What a waste!

Updated: Oct 11, 2018 15:07:35 IST
What a waste!

AS THE GOVERNMENT aims for a Swachh Bharat, simply cleaninhg up the streets won't tackle the enormity of India's garbage problem. Rapid urbanization, combined with development, and an ever-increasing population, has meant disproportionately high volumes of waste in India-about 62 million tonnes of municipal solid waste produced annually.

Urban India is the world's third-largest garbage generator (after China, and the US). A 2014 Planning Commission report says that, "more than 80 per cent is disposed of indiscriminately at dump yards in an unhygienic manner." A 2015 Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report says 1,43,449 tonnes of waste is generated in India daily, out of which only 32,871 tonnes are processed.

According to the CPCB, topping the list of the worst waste offenders are Maharashtra, UP and Tamil Nadu, with Sikkim at the bottom. And with garbage spilling onto our streets, improper dumping can lead to issues such as contamination of water and the air, blockage of drains, and the spread of diseases. The waste, if collected and treated, can be effectively used to generate clean energy. The Planning Commission suggests that the untapped waste has a potential of generating 439 MW of power from combustible waste and 72 MW of electricity from biogas. An official estimate suggests a potential of about 1460 MW of power from municipal solid waste.

Globally, there are more than 2,200 waste-to-energy plants, of which the EU has 455, China 150 and the USA 84, compared to just 5 in India. "What India needs is citizens' involvement in the collection process, along with the private sector's efficiency for transportation and disposal," says an official spokesperson of the Ministry of Urban Development. "We should encourage door-to-door collection, versus bin collection, so waste doesn't accumulate. For existing landfills, invest in waste-to-energy components, and also encourage household separation of waste-separate bins for recyclable versus non-recyclable, and create awareness on a local level through incentives."

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