Are Zero-Waste Cities Possible?

Are Zero-Waste Cities Possible?

Are Zero-Waste Cities Possible?
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An 845-page affidavit with incomplete information about implementation of solid-waste management (SWM) across India irked the Supreme Court (SC) and the apex court remarked they aren’t “garbage collectors’’. 

On December 12, 2017, the SC had written to all the states and union territories regarding SWM. The court had earlier expressed concern over the deaths due to vector-borne diseases such as dengue and chikungunya and said that lack of waste management was the cause of several lives being lost across the country. Additionally, the apathy of private clinics denying treatments was also being looked into.

The Solid Waste Rules of 2016 and the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules of 2000 mandate the door-to-door collection of segregated waste, but most municipal corporations and municipalities make "secondary" collection of unsegregated waste from community bins. In the wake of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, ideally the torchbearers should motivate people to reduce their waste and separate them into dry, wet, recyclables, etc., and civic bodies should collect this waste and put them through separate treatment processes. However, there are problems more than one.

Centre cites the problem

Representing the Centre, Advocate Wasim A Qadri says that the real problem is non-availability of land, especially in Delhi. The Delhi government had informed the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to allot land and 50 acres land was allotted to the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) to set up a waste to energy plant.

Besides, a committee in Delhi has already conducted meetings on the issue and a comprehensive agreement between the municipal corporations and Delhi government over the issue of SWM has been chalked.

Defaulters’ list 

However, there are defaulters as well. Daman and Diu and Dadar and Nagar Haveli, have not constituted the State Level Advisory Body (SLAB) yet. The Centre has also not received details from states such as Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Bihar.

Way forward

Terming the affidavit filed by the counsel as “solid waste”, the apex court has directed the government to file a chart within 21 days with wholesome information on whether states and union territories have constituted state-level advisory boards in accordance with the provision of the 2016 rules with dates and details of the composition of the board as well as the meetings held by them.

What to expect from the torchbearers? 

Many of us are taking a keen interest in the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government's Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan. But, what a majority of lawmakers don't understand is that a proper mechanism needs to be put in place to dispose of what has been swept from homes and streets.

India generates about 60 million tonnes of trash every year. Now, the billion-dollar question is- Are zero-waste cities in India a possibility?

First things first

As a first step, the civic administration has to ensure that segregated waste is collected from homes or other establishments, and after providing for recycling, whatever little is left is disposed of in a scientific manner. 

Landfills or 'mountains of garbage' where garbage is stacked for years or decades altogether also pose a problem. As community bins are temporary dump sites, the unsegregated waste is often transported to landfill sites either in a city or on its outskirts. A huge public health hazard, these landfill sites — Bhalswa and Ghazipur in Delhi and Deonar in Mumbai — spew poisonous gases, pollute underground water and have become permanent breeding grounds for diseases. 

In June 2016, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) in collaboration with the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) decided to use the Ghazipur landfill's solid waste to construct the Delhi-Meerut Expressway. If the garbage is effectively utilised to build the highway, then it might solve the waste management problem of Delhi for the time being.

Waste disposal

To effectively manage the waste, all the residue of the segregated waste should be rested in a sanitary landfill site. Sanitary landfills are sites where waste is isolated from the environment until it is safe, that is until it has completely degraded biologically, chemically and physically. By digging large, deep underground pits, residual waste is deposited in them and the site is sealed and compacted using bulldozers so that harmful chemicals don't percolate downwards and pollute the groundwater. After closing a landfill scientifically, a cover of topsoil is placed and the land is reclaimed for making public parks or other green spaces. Given the scarcity of land, landfills must be only for the residual waste after the waste has been reduced, segregated, recycled, and resource recovery been accomplished.

With inputs from Shaveta Dua and Housing News

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