Tonnes of garbage is produced every day in cities across the world because of rapidly growing population and changing consumer behaviour. According to the estimates of the World Bank, the urban cities across the world collectively produce 1.3 billion tonnes of solid waste in a year. By 2025, it will grow to 2.2 billion tonnes. India, on the other hand, generates 1,60,000 metric tonnes of garbage (mostly wet) every day. Metropolitan cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Kolkata contribute a large chunk.
The ex-Union Minister Jairam Ramesh had once said, “We are a nation characterised by individual hygiene and collective filth. India is a nation of private cleanliness and public squalor”. He was not completely off the mark. The problem of garbage is really grave, and a glaring indifference (or ignorance) towards this issue is setting a precarious precedent.
Shortage of Dumping Space in Metros
India is a rapidly growing economy, but the country is facing a chronic problem of unmanageable urban waste. Landfills in most of the cities are overflowing with no extra space for additional garbage. According to a recent report by the Central Pollution Control Board, Delhi needs 650 acres of landfills (four times more than the existing landfills) to fulfill its present need. Approximately 9,000 metric tonnes of solid waste is produced daily in Delhi. The city has four dumping sites, but all of them are overflowing. Mumbai produces 6,500 metric tonnes of garbage daily, which is dumped at the Deonar dumping ground. The landfills in Gorai and Chincholi Bunder have been shut down. It is expected that the Deonar landfill site will expire by 2016. We must discover new methods and effective ways to dispose waste when we do not have extra dumping space.
It has been found out that landfills are responsible for about 20% of methane gas emission in India. This gas is directly responsible for greenhouse effect. Moreover, these landfills are not built as per accepted specifications. This causes groundwater contamination. Improperly collected and uncollected waste dumped in streets or in drains acts as breeding grounds for insects and rodents.
Incineration of Waste
Incineration of waste materials is one of the largest sources of air pollution in India. It doesn’t surprise us to know that 20 percent of Mumbai’s air pollution is caused by trash fire. Not segregating bio-degradable waste from degradable waste is aggravating the situation further.
- Cost of management from planning and collection of waste to transporting and recycling is very high.
- House-to-house collection is also rare in some parts of the cities because of inadequate facilities and lack of awareness among public. People prefer to dump waste in empty plot or land instead of paying for the services.
- As per estimates, in most of the regions inhabited by low-income group people, waste is not at all collected. Clogged sewers and streets littered with garbage are breeding grounds for diseases and pollution.
- Public awareness and participation can play a significant role. People must be asked to follow the basics of waste management rules.
- A culture of waste segregation in the household itself needs to be established.
- We need to segregate the waste right at the point of collection. Most of the waste that can be recycled will stop reaching the landfill keeping these free for other waste.
- In fact, people should join hands with experts on innovative solutions to manage the growing problem of waste.
- Civic agencies should take a proactive role in sensitising people on sanitation and waste management.