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Banega Swachh India 2018 Special

Fighting Mountains Of Garbage: Here Is How Indian Cities Dealt With Landfill Crisis In 2018

2018 again underlined why India’s growing garbage is a full blown crisis and not enough is being down to tackle the problem on war footing

Fighting Mountains Of Garbage: Here Is How Indian Cities Dealt With Landfill Crisis In 2018

New Delhi: The year 2018 has done very little to reduce the burden of garbage piling on to the urban man made mountains – landfills, in the country. Delhi’s oldest Ghazipur landfill and Asia’s largest dumping ground – Deonar in Mumbai, continued to gather waste despite the Supreme Court ordering a closure of these landfills. Meanwhile, Delhi’s biggest garbage dump– Bhalswa landfill caught fire that took three days to douse. Recently, Mumbai’s second largest dumping ground – Mulund landfill was permanently closed after it reached its saturation point and then there was the fire at Ahmedabad’s sole landfill site at pirana, where fumes emitting from garbage are a common sight for passersby.

While landfills continue to be an eyesore in the urban landscape and a crisis that most cities are grappling with, there were a few notable exceptions – Indore, and Ambikapur that declared themselves landfill free and emerged as benchmarks that others can follow.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board report of 2015-2016 which have the last collated figures on the implementation of Solid Wastes Management Rules, 2016, over 1.3 lakh (1,35,198.27) tonnes of solid waste is generated per day in India. Of the total waste generated, while over one lakh tonnes per day (1,11,027.55 TPD) is collected, only a fraction – 25,572.25 TPD is treated and 47,415.62 TPD is landfilled.

To make sure cities go waste free, government also introduced seven star-rating under Swachh Survekshan – a pan India exercise to assess cleanliness in urban India. The seven star rating is the first-of-its kind rating tool for assessing cleanliness of cities and towns in India, designed on a SMART approach that stands for Single metric, Measurable, Achievable, Rigorous verification and Targeted towards outcomes. The criteria to achieve seven star rating is 100 per cent door-to-door waste collection, 100 per cent waste treatment and waste free local water bodies.

Also Read: New System On the Block: 7-Star Ratings To Assess Cleanliness In India’s Urban Spaces, Hopes To Ensure 100% Waste Management

Here’s how different cities dealt with waste in the year 2018:

Landfill Crisis Of National Capital Delhi

The Current Status: The national capital Delhi is home to three of the biggest landfills namely Ghazipur, Okhla and Bhalswa, which have out lived their life and are now unable to take the burden and collapsing under the weight of the waste. A fact that is borne out by the recent events with the Ghazipur dump yard collapsing in 2017, claiming two lives and Bhalswa and Okhla landfill smouldering continuously. The sad part is, despite all this, little to nothing has been done in 2018 to improve the status of landfills with 60-70 metre high mountain of garbage.

Fighting Mountains Of Garbage: Here Is How Indian Cities Dealt With Landfill Crisis In 2018

Status of landfills in Delhi

Also Read: 5 Stark Facts You Should Know About The Ghazipur Landfill

All kinds of waste that is wet, dry and toxic is collected together and dumped at a landfill. Once wet waste starts rotting and decomposing then you have formation of methane gas which is not only a toxic greenhouse gas, but flammable also. Because of the same, landfills are always under fire. It is just sometimes it is huge and someone passing sees it, makes a video and posts it on social media and it becomes news, says Chitra Mukherjee, Head of Programmes, Operations, Chintan.

“In Delhi, till date, about 10,500 tonnes of waste is collected per day. 6,100 TPD still goes to waste to energy plant and this is all mixed waste. Only 200 TPD gets composted”, says Swati Singh Sambyal, Programme Manager, Waste Management, Center for Science and Environment.

The Problem: Currently, a portion of collected waste is dumped at some or the other landfill and remaining is treated at waste-to-energy (WTE) plants at Sarojini Nagar, Narela-Bawana, Ghazipur and Okhla. But are these WTE plants effective? Will they solve the problem?

Also Read: Ghazipur Landfill Polluting Air, Water And Soil Since 1984

Municipalities keep talking about WTE plants, but honestly they are pathetic, because all kinds of waste goes into it and is burned. WTE plants are neither meeting emission norms, nor helping in waste segregation and then recycling, says Chitra.

