India, a country with approximately 1.32 billion people, generates more than 1,00,000 metric tonnes of solid waste per day. Around 43 million tonnes of solid waste are collected annually, out of which only 11.9 million are treated, while about 31 million tonnes of waste are left unprocessed and dumped directly at the landfill sites. Due to incompetent and insufficient waste infrastructure and management technology, India faces severe environmental challenges related to waste generation and inadequate waste collection, transport, segregation, treatment and disposal. This has greatly impacted the public health, especially in a large metropolis like Mumbai and Delhi as they generate around 7,700 metric tonnes and 9,500 metric tonnes of waste each day, respectively. More than 70% of the accumulated urban waste is discarded straight into the landfills and as a result, these landfills are overflowing with items that shouldn’t be tossed in the trash at all. As per the data collected by the Central Pollution Control Board through State Pollution Control Boards and Pollution Control Committees, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu produce the highest amounts of waste, whereas Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are the top three states that collect the most quantity of generated waste.
Waste Management in India
The increasing rates of solid waste generation per capita are contributed by factors like urbanisation, industrialisation, economic growth and lack of awareness amongst people. More than the amount of waste generation in India, the real concern lies in the fact that around 3 million trucks worth of untreated garbage is disposed of in an unhygienic manner every day all across the country. This has turned out to be a major cause for health issues and environmental degradation. Urban local bodies (ULBs) in India are responsible for the management of solid waste that includes segregated waste collection, transporting waste in covered vehicles, processing and recycling, separating domestic waste that is hazardous in nature and disposing of inert materials in sanitary landfills. But then again, owing to planning and financial problems and a lack of involvement from the private sector and non-governmental organisations, the local government or the civic bodies are struggling to provide efficient waste management services. The reports from the Environment Ministry declares that India produces 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day, even with constant efforts over the years to prohibit and limit its use. In recent times, there are strong initiatives taken by the central government such as implementing the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and making waste segregation a mass movement campaign, to emphasise on the necessity of waste management at diverse stages of generation, collection, and disposal.
Waste Management in major cities: Bangalore
Bangalore generates about 3600 tonnes of waste per day, which accounts for 56% of the total waste in Karnataka. The city’s population is close to 10 million makes management of solid waste an intractable challenge. The standard of living in Bangalore and the boost in prosperity level has a direct effect on the consumption of packaged and other products, leading the households to discard more items. Hundreds of items are cast by the urban households, most of them being kitchen waste, food leftovers, diapers, used stationery, polyvinyl coverings, cardboard packaging, plastic bags, bottles, glass objects, chipped porcelain, sanitary ware, and sometimes hazardous wastes too. Shockingly, 40% of this daily garbage is being discarded at unauthorised open dump sites, as well as on the roads and lakes. Although door-to-door collection and segregation of waste were introduced more than a decade ago, its effectiveness in practicality hasn’t worked out as comprehended. Gaps in both planning and implementation level, failure in segregation of dry and wet waste, access to limited houses, spillovers of garbage due to overload are some of the contributing factors that render the stretches of the streets untidy and unhygienic. In the wake of the recent severity regarding the ill-management of waste in Bangalore, certain initiatives like recycling and reusing the waste, turning wet and green waste into manure and installation of bio-methanisation plants are being considered and explored by the government. Nonetheless, it seems that the present trucking arrangement is the only reliable waste disposal system available in the city until a more sanitary and scientific technique of waste management is conceived and executed.
Waste Management in major cities: Mumbai
Mumbai was recently recognised as the ‘Cleanest State Capital’ in the Swachh Survekshan, generating 7,700 tonnes of municipal solid waste each day. Even though studies claim that there has been a 105% rise in waste generation in the city from 1999 to 2016, a gradual reduction has been observed after the Bombay high court ordered a construction ban on all new building constructions in 2015. As a result, municipal waste generated in Mumbai per day has dropped by 20%. Additionally, the 13% segregation at source rate in all residential and commercial buildings has climbed up to 49%, after the order. The considerable rise in waste over the past years was the result of an increase in population load and the floating population that enters the city every day for work opportunities and other requirements. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has installed CCTV cameras at all the three dumping grounds in the city, as well as introduced a new weight management system to prevent mixing of waste by garbage contractors in order to increase weight for profits. Although only a small fraction of green waste goes to the dumping grounds due to the door-to-door collection, segregation and processing at the source, there have been instances where untreated garbage is discarded directly into the sea. The significant drop in waste generation is predicted to further go down with the BMC acting against 3,300 establishments that generate waste in bulk and making it mandatory for housing societies and bulk generators like hotels and theatres to segregate and compost waste.
