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Solid Waste Management In India: The Great Garbage Challenge

Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 mandates waste segregation at source by all waste generators. How well is India following SWM Rules 2016?

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Solid Waste Management In India: The Great Garbage Challenge
Of the total solid waste collected in India that is 1,52,749.5 tonnes per day - while 79,956.3 TPD (52.3%) is treated, 29,427.2 TPD (19.2%) goes to landfill

New Delhi: In 2016, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) notified the new Solid Waste Management Rules (SWM), 2016 that replaced the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000. After 16 years, the waste management rules were changed in India and were made applicable beyond municipal areas to include urban agglomerations, census towns, areas under the control of Indian Railways, airports, airbases, Ports and harbours, defence establishments, special economic zones, places of pilgrims, among others. Why? To manage the humongous amount of solid waste being generated in the country.

What Is Solid Waste?

Solid Waste Management Rules (SWM), 2016 define solid waste as waste that includes solid or semi-solid domestic waste, sanitary waste, commercial waste, institutional waste, catering and market waste and other non-residential wastes, street sweepings, silt removed or collected from the surface drains, horticulture waste, agriculture and dairy waste, treated bio-medical waste.

Also Read: PM Modi Shares Inspiring ‘Waste-To-Wealth’ Stories From Aizawl, Puducherry

Solid Waste Generated In India

Municipal areas in India generate over 1.60 lakh (1,60,038.9) tonnes of solid waste per day, as per the annual report (2020-21) on Implementation of Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

Over 95 per cent of the waste generated is collected which is 1,52,749.5 tonnes per day (TPD). Of this, while 79,956.3 TPD (52.3%) is treated, 29,427.2 TPD (19.2%) goes to landfill.

As per the CPCB, 50,655.4 TPD that is 31.7 per cent of the total waste generated remains un-accounted which means the waste is disposed of unscientifically. Chitra Mukherjee, Consultant, Waste and Sustainable Livelihood says,

The waste dumped openly and not collected makes for unaccounted waste.

Among all the states and Union Territories (UTs), Maharashtra generates the maximum amount of solid waste that is 22,632.71 TPD, followed by Uttar Pradesh generating 14,710 TPD and West Bengal (13,709 TPD).

Lakshadweep generates only 35 TPD of waste that could also be because of the population size of the UT, followed by Sikkim generating 71.9 TPD and Andaman and Nicobar Islands 89 TPD.

As per the CPCB data, Chhattisgarh is the only state that collects and treats the entire waste generated which is 1,650 TPD. No waste is sent to landfill.

Trends In Solid Waste Management In India

The CPCB has calculated per capita solid waste generation for the last six years – from 2015-16 to 2020-21. In 2015-16, solid waste generated per capita was 118.68 gm/day. It jumped to 132.78 gm/day in 2016-17 but then soon saw a dip. In 2020-21, per capita solid waste generation was recorded at 119.07 gm/day.

An increasing trend in the percentage of solid waste processing has been observed – from 19 per cent in 2015-16 to 49.96 per cent in 2020-21.

Another good sign is a decreasing trend in solid waste being sent to landfills – from 54 per cent in 2015-16 to 18.4 per cent in 2020-21.

Also Read: Best Out Of Waste: Indore Artist Makes Art Out Of Trash, Urges People To Reduce, Reuse And Recycle

The Composition Of Municipal Solid Waste

As per the operational guidelines of Swachh Bharat Mission – Urban 2.0, published by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in October 21, the composition of municipal solid waste in India is as follows:

  • Organic or compostable fraction: 40-60 per cent
  • Recyclable or  resource recoverable fraction: 20–30 per cent
  • Non-recyclable or combustible (RDF): 10-20 per cent
  • Construction and demolition (C&D) waste and unusable combustible: 5-15 per cent

Discarding Waste: Sanitary Landfills VS Dumpsites In India

“Sanitary land filling” means the final and safe disposal of residual solid waste and inert wastes on land. Inert waste is something that is not bio-degradable, recyclable or combustible street sweeping or dust and silt removed from the surface drains.

A sanitary landfill is supposed to be a facility designed with protective measures against pollution of ground water, surface water and fugitive air dust. The waste disposed of at a landfill should not blow away with wind or litter around; it should not cause bad odour or become a fire hazard. Essentially, any waste disposed of in a landfill should not pollute anything in the environment.

As per the data provided by States and Union Territories (UTs) to the CPCB, 1,924 sites for landfill have been identified for future waste dumping. In total, 305 landfills have been constructed in India, 126 are under construction, 341 are in operation, 17 are exhausted and 11 landfills have been capped.

Currently, the maximum numbers of landfill sites in operation are in Maharashtra (137), Karnataka (52) and Uttar Pradesh (86).

Also Read: Kerala Civic Bodies To Have Solid Waste Management Engineers

On the other hand, a dump site is essentially a piece of land utilised by a local body for the disposal of solid waste without following the principles of sanitary land filling. Dumpsites are in a way a temporary solution to dump waste. There are 3,184 dumpsites in the country. While 234 dumpsites have been reclaimed, meaning the land has been recovered by clearing up of waste, 8 have been converted into landfills – 3 dumpsites have been converted to landfills in Andhra Pradesh and one each in Meghalaya, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Telangana and Chandigarh.

The Great Garbage Challenge

In 2017, ASSOCHAM along with accounting firm PwC published a report titled “Waste Management in India – Shifting Gears”. The report explorated the CPCB data and noted that in 2011, 62.05 million metric tonnes of solid waste was generated. Based on that, it made some predictions on the growth in waste generation and treatment.

It is estimated that by 2050, 50 per cent of the population will be living in urban areas, and the volume of waste generation will grow by 5 per cent per year. Accordingly, the expected waste quantity we are looking at for the year 2021, 2031, and 2050 are 101 million metric tonnes per year, 164 million metric tonnes, and 436 million metric tonnes per year respectively. This will require significant land area to be put under landfilling. If the present scenario of waste management is considered, where most of the waste is dumped without treatment, we are actually looking at an estimated 88 square km (equivalent to the size of the New Delhi Municipal Council area) of precious land being brought under waste disposal through landfilling.

Imagine a landfill equivalent to the size of a city! India’s humongous solid waste is a ticking time bomb and it is about time we defuse it before it blasts.

To know why landfills are a huge problem and how can India manage its waste better, read the second part of the story here

Also Read: Single-Use Plastic Ban In India Explained: What Will Be The Challenges And What Should We Expect?

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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