Of this, only 3,500 TPD is treated in a scientific manner in Kanjurmarg. “This situation is dangerous and hazardous to the citizens who have the constitutional freedom for a pollution-free environment,” said the bench.

In February 2016, HC had directed the shutting down of Deonar and Mulund dumping grounds. Subsequent orders directed BMC to shut the dumping grounds by June 2017. However, BMC then got permission from the court to continue using the sites.

As existing dumping grounds get saturated, Mumbai will have to find newer sites outside the city, making waste management more expensive. “Mulund dumping ground will be shut down by October,” said Vishwas Shankarwar, deputy municipal commissioner, SWM department, BMC. “After closing it, the waste will be transferred to either Deonar or Kanjurmarg. A new 12-hectare site has been proposed at Karavale village near Taloja but it currently has several encroachments. Unless they are removed and private land is acquired, the waste cannot be shifted to this site.”

He added that the SWM department, with 22,000 employees and over 10,000 NGOs working with BMC, was trying its best to reduce the quantum of garbage generated in Mumbai. “Segregation of waste at source continues to be the major challenge, and more awareness is needed. The other issue is the litigations related to the dumping grounds,” said Shankarwar.

Environmentalists said a municipal ward-wise audit is needed in Mumbai to actually trace the amount of waste. Stalin D, director, NGO Vanashakti, said, “It is essential to identify the amount of waste through an audit so that resources can be focused on reducing problems in these areas.”

First Published: Aug 05, 2018 00:43 IST