Urban Waste in India is a huge problem that has led to health and environmental issues. It needs to be focused on, mainly from the ‘back-end’ with better technology, expert planning, fund-raising, and awareness.
Urban Waste can be defined, in simple terms, as the waste collected from the residential and industrial areas of cities and towns. This waste can lead to serious health and environmental issues if not disposed of, treated, or managed properly. According to Down To Earth, “Over 377 million urban people live in 7,935 towns and cities and generate 62 million tons of municipal solid waste per annum. Only 43 million tons (MT) of the waste is collected, 11.9 MT is treated and 31 MT is dumped in landfill sites.”
Sadly, India has recently proved to have flawed Urban Waste Management.A waste management system consists of a front-end (collection and transportation of the waste) and a back-end (treatment, segregation, recycling, and disposal of the waste). The issue arises when the recent wave of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan focuses more on the front-end while the real problems lay at the back-end.
Sweeping and collecting of waste, by celebrities and influential people cannot help Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore which are fast running out of dumping grounds or landfills. Even the waste collected does not go under precise segregation as it is done by manual segregation: rag pickers.
The civic bodies responsible for Waste Management are often ineffective due to lack of funds, internal politics, and mismanagement. Iswar Ahluwalia pointed out that “more than three-fourths of solid waste management budget is allotted to collection and transportation, leaving leaves very little for processing or resource recovery and disposal.”
The solution to this is not mere laws, campaigns or web application (to track the status of various kinds of wastes generated in India). Rather, it lies in technology, expert planning, fund-raising, and awareness!
Hand-pulled carts, manual scavenging, and brooms need to be replaced with waste-to-compost and bio-methanation plants, modern waste segregation plant and e-waste management. Can we make Rs. 20,000 crores that would be required to set up 400 modern waste treatment facilities reducing the risk of diseases or should we keep spending Rs. 60,000 crores annually in health-related costs?
Furthermore, to put lesser pressure on the infrastructure and therefore, to ensure a long-term investment, cooperation is needed through making citizens aware and taking expert advises for a new venture. The most efficient way to treat Indian waste is biological treatment and the worst option is open dumping and open burning (what happens to roughly 90% of India’s waste due to unawareness.) In-house segregation needs to be made popular. The rag-pickers who manually scavenge through waste to pick out a few ‘clean’ recyclables they can sell need to be given better employment opportunities and modern equipment. Furthermore, the expert suggestions like that of Bio-medical waste (management and handling) rules (Common Biomedical Waste Treatment Facility) need to be implemented.
Lastly, Indian citizens and leaders need to be aware that the problem of waste management cannot be taken lightly and if ignored, will continue to hinder India’s process of turning into a developed nation one day.
Feature Image Credits: India Today