Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016
Mains level: This article analyses how big cities can learn waste management from small cities and towns
Small and mid-size cities and towns of India are showing the way on how to manage solid waste by getting communities to segregate waste and keeping the waste streams separate.
The case study of Suryapet
- The earliest and the best success story was of Suryapet, a city in Telangana, located 136 km east of Hyderabad, with a population of a little over one lakh.
- A single individual, S A Khadar, the commissioner of Suryapet municipal corporation, demonstrated personal leadership which made a big difference.
- He managed all of the Suryapet’s wet and dry waste (32 tonnes daily at that time) on a half-acre site within the city, earning a gross income of Rs 1 lakh per month from vermi-composting and recycling.
- He began by winning the hearts of his sanitary workers by prompt satisfaction of minor demands, such as granting leave and/or reassignment of workplaces.
- Next, he wooed the residents, one mohalla or street or commercial area at a time, by organising daily meetings on morning rounds from six to nine am before beginning his office work. Residential pockets that gave 100 per cent unmixed waste earned token gifts.
- The commissioner got banks to fund new tractor-trailers (which can unload waste mechanically) for self-help groups by guaranteeing their monthly repayments to banks from the city payments to their SHGs for waste collection services.
- Open drain cleaning was done in the afternoons. Soggy silt went directly into a wheelie-bin and then into a dedicated leak-proof collection vehicle which unloaded the silt and the debris for widening the road shoulders of all radial roads.
- The Suryapet experience clearly shows that citizens can be incentivised to give wet and dry wastes unmixed when they see clear administrative will and primary collection vehicles designed to accept and transport wastes unmixed.
The case study of Karjat
- Within two days of joining, Kokare commissioner of the municipal council of Karjat, strictly enforced Maharashtra’s ban on plastic carry bags. These are now replaced by sari-cloth bags which cost Rs 6 per bag.
- Handcart vendors use bags made out of newspapers.
- What is amazing is how he persuaded Karjat residents, already enjoying doorstep waste collection, to cooperate in giving 36 kinds of waste separately on different days of the week! This is probably a global first.
Secret of success
- The secret of the success of Kokare and Khadar, is passion and daily personal supervision, both going around the city every morning before office hours to meet, persuade and exhort citizens to cooperate.
- In Karjat, after initial warnings, doorstep collectors refuse to collect mixed waste and also report the person. The same evening, an official comes and grills the person on where they dumped their uncollected mixed waste.
- Such intense individual effort is especially required at the start. Once word gets around, cooperation is easier.
- In Namakkal (population of 55,000) in Tamil Nadu, pushcart collection workers have been manually separating mixed waste into wet and dry, daily at the doorstep of each household, rather than attempt behaviour change.
- Alappuzha in Kerala was recently recognised by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) for its decentralised system of waste management.
- In these and many more small towns, the secret of success is meticulous micro-planning, committed leadership at the administrative level and receptive and engaged communities. The objective is clear — a litter-free, bin-free and dump-free city.
Lessons for metro cities
- Big cities scoff at small towns leading the way and claim that their own waste volumes are unmanageable. But even in large metropolitan cities, populations of most wards are smaller than of these towns. Decentralisation and effective use of delegated power at the ward level is crucial if micro-planning and implementation is to work with cooperation from RWAs. Only then can we find a collective solution to the challenges of solid waste management in our larger cities.