No waste management


The Supreme Court slamming more than a dozen states in the country for not having a policy on waste management speaks of the crisis that is gripping the urban centres. The SC disgust was apparent when it had to impose fine on ten states for not having installed any infra-structure to treat waste material generated on daily basis in the cities. In fact, the SC slammed these states for not even being serious in filing their replies to a questionnaire that sought details of the policy prepared by them for treating the waste material. It is common knowledge that at least 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste is generated on daily basis in India after single use by the consumers. This waste is a by-product of packing used for ready to eat foodstuffs and other items of daily use. As such the waste generated is thrown in the dustbins and the civic authorities across the country have not been able to manage it through recycling or packing them for use as raw material for the factories that can process them. The SC has been asking the central government and the states to show how they are preparing to meet the crisis created by such a huge amount of waste material generated on daily basis. But, unfortunately, most of the states have not specified or prepared a policy to either ban use of plastics and polythene packing or devise an alternative way for recycling them. The SC has gone to the extent of passing strictures against the Delhi Lieutenant Governor and others for not cooperating with the court for finding a way out to meet this crisis. In fact, the court has gone ahead with the observation that Delhi is being buried under huge piles of waste material. It is sad state of affairs that most of the waste material is allowed to be collected by garbage collectors, who then sell it for recycling to the factories or burn it causing smog in the air. In the absence of stakeholders from the private sector at the local body level, recoverable resources embedded in discarded materials are lost due to highly disorganised dumping. Organic refuse, which forms about 50% of all garbage, readily lends itself to the generation of compost or production of methane for household use or power generation. But it is a major opportunity lost due to short-sightedness of the planning bodies. Organic waste that could help green cities and feed small and affordable household biogas plants is simply being thrown away. In most of the civic bodies majority of the people charged with the responsibility of look towards the future are sitting idle and doing nothing. It is also ironic that while some countries in African continent have introduced stiff penalties for the use of flimsy plastic bags, India is doing little to prevent them from drifting into suburban garbage mountains, rivers, lakes and the sea, and being ingested by cattle feeding on dumped refuse. In fact most of the plastic and polythene waste material is allowed to fill the rivers and other water sources creating new problems for the people and the flora and fauna. A new approach is needed, in which bulk waste generators take the lead and city managers show change in the way it is processed and recycled. The important thing has to be a shift away from big budgets for collection and transport by private contractors, to the processing of segregated garbage. As the nodal body for the implementation of the new rules, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) should put out periodic assessments of the preparedness of urban local bodies in the run-up to the deadline. Without a serious approach, the national problem of merely shifting city trash to the suburbs, out of sight of those who generate it, will spoil and choke the landscape. Considering that waste volumes are officially estimated to grow to 165 million tonnes a year by 2030, many more suburbs are bound to be threatened by collapsing or burning trash mountains besides creating problems for those who inhabit those areas.