A German ray of hope to tackle Bangalore's waste

Bangalore’s unprecedented fall into the depths of waste management standards has triggered global attention, even a dramatic New York Times article.

While many took offence at this inglorious attack on the city’s image, the civic agencies might have to depend on international help to arrest this dangerous slide into absolute chaos. German help, to be precise.

On a visit to Bangalore, the German State Secretary for Economic Cooperation, Gudrun Kopp elaborated on this vital input and how the experience of Germany’s enduring 12-year partnership with the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) on waste management might just turn the tide.

Kopp drew parallels between the City’s latest crisis precipitated by the closure of landfills and Germany’s own experience with illegal waste plants. “We too have had illegal waste plants filling garbage in landfills without treating. Liquid toxic material were flowing out.

Angry residents were protesting. The government then decided to dig out the whole contaminated soil and refill the landfills with plain soil. We then had skilled people find out what kind of waste went where, what should be treated, what should be burnt,” she told Deccan Herald.

Under the Indo-German Environment Programme, Germany, the State Government and the KSPCB are actively engaged in an Industrial Hazardous waste management project.
The German involvement is right from design to final commissioning. As part of this, Kopp is scheduled to launch a GPS system to track the transportation of the hazardous waste-laden trucks at Dobbespet on Friday. This expertise and knowledge base, active since 2001, could now be replicated in the solid waste management area. The German State Secretary discussed this with KSPCB officials on Wednesday.  

Energy from waste is an idea that had worked greatly in Germany, a concept still in its infancy with the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). Kopp explained: “When you burn waste, a lot of heat is generated. This could be used for houses, streets, etc. It is a win-win situation. We have already initiated a model project in Delhi under the Indo-German Cooperation Programme.”

Branded globally as an IT-City, Bangalore always had to be prepared for mountains of electronic waste. Germany is now tying up with the city-based e-Parisara for a joint project. “We are working on recycling of e-waste and explore ways to make money out of it and even generate jobs,” Kopp explained.

Beyond the big cities, the German efforts are also directed at capacity building in villages and small towns. “We want to partner with local people to help them educate children and adults about waste disposal, use of plastic, segregation and reuse. Protecting the environment in an inclusive manner through sustainable measures is important. Region-specific programmes that are tailor-made for local communities is the idea,” said Kopp.

Clean water is another critical area of Indo-German collaboration. German expertise was key to a pilot project on hospital waste water management at Manipal Hospital, an initiative that was later replicated by St Martha’s hospital. “By 2050, half the population of India will live in big cities. That calls for sustainable infrastructure, housing, energy and better living conditions,” pointed out Kopp, as she hinted at an enduring Indo-German partnership to meet that challenge head on.

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