Archive | March 18, 2015

Waste Management in India

The rapid growth of population and urbanization tend towards generating huge amount of waste. As per research, an average of 32,000 people will be added to urban India every day, continuously till 2021. This number is a warning, considering how India’s waste management infrastructure will be able to dispose waste in environment friendly manner. Rate of increase in access to sanitation infrastructure generally lags behind the rate of urbanization by 33% around the world. The lack of planning and improper responses to waste management issues observed in India, which indicates that it would become a major issue of concern in coming years. This means urban Indians will have to wait longer than an average urban citizen of our world for access to proper waste management infrastructure.


The attitude of late response and response at emergency only is unfortunate because it indicates a lack of or failed effort from the sector to change policy, and also the level of India’s planning and preparedness. It is well known among the small but growing waste management sector that urban India will hit rock bottom due to improper waste management.

The clear trend in the outbreak of epidemic and public protests around India is that they are happening in the biggest cities in their respective regions. Kolkata, Bengaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, and Srinagar are capitals of their respective states, and Coimbatore,the second largest city in Tamil Nadu and Vijaywada. However, long term national level plans to improve waste management in India do not exist and guidance offered to urban local bodies is meagre. The most important thing is that they work closely with the community by increasing clarity and transparency.

Due to lack of existing alternatives, other than diverting waste fractionally by increasing informal recycling sector’s role, closing existing landfills would mean finding new sites.  Finding new landfills in and around cities is nearly impossible because of the track record of dumpsite operations and maintenance in India and the Not in My Backyard (NIMBY) phenomenon. Municipal officials stressed the issue of scarcity of land for waste disposal, which led to overflowing dumpsites and waste treatment facilities receiving more waste than what they were designed for. Despite their inability to properly manage wastes, the majority of municipal officials consider waste as “wealth” when approached by private partners and use technology.

In the short term, municipal corporations have their hands tied and will not be able to deliver solutions immediately. In spite of the mounting pressure, most corporations will not be able to close the dumpsites that they are currently using. They face the task of realizing waste management facilities rather than disposing it safely. The example of bad image of municipalities can be assumed with this-officials of Hyderabad’s municipal corporation have been conducting interviews with locals for about eight years now for a new landfill site but no one avail. Residents near Vellore protested and blocked roads leading to the dump site because Coimbatore municipal officials repeatedly failed to fulfill their promises. It is important that bureaucrats, municipal officials and politicians should be clear about it.

Apart from the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNURM), there has been no national level effort to address the problem. Even though JNURM was phenomenal in stimulating the industry and local governments, it was not enough to address the scale and extent of the problem. Swacch Bharat Mission can be said as a program to deal with this problem, but it is mainly concerned with awareness and primary level of this problem. Proper remedy of this problem will come by including major govt. and private sector firms like-Railway, SAIL, ONGC, Reliance, Wipro and non government organizations at local level also. There must be a national level agency with its chapter at state, district & sub-division or Panchayat to tackle this problem with scientific support and technique. The most efficient measure in addressing India’s waste management problem will be the changes at the national policy, planning level and people’s participation.

Author: Amit Jha

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