The problem in Delhi is lack of accountability and enforcement of Solid Waste Management Rules (SWMR) of 2016. It has been two years and not even single law has been implemented so far, reason being, as East Delhi Municipal Corporation says, lack of funds to provide vehicles and other necessary things to waste pickers. As part of SWMR, waste should be segregated at source and if not then defaulters will be penalised, but according to experts, not even single case has been registered.

Also Read: Swachh India: Guide To Solid Waste Management Rules 2016

Segregation of waste at source ensures that biodegradable waste like kitchen waste is composted, waste like plastic that can be recycled is sent to relevant facilities and only what remains make it way to the landfill. Unlike now where bulk of the waste is piling up at these landfills.

The Solution: To deal with the humoungous amount of waste, earlier this year Supreme Court asked Lieutenant Governor of Delhi to form a committee and come up with solutions. A 24 member team comprising civil society members, RWA (Resident Welfare Association) representatives, municipalities and others was formed and the committee is expected to submit its report in the first week of 2019.

Also Read: Despite New Waste Management Rules, Delhi’s Ghazipur Landfill Grows 15 Metres In A Year

The committee is of the opinion that effective enforcement of SWMR of 2016 will help in managing the waste and making municipalities accountable. Being a member of the committee, Chitra knows the on ground issues and says,

The problem is citizens do not connect their responsibility with the landfill. Lot of people complain that we segregate waste at home, but waste pickers mix it. So, who is at fault? Of course, the municipalities as they do not have a dedicated stream for segregated waste.

For remediation that is to stop the environmental damage being caused by Bhalswa landfill, lifespan which lapsed in 2009 and yet it continues to be in use a decade later, a nine member Scientific Advisory Committee has been constituted under the chairmanship of Dr. Manoj Dutta, Professor, IIT Delhi. According to the committee’s recommendation, adoption of landfill mining (process of excavating landfilled solid wastes and processing it) is not a viable option. In the first stage, the committee has asked the municipal corporation to carry out site characterisation under which it needs to collect data on the quantum of waste under and above the ground, type and quality of waste, and other parameters for assessing the current state of the landfill. Once it is done, the nine member committee will prepare the design of the work to be done at the Bhalswa landfill site. While the investigation and design of the project is under progress, execution of plan is scheduled for March 31, 2020 which is still one and a half years from now. If that works well, similar steps can be taken for Ghazipur and Okhla landfill, maybe.

Also Read: IIT Expert And South Delhi Municipal Corporation Come Together To Stabilise The Okhla Landfill Site

The Experts Opinion: Talking about the steps taken in 2018 and the way forward to deal with active volcanos in the city, Chitra says,

Nothing has happened in 2018, apart from passing the buck. With the committee submitting its report to the apex court, we hope municipalities to take some action in 2019, implement waste segregation, and especially SWMR.

Landfills Of Financial Capital Mumbai

The Current Status: Maharashtra’s capital Mumbai is a densely populated city that generates 7,000 metric tonnes of waste per day that directly goes to two dumpyards – Deonar (holding city’s waste from over 9 decades) and Mulund and to scientific landfill – Kanjurmarg. After observing the condition of the Deonar and Mulund dumping grounds and noting how they have reached their saturation points, in February 2016, the Bombay High Court had ordered the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to close down the two dumping grounds. It is in October this year that Mulund dumping ground was finally closed permanently, but Deonar continues to function way past its lifespan.

Also Read: Landfill Crisis: Garbage Dumping Ground At Mulund In Mumbai Permanently Shut

There is no such saturation point for landfills. As far as Deonar is concerned, there is still some space as we have started processing waste and have more plans to manage the waste effectively in the days to come, says BMC official.

While bio-mining and capping (a containment technology that forms a barrier between the waste and the ground, shielding humans and the environment from the harmful effects of its contents) is being practised at Mulund landfill, bio-reactor (under which liquids are added to help bacteria break down the waste) and composting has been adopted at Kanjurmarg. But the question is, are these solutions sufficient and effective?

Fighting Mountains Of Garbage: Here Is How Indian Cities Dealt With Landfill Crisis In 2018

Status of landfills in Mumbai

The BMC’s Opinion: “The process of bio-reactor is useful for mixed waste as well, so the good thing here is we don’t have to pay heed to waste segregation. But it is not that we are ignoring waste segregation at source”, says BMC official.

