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Waste Management in India

By Ibu Sanjeeb Garg

Beating the Rhetoric  

As India marches into a new world order with its eyes firmly as a trillion dollar economy, it is beginning to witness tectonic shifts in terms of how it progresses. A growing economy also means a large number of cities and by all estimates in a few decades more than half of India’s population will be living in urban areas.

Urban areas in India can be divided into a few broad imaginations. The first would be the traditional metro cities the IT hubs and some of the state capitals spread across the country like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad et al. The next category of cities would be those that have grown organically, often as satellite townships but have acquired distinct identities of their own e.g. Gurgaon. The third category of cities are those which have been designed in a planned manner eg Greater Noida, Naya Raipur etc. Though these cities are evolving in their own way yet they have one common problem today- the problem of waste management.

Today, in India waste management is a major concern. While waste management pertains to both urban and rural areas, yet rural areas often have a more sustainable way of waste management which is why the problem of waste management itself is primarily an urban India challenge. Waste management in India in the past few years has diversified into normal waste and E- waste management. Each of these sub categories is challenging in its own way and requires imaginative ways to tackle the same.

India generates about 1,50,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste every day. This figure is expected to rise to almost 3,77,000 tonnes of waste per day in a few years, according to a latest World Bank report. Yet the solid waste management system disposal is lagging in India. Of the total daily waste generated in the country India is able to collect only about 83% which is a dismal 30%. Compared to worldwide figures this is indeed a low figure. Such figures are more challenging when one takes into account the fact that cities like Mumbai have one of the highest per day solid waste disposal in the world. When one factors in E waste management system the numbers are far behind global leaders. In such a scenario it is important that new incentives and impetus are given to solid waste management in the country.

One of the flagship programs in the country at the present moment  – the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan has given much needed fillip to the concept of waste management system in the country. Out of 82,607 total wards in the country more than 50,000 wards have a home to home waste management collection system. This means more than 60% of municipal India has a home door to door collection today. This number has risen considerably in the last two years. Almost 90 MW of energy is being generated from waste, yet India has not achieved the numbers it would like to while it is firmly on the path. To do the same new measures and initiatives need to be brought.

To tackle the problem of E waste, companies can be given benefits of CSR if they are able to take back and recycle electronic products. This would especially boost those IT and IteS companies for whom electronic products are their sole bread and butter. Further people can be encouraged and made aware about the harmful effects of keeping old electronic products lying around, and encourage them to give it for recycling or waste management. Further, like normal waste collection points E Waste collections points could also be designated in municipal wards and cities. Awareness and information dissemination through electronic media , workshops in schools and colleges would also make people aware about the same.

To the question of conventional waste management the situation is much better. Today cities are much cleaner thanks to flagship initiatives like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan which have created a sense of cleanliness amongst Indian. Such initiatives need to be boosted further. Also today urban bodies are looking at waste segregation in the first stage itself so that waste management becomes better. If at the doorstep itself people are able to segregate the waste then the problems of authorities would decrease remarkably. Further newer ways of utilising waste generated by cities including recycling have to be thought of and acted upon. In the long run waste management will become an important component of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and a clean India.

( Views expressed by the author are personal.)

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