Challenge of solid waste in India

THE HANS INDIA |   Aug 09,2017 , 02:53 AM IST


Mini-mountains of accumulated untreated urban waste are common sights in most big and medium cities and towns in the country. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) and the Smarts Cities Mission (SCM) programmes are launched to turn things around by driving growth to improve the quality of life through area-based development and city-level smart solutions. In developing Three-Year Action Agenda (2017-18 to 2019-20), the NITI Aayog has drawn a broader framework for addressing the issue of municipal solid waste (MSW).

As many as 377 million inhabitants (Census 2011) residing in 7,935 urban centers generate 170,000 tonnes of solid waste per day. Left unresolved, the nature and magnitude of urban waste will be insurmountable by 2030 when the cities will burst at its seams with 590 million inhabitants.

The solution is twin-fold:  waste-to-energy incinerators for bigger municipalities and composting method of waste disposal for small towns and semi-urban areas. It further suggests a new Waste to Energy Corporation of India (WECI), akin to the National Highway Authority Of India (NHAI), ‘to speed up the process of cleaning up municipal solid waste’ by developing public-private partnerships to build the plants.

The corporation can play a key role in fast-tracking waste to energy incineration plants across 100 smart cities by 2019. The Sub-Group of Chief Ministers on Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has already recommended setting up of such plants in its Aug 2015 report.

This hi-tech solution finds widespread favor as these plants, while reducing the volume of waste, will generate 330 megawatts of electricity by 2018 and 511 megawatts by 2019. NITI Aayog Action Agenda is suggestive in nature, and much will depend on how the States respond to it. 

City municipalities spend between Rs 500-Rs 1500 per ton on waste management. Since 60-70 per cent is spent on waste collection and remaining 20-30 per cent on transporting collected waste to the landfill sites, there is almost nothing that gets spent on treatment and disposal. And to top it all, setting aside shrinking urban spaces for unhealthy dump sites remains a formidable challenge.

The Action Agenda has highlighted the constraints of space in discounting the option of large-scale composting and biogas generation from waste. In reality, however, composting is currently being inefficiently tried at several dumping sites. (PIB) 

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