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Solid Waste Management In India

By Expert Author: Sunil Kilaru

Sunil Kilaru is an Entrepreneur based out of Bangalore. Sunil Kilaru run’s an IT Products & Services Company - PRIMUS and Real Estate Company – PRIME Living. Mr. Sunil Kilaru is of the view that India needs Proper Policy and guidelines in the field of Solid Waste Management.

Urban India generates 188,500 tonnes per day (68.8 million tonnes per year) of municipal solid waste (MSW) at a per capita waste generation rate of 500 grams/person/day.

Improper solid waste management deteriorates public health, degrades quality of life, and pollutes local air, water and land resources. It also causes global warming and climate change and impacts the entire planet. Improper waste management is also identified as a cause of 22 human diseases and results in numerous premature deaths every year.

Indiscriminate dumping of wastes and leachate from landfills contaminates surface and groundwater supplies and the surrounding land resources. It also clogs sewers and drains and leads to floods. Mumbai experienced a flood in 2006 which was partly due to clogged sewers. Insect and rodent vectors are attracted to MSW and can spread diseases such as cholera, dengue fever and plague. Using water polluted by solid waste for bathing, food irrigation, and as drinking water can also expose individuals to disease organisms and other contaminants.

Surat City experienced a Bubonic Plague epidemic in 1994 due to improper SWM. Improper SWM is also a reason for the recent (August - September, 2012) Dengue epidemic in Kolkata, which affected thousands and killed 25 people (as of September 12, 2012). Improper waste management was also the reason for the large scale public protests in Vilappilsala (near Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala) and Mavallipura (in Bengaluru, Karnataka). These protests were the result of long term health effects experienced by residents living around overflowing landfills.

Open burning of MSW on streets and at landfills, along with landfill fires emit 22,000 tons of pollutants into the lower atmosphere of Mumbai city, every year. The pollutants identified in Mumbai due to uncontrolled burning of wastes are carbon monoxide (CO), carcinogenic hydro carbons (HC) (includes dioxins and furans), particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) . (Keep looking out for the next post for more figures and some charts on air pollution due to waste management).

MSW dumped in landfills also generates green house gases like methane, which has 21 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide. Improper SWM contributes to 6% of India’s methane emissions and is the third largest emitter of methane in India. This is much higher than the global average of 3% methane emissions from solid waste. It currently produces 16 million tons of CO2 equivalents per year and this number is expected to rise to 20 million tons of CO2 equivalents by 2020.

The world is moving towards calling wastes as “resources”. Due to the inability to manage these resources in the next decade, India will landfill 6.7 million tons of recyclables (or secondary raw materials); 9.6 million tons of compost (or organic fertilizer); and resources equivalent to 57.2 million barrels of oil.

In India, the collection, transportation and disposal of MSW are unscientific and chaotic. Uncontrolled dumping of wastes on outskirts of towns and cities has created overflowing landfills, which are not only impossible to reclaim because of the haphazard manner of dumping, but also have serious environmental implications in terms of ground water pollution and contribution to global warming. Burning of waste leads to air pollution in terms of increased TSP and PM10 emissions, which is equivalent to vehicular emissions at times. In the absence of waste segregation practices, recycling has remained to be an informal sector working on outdated technology, but nevertheless thriving owing to waste material availability and market demand of cheaper recycled products. Paper and plastic recycling have been especially growing due to continuously increasing consumption levels of both the commodities. Composting-aerobic and anaerobic, both the options are available to the country for scientific disposal of waste in future. However, country also needs something in terms of policy and guidelines to enable the municipal corporations to run the waste services efficiently.

About The Author:

Sunil Kilaru is the Managing Director of PRIMUS Global Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. Under the Leadership of Sunil, PRIMUS executed various Commercial and Residential Real Estate Ventures in Bangalore and Hyderabad. For more detail visit www.primusglobal.com


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