- Only 25% of India’s 62 million annual waste is treated
- India launched a nationwide waste segregation campaign on June 5 this year
- Many cities have refused to collect waste if it is unsegregated
New Delhi: “I only feel angry when I see waste. When I see people throwing away things we could use,” Mother Teresa had once famously said this. Who knew the quote would still be relevant and more than ever before, especially in India’s garbage scenario. The grim issue of waste management was finally highlighted by the government in the third year of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Amidst the massive campaigns that were run throughout the year, the topic of waste management grabbed front page headlines on several occasions. While some regions failed tremendously and drowned in their own garbage crisis, some went on to set excellent examples.
Several instances of landfills not being able to handle its own waste and overflowing were recorded in major cities like Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata this year. One such incident was the infamous Ghazipur tragedy that created uproar in September after 80-feet garbage mountain collapsed on road engulfing four vehicles and leaving two people dead. Many experts pointed lack of waste segregation as a major contributor to the man-made disaster and were of the opinion that waste segregation is the key to reduce waste.
The point of waste segregation holds true when one looks at the successful examples of India’s waste free societies. And Kerala’s Alappuzha city makes a stunning case study. The city was this year lauded by the United Nations Environment Programme for being exceptional in addressing their garbage crisis. All the 40,000 houses in the city segregate their dry and wet waste. The city has now gotten rid of its landfill as all the wet garbage goes for composting and the dry waste is recycled.
While it is challenging to completely curb waste generation in a city like Delhi which generates upto 8,000 tonnes of waste per day, finding ways to prevent them from accumulating on trenching grounds certainly seems like a possibility. In a bid to integrate the concept of 3 R’s –reduce, reuse and recycle, the centre this year launched a nationwide waste segregation campaign under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan on World Environment Day on June 5.
Under this campaign, in order to get a uniform set of procedure across the country, the government came up with a 2-bin system and allotted blue bin for dry waste and green coloured bin for biodegradable wet waste. Every citizen was required to follow a simple rule – hand over dry and wet waste separately to the municipal workers.
Giving a push to the massive segregation campaign, municipal bodies across the country distributed colour-coded bins to everyone. In public areas, the traditional bins were replaced by green and blue bins. But the whole exercise of source segregation becomes meaningless if the segregated waste gets mixed up on its way to the landfill. States like Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra brought in new compartmentalised waste collecting trucks to ensure that waste remains segregated till the treatment process. Six months later, here’s a look at how different parts of the country incentivised or encouraged people to implement source segregation:
Putting The Foot Down
‘Civic body will not collect your waste henceforth if it is not segregated into dry and wet garbage’ – this rule was adopted by several cities after it recorded no change in the disposal pattern of citizens. Richest civic body in India, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation was one of the first to bring in this rule. The bulk generators and societies in the city not only started source segregation but also indulged in composting. Following the suit, other municipal bodies also adopted a similar strategy.
Many civic bodies adopted stern actions like imposing heavy fines to ensure a smooth source segregation practice which yielded positive results. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) under its ‘Swachh Namaskar’ initiative levied fines on bulk waste generators who failed to comply with waste segregation rules. Hyderabad’s Rajendranagar is the only colony in the city to achieve 100 per cent waste segregation. The colony, which generates upto 30 tonnes everyday, composts all the wet waste and sells the dry waste, making it a successful model. The civic body is in the process of implementing a similar model in other parts of the city.
Surprise checks or a raid in shops, markets, mall and other public places is another way that has been adopted by the civic bodies. The Jaipur Municipal Corporation, which had distributed green and blue dustbins across the city on World Environment Day, adopted this method a month later and even went on to seal five coaching centres for not having two-colour bins.
Ensuring Informative Door-To-Door Waste Collection
“If the waste collecting activity is irregular, citizens will not take an effort to segregate their waste. Hence ensuring that garbage is picked up from every household is essential if source segregation has to be a success,” Asad Warsi, Swachh Bharat Mission Consultant with the Indore Municipal Corporation said. Cities like Indore, Mysuru, Ghaziabad, Mahabalipuram, Varanasi and Guntur first covered every household in terms of garbage collection. On their waste collecting rounds, municipal bodies in these cities would also send a sanitary officer who would teach and demonstrate the waste segregation process.
Municipal Bodies Adopt Quirky, Competitive, Fun And Innovative Methods
From Mysuru screening movies on waste segregation via WhatsApp messages to Gurugram appointing cricketer Sourav Ganguly to spread the message waste segregation, various municipal bodies introduced unique methods to promote source segregation. Hyderabad came up with ‘Swachh Dhooth App’ where citizens can win upto Rs 1 lakh by simply clicking a picture of their segregated waste and uploading it on the newly launched App. Similarly Tamil Nadu’s Tiruchirappalli city lured citizens with a gold coin. As per their scheme, residents who effectively segregate the domestic waste into dry and wet garbage shall be rewarded with a gold coin weighing a gram every month.
Inducing a competitive spirit among the residents of Indore, the municipal corporation had declared a healthy competition among 85 wards of the city in March. As part of the initiative, the top five wards were felicitated on World Environment Day under the ‘Best Waste Segregation’ award. This competition resulted in several wards practising 100 per cent source segregation.
While other cities came up with incentives, Udupi introduced dedicated days to collecting dry and wet waste. Wednesdays only for dry waste is to be collected and on remaining days wet waste is taken by the Udupi City Municipal Council workers.
Bengaluru and Bhubaneswar are appointing school children as Swachh ambassadors to encourage source segregation. For the last six months, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike has been visiting schools to teach children about segregation. Likewise, Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation is conducting workshops in schools to sensitise children about waste and its effective management.
After Kolkata’s only landfill at Dhapa ran out of space, the city administration has come up with a tax benefit scheme for people who segregate waste. The scheme, which is in its trial stage, will give a discount on housing tax to those complexes which install composting machines.
No Way Forward Without Glitches
Issues like lack of funds to acquire colour coded bins, insufficient staff, tussle between private contractors and civic bodies were some initial glitches faced by the authorities. Despite distributing ample number of bins in the city, Chandigarh, lagged behind in implementing the source segregation in the initial months. Shortage of manpower which resulted in irregular garbage collection and the high monthly fee charged for collecting garbage were some of the obstacles that the administration had to face. It took the city a very long time to resolve the two issues. At a time when many of the cities like Indore, Jaipur, Chennai, Bengaluru have achieved 50 per cent source segregation, Chandigarh is still in the awareness stage.
In September, waste collection had come to a standstill for a few days in Mangaluru after there were some lapses in waste collecting methods of private contractor. Citizens had to face the brunt to an extent that some households discontinued the practice of segregation.
Cities following different waste segregation model prior to June 2017 was another problem that was encountered. It took a while for the cities practising a model other than the two-bin system to adjust to the new model. For instance Panaji had to make a switch from its traditional five bin model, Udupi had to separate waste into dry and wet instead of dry, wet and menstrual waste.
India generates upto 62 million tonnes of waste per year, of which 75 per cent ends of landfills untreated. Experts have predicted that if at this rate India continues to send its waste to the trenching grounds then by 2030, it will we need a landfill size of Bengaluru to accommodate all the garbage. To address this growing concern, the government revised its existing waste management rules under Solid Waste Management Rules (SWM) 2016. Under this new rule, guidelines are laid out for all types of waste generators – from citizens, bulk waste generators, sanitary napkin manufacturers, producers of non-biodegradable, municipal authorities and so on. If every individual, irrespective of quality and quantity of waste generated, takes the onus of scientifically disposing the garbage and practices responsible waste segregation, India’s waste woes can come down considerably.