As almost half of the country’s population will be living in urban areas by the middle of the century, the volume of waste specifically around cities will grow by 5% every year. This might not sound that bad, but the reality is actually bleak – India in drowning in waste and its cities are surrounded by endless hills of garbage.
This is the result of a decades-long lack of national interest in sorting and waste management. However, the ministry of environment is taking on this problem by targeting the implementation of several rules dealing with urban waste management.
Urban India is known as the world’s 3rd largest garbage producer, and by 2050, the total amount is expected to rise to a staggering 436 million tons. About 10 million tons are generated only by the biggest metropolitan cities, as can be seen below. Unfortunately, 94% of it is dumped, being considered “untreated” waste that makes its way into lands, rivers and lakes, eventually contaminating them.
In 2015, The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) issued numerous notices to municipal commissioners to ensure proper management of domestic sewage and solid waste. However, no consistent action has been taken so far.
Signs of improvement
Despite all this, India seems ready to follow the thumb rule of waste management, in extracting the maximum practical benefits from the dump and generate, in turn, a lower amount of waste. Experts are recommending innovative methods of disposing and recycling, besides the classic “4 bin system” of segregating household waste. In 2016, the government passed various waste management rules, dealing with sorting the different kinds of garbage – solid, plastic, biomedical, construction, electronic and hazardous.
Implementing all these rules is an entirely different story. Because the people who are supposed to apply them are dispersed across the country and because no unitary action has been evident in the last months, the government will launch a nationwide initiative on the 29th of June. This will primarily be directed to waste management personnel in 68 large urban areas.
Some argue that a rapid bioremediation process aiming to clear out the garbage hills and removing their effects is already under way. Collection charges and penalties for non-compliance exist already for waste producers, while efforts on separating the dry waste from the wet one are starting to pick up.
The bio-mining and bio-remediation initiatives that appeared as early as 1998 are now being refined by government experts. Raaginii Jaain has developed a rapid bio-remediation process for old dumps and has already successfully used it on old waste with visible effects. Moreover, additional alternatives such as composting microbes accelerating biological decomposition and therefore getting the waste ready for bio-mining are being considered.
India needs a better implementation of waste management rules and a bio-remediation that is not only low-cost, but also environmentally-friendly. Ultimately, the land once hosting garbage hills will be fully recovered and able to support alternative uses. The country needs to address waste management momentarily and despite being on the right track, it is still at a very early stage.