With increase in waste load, BMC plans to increase the processing of waste at Kanjumarg by March end. The plan is to treat upto 5,800-6,000 metric tonnes of waste at Kanjurmarg and leave only 1000-1200 metric tonnes per day at Deonar.

Also Read: After Delhi’s Ghazipur Tragedy, Is 90-Year-Old Mumbai’s Deonar Landfill To Face The Same Fate?

While 5,000 tonnes will be treated via bio-reactor, 1,000 tonnes will be composted. We are strengthening the segregation activity which will further reduce the total generation and load on Deonar, says BMC official.

The Problem: Until October, of all the waste generated, 1400-1500 metric tonnes was dumped at Mulund dumping ground, every day. Now the same waste is being shared by Deonar and Kanjurmarg landfill, increasing the waste burden on already overstretched landfills. Deonar which expired back in 2009 is still being used recklessly and the result is constant fumes emerging from garbage, leading to instances of fires.

Though BMC has plans to treat waste on a daily basis, but what comes up as a major problem is the legacy waste. Lack of waste segregation at source comes up as another issue as without segregation the amount of waste reaching the landfills cannot be reduced.

The Solution: As experts say, decentralised process and segregation is the key to manage the mammoth waste and BMC is currently focusing on segregation. Shedding light on the same, BMC official says,

We have floated the tender, asking for vehicles with compartments to collect the segregated waste. 40 per cent of the requested vehicles are already in action and the remaining will be up soon. This will of course ease the entire process as dry waste will further get segregated into e-waste, plastic, paper, and others and treated accordingly.

Steps Taken By BMC In 2018: BMC has made it mandatory for bulk generators to treat wet waste at source. The ones failing to do so will be penalised as per the law. For residents and small scale waste generators, awareness camps, exhibitions and activities are being organised. People are being educated about the process of wet waste management at home and encouraged to practice the same.

Until and unless waste generators take the responsibility, we cannot do much. If at home you will segregate the waste, it will be easy for us to treat it as centralised processing centers cannot segregate the 7000 tonnes of waste. It has to start from your own home, building, society and colonies, says BMC official.

The Experts Opinion: “I agree that waste generators need to take action, but decentralised process is pivotal. Like authority cannot lie in an individual’s hand, entire waste cannot be managed in one way. Different kinds of waste need to be treated in different way and for the same we need different strategies”, says Chitra.

Earlier in 2013-2014, the waste load on dumping ground in Mumbai used to be 9,400 tonnes which has now come down to 7,000 tonnes and BMC further plans to bring it down to 6,000 tonnes. Can this be achieved? Given the scale of the crisis, the city sure will have its fingers crossed.

Bengaluru, The Garbage City Of India

Bengaluru, the IT capital of India, is infamous for its garbage crisis and holds the title of ‘garbage city of India’. A city with a population of 1.23 crore generates 4,000 metric tonnes of waste on a daily basis. The waste is majorly categorised into dry, wet and sanitary waste. While the dry waste is collected and taken to 164 dry waste collection centers, wet waste is sent to eight processing units, together capable of treating 2,300 tonnes per day and sanitary waste is being treated by a private company.

Along with this, we have organic waste converter (treatment and recycling of solid and liquid refuse material) of capacity 1500 tonnes. 30 per cent of apartments in the city are doing composting on site. Also, we have a learning center where we give lessons on how to do composting, manage waste and other things. Main aim is to encourage waste segregation at source, Sarfaraz Khan, Joint Commissioner, Solid Waste Management, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).

Also Read: Bengaluru Cleans Up 34 Tonnes Of Waste While Plogging On Gandhi Jayanti

As far as mixed waste is concerned, it is simply dumped at scientific landfill – Bellahalli in the city, which came into existence around three years ago. In November, the orders were given to close Bellahalli landfill within 90 days, but civic body has decided to use the landfill for six more months and then convert it into a motor racing track. As part of the functioning of scientific landfill, currently, at frequent intervals, waste is covered with a thick layer of mud.

Earlier the city of Bengaluru was known as the garbage city, but today we are proud to say that this tag does not belong to us, Sarfaraz Khan.

The reason Mr Khan proudly says this is how in past a quarry turned into landfill was transformed into a beautiful park. Few years ago, the stone quarry at Bagalur was abandoned, after which it had become a dangerous spot due to the 200 feet deep pit. Slowly and gradually, the site turned into a dumping ground, raising concerns among villagers. It is three years ago, BBMP noticed the site and claimed it for a scientific landfill site. The scientific landfill would intake 300-400 tonnes of mixed waste everyday. After every 8 – 10 feet of garbage, 8 feet of mud capping was given. This way, by August 2017, quarry was filled and saplings of neem and amla and flowering plants like crotons were planted on it.

