28 February 2020


Waste management plays a crucial and unavoidable role in building a smart India

Formed in 1996, National Solid Waste Association of India (NSWAI) is the only professional non-profit organisation in the field of solid waste management in India, which also addresses  toxic, hazardous and biomedical waste. DR AMIYA KUMAR SAHU, FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, NSWAI talks to VEENA KURUP about  waste management best practices across the country and the need for reform.



On the role and need of solid waste management in developing smart and sustainable cities: Today, the Indian government is aggressively striving to raise the country’s standards on a global level. ‘Smart Cities’ and ‘Smart Infrastructure’ have become the favourite topic of discussion in all socio-political and economic forums. But do we know the real meaning of a ‘Smart City’? We are definitely discussing about sustainable construction and future effective cities, however little or no focus is being concentrated on waste management. The process of waste management starts with collection, segregation and disposal/recycling of garbage. The concept of solid waste management though is being increasingly discussed. India still lags, behind considerably in terms of actual implementation of such practices. The other crucial matter of concern is of creating a ‘Smart City’ within an existing city. Hence, executing such initiatives in a defined area, by maintaining air and water quality is of utmost importance while executing smart city projects. Sewage treatment and management are the other crucial areas to be focused while aiming to implement such futuristic initiatives. Furthermore, such developments will lead to a rapid increase in the accumulation of dry waste – especially electronic goods. Disposal of such garbage is a matter of grave concern in such scenario. However, the responsibility of waste management starts from the common citizen to the governing authorities. The success of such effective measures depends on the participation and co-operation of stakeholders and is a joint responsibility of all the elements constituting a society.


On the present Indian scenario:  Solid waste management continues to remain as one of the most neglected areas of urban development in India. Municipalities and local governing bodies are having a hard time to figure out  ways to collect and dispose  garbage.  For instance,  23  cities in India today generate about 30,000 tonnes of such waste per day, wherein about 50,000 ton is solely generated daily from the Class-I cities.  But, the piles of garbage and waste of all kinds littered everywhere is the most common sight in our urban life. Even the municipalities and local governing authorities face a crucial challenge in identifying solutions and  resolving these concerns. The situation has become grave with the increase in the magnitude and density of urban population in India. Despite  municipal agencies allotting 5-25 per cent of their budget on solid waste management, the present level of service in many urban areas is so low that it has become a threat to  public health in particular and environment quality in general. Though the Municipal Solid Waste Rules were drafted in 1996 and made official in 2000, these norms have not been yet put forth effectively. Efficient management needs to be started at the household level.  Each household should segregate its dry and wet waste. Presently, the waste segregation at households is only 0.5 per cent. This situation needs to be improved with  the joint involvement of citizens and governing authorities.



On waste management practices and technologies available in India: Governing bodies are today struggling to manage the growing dumping of waste in urban lifespaces. Though numerous national and international companies offering waste treatment and solid waste management plants have established their presence in India, a serious concern of lack of awareness is being faced among  citizens. Also, none of the current equipment and technology used in the entire process of waste management is designed properly. From dustbins being used at homes to community bins and trucks for transporting waste by municipalities  the entire system needs all-round reform. While the Central government is aggressively planning to develop India on a global footprint, we need to first focus on improving our roots by bringing effectiveness in waste management practices.



On the need for public awareness and capacity building: Today, solid waste management has become a problem by itself. One of the important  hurdles  in the practice of solid waste management in India is the lack of skilled workforce and lack of public awareness. The first and foremost focus needs to be on changing the mindset of the people who are the real waste generators. Most importantly quality advisors and technically skilled workforce need to be developed within the authorities at municipalities and local governing bodies. Even the civil contractors who are appointed are most often devoid of  quality. The Department handling waste management hence needs to have a knowledgeable staff who can guide the civil contractors with globally best practices.  Furthermore, there is no secure landfill waste disposal in the country and there is no land reserved particularly for waste disposal. Thankfully, few cities like Ahmedabad, Coimbatore, Delhi and Mumbai have now realised  this and are slowly improving their waste management practices. Moreover, the departments handling waste must have enough knowledgeable staff who can advise the civil contractors in effectively handling  waste management services. The focus also needs to be on introducing such sensitive subjects even in educational institutions. Initiating subjects on waste management and its importancefrom a school level will be the best approach.


On the activities undertaken by NSWAI: As an industry association Solid Waste Association of India (NSWAI) has been actively involved in educating and spreading awareness among the public as well as  governing bodies. We have put forth our suggestions for reforms  and on the best global practices which can be introduced in  India to the governing authorities. The organisation actively takes part in industry exhibitions and on discussion forums to spread  awareness among public. Special programs and workshops are also organised to showcase  national and international success stories on effective waste management. We also offer consultancy and guidance on solid waste management practices and also promotes in encouraging the activity as a favourable career option to the young minds. NSWAI along with Sathyabama University, Chennai, established a Center for Waste Management at the University premises in Chennai. This center which has started functioning since 2011, is one-of-its-kind in India to provide a course on Green Engineering and Technology. It  focuses on providing education on scientific wasts management and clean production technologies for a clean and green India. We look forth to work hand-in-hand with the governing bodies and  citizens to create a better and clean India,


On  global best practices and their applicability in India: Globally, solid waste management is of vital importance and is being effectively handled. For instance, in countries like the US, the concept of geo-garbage is achieving increasing popularity. The practice does not require any landfill for waste disposal. Here, the wet waste is converted into compost and dry waste is recycled or reused. However, exact replication of such technologies cannot be practiced in India, as the countries differ in terms of geography and climatic condition. But, it’s a matter of utmost necessity to implement effective waste treatment technologies at least in India’s metros like Mumbai and Delhi. We need to focus more on reusing and recycling waste material. Unfortunately in India we have not been yet successful in utilising technologies for regeneration of energy from waste resources like  developed nations. Waste-to-energy plants can serve as effective mode of power resources. In addition, this can also effectively meet the power deficit in the country. However, the current ways to recycle these are not professional and need serious revamping. In India, presently about 30 per cent of waste is only being recycled.  Segregating wet and dry waste is of very much importance in bringing efficiency in waste management.


On the future outlook for waste management in India: The practice of waste management can be effective only through a proactive participation of government and citizens as a whole. Moreover, if we start attaching value to garbage, the public will consider recycling as a more serious option. Awareness and mass education is the only possible way to improve  waste management practices in India. The ambitions of developing Smart India with sustainable and effective infrastructure can  only be  achieved with qualitative waste management practices. Waste management plays a crucial and an unavoidable role in building a smart India.

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