Waste Management in major cities: Delhi
Delhi produces more than 9,500 tonnes of garbage per day and a survey from over 3,000 residents show that around 78% Delhiites dump garbage on the roadside or in open plots near their neighbourhoods. As a bulk of the waste is supervised by the informal sector, Delhi’s actual waste generation could be much higher. The collected solid waste that accounts for close to 8,000 tonnes per day is transported to three landfill sites at Bhalswa, Okhla and Ghazipur. Shockingly, these landfill sites had surpassed their capacity way back in 2008 and have contaminated the aquifers and groundwater in and around the neighbourhoods. This has led to a garbage conundrum in the city and the scenario seems to deteriorate due to lack of proper actions by the authorities. The idea of converting waste into energy has also been acknowledged but the consequences have led to severe air pollution, where the residents of the area could hardly breathe. The Solid & Plastic Waste Management Rules that was notified in 2016 can provide some relief as it requires separating wet (biodegradable), dry (plastic, paper, metal, wood) and domestic hazardous wastes (diapers, napkins, blades, batteries, mosquito repellents) into different streams, bringing up local segregation points and sanitary disposal of garbage. It is believed that after the enforcement of the order, the city will be able to deal with the challenge of waste management in a more systematic approach.
Waste Management in major cities: Kolkata
About 5,372 tonnes of urban municipal solid waste is generated in Kolkata every day, where just over a tenth of the waste is recycled and the rest is dumped into the Dhapa landfill. A study by the South Asian Forum for Environment (SAFE) states that despite the fact that 37% of the total waste is compostable, only a fraction is either converted into compost or recycled. The problems related to the handling of solid waste and its increase at an alarming rate is a result of rapid urbanization and population explosion in the city. The lack of source segregation arrangement and unavailability of land for sanitary disposal of waste have led to the dumping of garbage in empty lands near residential areas, compromising on the health and hygiene of individuals. The sole landfill of Dhapa continues to host waste due to the scarcity of any other scientific dumping yard, in spite of its dysfunctional waste treatment plant that has exhausted its lifespan over 30 years ago. The practice of house-to-house collection of garbage is limited and the low operational efficiency of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) hinders the sanitary transportation of garbage. The KMC disburses 70-75% of its total expenditures on the collection of waste while 25-30% on transportation, and less than 5% on the final disposal arrangements. The government authorities are planning to encourage segregation amongst the residents of the city by offering them tax benefits in order to prevent a crisis situation. Several non-government organizations have joined hands with SAFE for an integrated solid waste management programme to reduce waste generation in Kolkata.
Waste Management in major cities: Chennai
Chennai generates an estimated 5,400 tonnes of waste per day, out of which 68% includes residential garbage, 16% consists of commercial waste, 14% institutional waste and 2% industrial waste. Also, as per a report by the Waste-to-Energy Research and Technology Council, the city’s per capita waste generation is highest in the country with 0.6 kg per day. Approximately 30% of this garbage is thrown into the sea or the drains, while many vacant plots and pavements have been converted into unofficial dump yards. The two landfills at Kodungaiyur and Pallikaranai have come to a point of saturation as they have been collecting waste for more than 25 years and have no scientific solid waste management system. Despite Chennai Corporation’s constant efforts to encourage source segregation of garbage, the concept had received a good response in only a few selected areas. There have been several complaints of debris being mixed with waste by garbage collection agencies to increase the weight. Instances of burning garbage in the dumping yards have also been noticed and residents living near these areas have complained of severe air contamination, leading to health hazards. In order to such solve problems related to waste management, the Chennai state government has handed over 130 acres of area for management of solid waste. Instead of a dumping ground, the authorities want to set it up as a sanitary landfill with waste to energy plants, where solid waste could be processed using scientific methods.
Conclusion: Steps taken to reduce waste generation in the country
The necessity for efficient solid waste management is starting to gain attention due to increasing public and political awareness. Not only the government, but the NGOs, private companies, waste recycling startups, and local public have taken initiatives to reduce the generation of waste and offer more sustainable options for its management. The Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000 was replaced by the new Solid Waste Management Rules (SWM), 2016 which emphasises on segregation at source, collection and disposal of sanitary waste, waste processing and treatment, management of garbage in hilly areas and promoting waste to energy. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, initiated as a mass movement for cleanliness is considered to make a significant impact by contributing towards a cleaner India. The citizens have taken an active part in the campaign by cleaning up the garbage and focussing on sanitation to maintain a hygienic environment. We should also reduce and replace our use of plastics, especially the single-use plastics which are adding a huge volume to the waste generated by us. The Supreme Court of India has imposed a ban on the use of plastic packaging on certain products and recommended eco-friendly packaging made from recycled materials. In few cities of India, the use of polythene bags has been partially or completely banned to reduce the amount of plastic waste. The government authorities are collaborating with private corporations for schemes to convert solid waste into energy or compost. Recycling and reusing of waste acts as an excellent method to control the challenges associated with large-scale waste production.