Solid Waste Management – Urban India calling?

“Aap hume kuda do, hum apko swachta denge [Give us the waste, we will give you cleanliness] says Manoj Sable, a Software Engineer turned Social Entrepreneur who owns a unique initiative Jaagar [Aware] in Delhi-NCR region. In his perspective, Swaccha Bharat Mission of the Government of India, motivates him to take up the issue of Cleanliness and Waste management in an urban setup like Delhi. Started five years back as a one-man army, the enterprise currently holds a team of 17 warriors fighting everyday to protect the environment and urban ecosystem. He chuckled saying “I feel truly blessed to be a part of a wonderful group which aims to develop a sustainable waste management model that can be replicated across India”. The methods of operation of Jaagar include door-to-door waste collections and composting, cleaning of public places on every Sundays and awareness-cum-training programs regarding cleanliness, health & hygiene.  Unknowingly fulfilling 6 out of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of United Nations, Manoj Sable is determined to bring a positive change in the mindsets of people by spreading awareness on problems like pollution-pressure, poor Air Quality Index and unhygienic environmental situations that urban societies may face in the if correct actions are not taken right now. We Salute You Manoj!

Manoj sable (first from left) and his team

Speaking at a conference on ‘Waste Reduction, Circular Economy and Enhanced Livelihoods’ organized by Non-profit entities in New Delhi, Amitabh Kant CEO, NITI Aayog stated “Municipalities are not doing their jobs efficiently, and if they fail at doing their basic job, they need to be voted out”Mr Kant criticized the Municipal Bodies for the dismal situation of waste management in India. Further he stated, “If we are generating 71 million tonnes of waste every annum, it will increase exponentially unless we reduce waste and ensure segregation at source or household-level”. He also pointed out that the primary job of Municipal Bodies is to keep the areas clean under their jurisdiction and stop getting into urban construction business and minting money. If India maintains the current rate of economic development similar to the past few decades, it stands to more than triple its demand for resources by 2030. Fast pace of urbanization is going to bring 700mn people to cities by 2050 due to which there will be tremendous pressure on waste managing bodies plus the entire ecosystem. Over 380 million urban people live in 7,935 towns and cities and generate around 71 million tonnes of municipal solid waste per annum. Only 43 million tonnes (MT) of waste is collected, 11.9 MT is treated and 31 MT is dumped in landfill sites. According to experts, India is following a flawed system of waste disposal and management because municipal authorities deposit solid waste haphazardly and it is not properly sorted out.

In this regard, the concept of Circular Economy takes centre stage. A circular economy is a regenerative approach aimed at minimising waste in contrast to the traditional linear economy, which has a ‘take, make, dispose’ model of production. Circular Economy reduces resource dependency and emphasize on ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle’. Henriette Faergemann, Counselor, Environment, Climate and Energy for EU in his delegation to India discussed the importance of a circular economy in job creation and reduction in greenhouse gases in EU. He stated “If properly implemented, we can create at least 600,000 jobs by 2025. Similarly in India, thousands of jobs can be created by virtue of this circular or repair economy in the near future. Mr. A.K Jain, Additional Secretary for the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) quoted “Culture of a circular economy has been in India from before. We need to formalize the subject here. We have a reduce, reuse, and recycle culture but we don’t acknowledge the problem of resource exploitation. We feel that time has come when we can have a ‘Bureau of Resource Efficiency’ based on consensus.”

A 10 Point Solution to solid waste disposal is as follows–

‘Preserve’ natural capital by regenerating soil and water. Also balancing renewable resources.

‘Reduse’– of non-biodegradable waste should be the first priority

‘Reuse’ need to follow reduce. If we can’t reduse consumption of non-biodegradable waste like plastics, we should reuse it as many times as possible.

Refurbishing, Remanufacturing and Recycling to keep products, components, and materials circulating and contributing to the economy.

Composting – is the process where the organic matter is decomposed producing a soil conditioner rich in organic matter i.e. carbon. This ensures waste management and most effective utilization of solid waste our own kitchen gardens and farmlands.

Vermi-Composting – preparation of compost from various species of worms, usually earthworms, to create a nutrient enriched mixture of decomposing vegetable/food or kitchen waste.

Minimalism – minimum usage of resources is minimalistic approach. High rates of consumerism in developed (rich) and developing (getting richer) economies are creating more pressure on environment which needs a check.

Strict Law Enforcement – Bio-medical waste (management and handling) Rules, 1998 prescribe that there should be a Common Biomedical Waste Treatment Facility (CBWTF) at every 150 kms in India.

Training and Awareness – municipalities and commercial establishments should act in an environmentally accountable and responsible manner. Awareness campaigns or short module courses need to be imparted on waste sorting and management, compost-pitting, vermi-composting, circular economy.

 Self – Consciousness and Community Participation – A self-aware citizen is an asset towards attainment of green economy. Participatory approach within the stakeholders of the communities will be more effective and efficient.

Mrinali Manohar

A PhD Scholar in Agricultural Science from IARI, New Delhi believes in Live and let Live. A writer and painter by passion also provide consultancy to Agri-Businesses & Startups. Loves to travel, explore and learn more each day.

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