Also Read: Waste Management: Bengaluru Students Design A Smart Solution For Overflowing Garbage Bins

BBMP has done a lot in 2018 to improve waste management in the city. There is a new ‘Swachagraha Kalika Kendra’, a composting learning center for home and community, Bengaluru is the only city to collect sanitary waste separately, black spots are being cleaned. A lot has been done, but there is still a long way to go. We have infrastructure and policies, but what is lacking is the implementation and streamlined waste collection system. I feel citizens working with officials and elected representatives makes a good combination and together they can solve the crisis, says Nalini, co-founder, Hasiru Dala.

Also Read: Bengaluru Woman Gives Green Spin To Dasara Golu – Festive Display Of Dolls, Exhibits 7 Steps To ‘SwachaGraha’

India’s Best Cities When It Comes To Waste Management

Indore, The First City To Apply For A Seven Star Rating

Madhya Pradesh’s Indore has managed to grab the title of India’s cleanest city for two years in a row. To maintain the lead in Swachh Survekshan 2019 as well, the city took some stringent steps this year with regards to waste management. From implementing 100 per cent door-to-door waste collection, source segregation, scientific land filling, to eliminating decade old waste from landfills, the city has done it all. It is not just focusing on treating household waste, but plastic and construction and demolition waste management as well.

Also Read: Swachh Survekshan 2019: India’s Cleanest City For Two Years In A Row, Indore May Now Earn A 7-Star Rating

Indore city generate 1100 metric tonnes of waste per day and we cannot leave this enormous amount of waste just like that. To manage the waste, a decentralised waste treatment system exists at each and every hospital, school, RWA, and other such places which make waste treatment possible at source only. The waste which is not treated goes to centralised waste treatment system handled by IMC and there it is taken care of, says Asad Warsi, Swachh Bharat Mission Consultant.

20 metric tonnes of waste generated in fruit and vegetable mandi (market) is used to power its public transport buses. A bio-mechanisation plant is installed in the market which ends up generating three types of gases from the waste generated in the fruit and vegetable market – Methane, Carbon dioxide (CO2), and Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S). Methane is separated, cleaned, purified and compressed and then converted into bio CNG which can fuel 20-25 buses every day.

Also Read: Garbage Crisis And Air Pollution, India’s Cleanest City Indore Tackles Two Problems With This One Solution

Ambikapur, A Zero Dustbin, A Zero-landfill City

Can waste generate wealth? Yes, as ambikapur proves it by earning lakhs. Chhattisgarh’s Ambikapur has a population of 1.45 lakh and generates 52 metric tonnes of waste on a daily basis, but instead of dumping it on some or the other dumpyard, the city converts waste into wealth and makes Rs. 20-25 lakh per month.

In the year 2015, the municipal corporation made it compulsory for citizens to segregate the waste at source. Since then, every morning, 447 sanitation workers go out, collect the segregated waste which is further segregated at 17 secondary segregation centres within the city. The segregated waste is then sent for recycling, composting and other kinds of processing, depending on the of waste.

Because of the same, the city was awarded as one of India’s best city in ‘Innovation and Best Practices’ (population 1 – 3 lakh) category in Swachh Survekshan 2018.

Also Read: Swachh Survekshan 2018: Ambikapur In Chhattisgarh Is India’s Best City In ‘Innovation And Best Practices’ In Waste Management

The state of Chhattisgarh, which got third rank in Swachh Survekshan 2018, is on the way of following Ambikapur’s zero waste model to become India’s first zero-landfill state. If Ambikapur can do it, other cities of Chhattisgarh can think of doing it, then why not rest of India?, says Suryakiran Tiwari Agarwal, Municipal Commissioner of Ambikapur.


The success story of Indore, Ambikapur, and especially Kerala’s Alappuzha which was even recognised by the United Nations Environment Programme for being exceptional in addressing the garbage crisis, show that managing waste effectively is possible. Decentralised system with segregation at source is a viable option and the way forward, according to experts.

Also Read:Tackling Garbage Crisis, The Alappuzha Way: This Kerala City Shows How To Get Rid Of Landfills

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