Urban centres in India are facing severe environmental challenges due to rapid urbanization and increasing industrialization. Some examples include the formation of smog-causing air pollution in Delhi and the toxic water of the Yamuna River. Overflowing landfill sites all over the country also pose a threat as they can release poisonous gases if they happen to catch on fire. These issues are a constant cause for concern for both central and state governments.

To address this ‘hazardous’ issue of improper waste disposal, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), hosted a Clean Tech Environment 2019 event. The event consisted of several industry experts and government representatives who worked together to devise plans to tackle the management of waste.

The Problem

Improper waste management has become a serious problem that is now affecting the health and livelihood of people all over the country. Although the Government of India (GoI) tried to emphasize this problem by introducing the Swachh Bharat Campaign in 2014 and the Solid Waste Management Rules in 2016, the waste disposal situation in a majority of Indian cities remains dismal.

The Causes

Reports suggest that India, as a whole, generates roughly 62 million tonnes of waste every year. The issue, however, lies in the fact that less than 60% of this waste is collected and only 15% is ultimately processed. Surprisingly enough, this problem is mainly caused by urban communities as rural households generate very less waste. Waste segregation at the source in major cities is lacklustre at best. Even educated people are opting not to segregate their recyclable and non-recyclable materials in their houses and offices. This, in turn, has major financial implications for the entire waste disposal supply chain.

Hence, awareness to change the mindset of these citizens is crucial. Apart from awareness, the lack of strict law enforcement for waste collection, segregation, handling, and sorting is hurting the process of management. The GoI needs to impose strict penalties in every town and city in the country for the dumping of garbage without going through proper waste disposal channels. There has to be a provision for separate bins for recyclable and non-recyclable waste. The government can also promote compost and manure making to encourage adequate wages for garbage collectors. 

Coming to the issue of landfills, Waste-to-Energy (WtE) plants can help utilise waste products. WtE technology is quite mature in the country, however, it has not witnessed significant uptake in Indian cities. To adopt WtE, we require systematic waste management techniques and viable business models.

The Solution

Successful waste management and adoption of the WtE model across the country is the way forward. City governments have to stop the open dumping of waste and start to scientifically process municipal solid waste. State governments have to develop WtE plants and waste-to-compost plants in all states and implement strict waste management techniques and rules. Industries have to recycle waste products and waste heat, which can be recovered and used for various heating applications.

India has the technology and manpower in place to make sustainable waste disposal a reality. With long term visibility for WtE projects, adequate business models, and the strict enforcement of waste disposal laws, the country can derive value from its waste.

You can read the whole article on the Renewable Watch, here.

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