“Indian climatic conditions good for composting”
With its dumping grounds turning into mountains of garbage, how is Mumbai planning to handle its waste?
The landfills in Deonar, Mulund and Kanjurmarg could be reclaimed. The waste could be reused through biomining or setting up processing plants: bioincinerators, bioreactors, biogas and waste-to-energy plants. For any developing city, recycling of construction and demolition (C&D) waste is the biggest challenge. Like in other countries, there has to be pre-demolition norms or guidelines for C&D [in India]. There will be constraint of space unless C&D waste is carried outside Mumbai. With India’s huge population, demand for food and water will rise, and we would require land to hold water for which more compost will be required.
There are policies on managing waste, but they largely remain only on paper.
Unlike European countries where food items are standardised, our cuisine is multicultural. For setting up a biogas plant or any other project, a stable component of food is required which is very difficult. We need to adopt western technologies but we also need to redesign them as per our indigenous requirements. In this aspect our R&D is failing. The corporation and the government must do R&D in innovation. For example, the city of Pune has modified its sweeping machines bought from abroad as per its requirements. This is not being done in Mumbai. It is here that a PPP model is a must. Also, the corporation must pay tipping fees [a support price determined by the local authorities or any state agency authorised by the state government to be paid to the concessionaire or operator of waste processing facility for disposal of residual solid waste at the landfill] to their contactors. Nowhere in the world is waste processing possible without tipping fees. This must be charged to citizens otherwise waste will never be reduced or recycled. Along with commitment from the administration and citizens, political will is the most important, but it is missing.
What challenges does one encounter while segregating waste at the citizen’s level?
The commitment from majority of people is not there. Twenty percent people want to do it; and only ten percent are doing it. Implementing authorities must be vigilant and strict on its enforcement. All societies must segregate their own waste. Moreover, we are failing to provide publicity through ICT. While the younger generation is very open to waste segregation we don’t have backup systems. Collection of segregated waste is a challenge. There is no fixed, laid down method [for it]. Indian climatic conditions are very good for composting; and we don’t need any other method. If Mumbai’s entire wet waste of around 7,700 MT, which goes to dumping grounds, is spread across, it will automatically get processed and can be sold as manure. For disposal of sanitary and medical waste we need to have policies at the national level.
Corporates generate almost 40% of the total waste. How can they be made to recycle their own waste?
Corporates generate a lot of dry and hazardous waste. Wet waste can be converted into biogas. But they don’t want to give up [their] space. Next to my house on a 150 sq ft area TCS has a biogas project. Giants like Tatas and Birlas can come out with plans. In Pune, the Adar Poonawalla Clean City Initiative is a good model. The Ramky waste-to-energy plant in Delhi is very sleek. This can be done first as a business and then as philanthropy.
What needs to be done at the BMC level to address this problem?
BMC needs to create a lot of ICT awareness and advertise the issue. BMC must give every flat wet and dry bins. It is a one-time investment. Advanced locality management (ALM) units [meant to help areas manage waste and other civic issues] are being delisted for not performing. While a few ALMS may be creating problems, some are making services efficient. They are the eyes, ears and nose in the area. This partnership [between BMC and ALM] needs to be strengthened. When ICICI Bank felicitated societies with their Swachh Society Awards it boosted and gave them encouragement. We need to be sensitive towards class IV workers and appreciate them for we are healthy because our conservancy workers keep our places clean.
How can the role of NGOS and organic waste converter entrepreneurs be strengthened?
There are very few NGOS working in waste management. None are doing the work professionally. They need to be strengthened and work in partnership with each other. Authorities must not take them as a challenge but as a support. If a rag picker is absent or does not go for collection the work collapses. In tie-up jobs, BMC needs to give incentives like gloves, masks, etc. to long-term and permanent workers. We need to strengthen the livelihood and welfare programmes like Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) does a lot of funding for unorganised sector workers including SWM [solid waste management] workers who are on contract [more than 50% workers are on contract]. Jharkhand is the only state in India using ILO funds.
How easy or hard is it to bring about a cultural shift and build a consensus among citizens and authorities?
It is not easy. Like it happened in Surat, Mumbai needs a blow or BMC should say it is not lifting waste until citizens segregate it. At the same time, corporation should also make arrangements to pick up waste on time from every lane or people should know whom to contact when the vehicle does not come. There has to be an organised method of collection, transportation and disposal with the citizens and NGOS involvement. Political support has to be there.