Planning, active community are key to efficient waste disposal

Over the past few months the civil society has shared many thoughts on how to deal with the garbage problem confronting Bangalore population and its civil administration.

While we have seen that the tall claim made by BBMP commissioner has botched like the election manifestoes, a lack of understanding on the scale of waste generation, collection and disposal issues limit our overall understanding on how to approach this serious problem which could even threaten the future of Bangalore. Key parameters such as growth of city population and household income, per capita waste generation, waste generation by hotels, hospitals, industries and commercial establishments, waste collected and disposed, etc suggest that the garbage problem of the City would be more daunting unless and until the state and BBMP formulate effective solid waste management strategies and put in place the required legal and institutional structures to fulfill this main mandatory obligation of the local government immediately.

It is paradoxical that the Garden City perspective of Bangalore is owned only by the civil society and not by the city government. Even though, the BBMP has roped in the private sector to collect and dispose its garbage, absence of a clear framework which is built on the 3Rs of waste strategy (reduction, reuse and recycle) has failed due to inaccurate estimates of waste generation,  collectable waste and poor management of waste collection and disposal management arrangements.

There is a lack of clarity on the total solid waste generated in Bangalore. Waste statistics from large cities suggest that the per capita household waste generated is in the range of 600 grams and 800 grams per day. The Bangalore Master Plan has estimated the per capita waste generation at 600 grams in 2001. Assuming that nearly 95 per cent of the household waste generated is available for collection, the household waste available for collection in BBMP is estimated at 3,950 tons per day in 2001. Waste generation is positively related to population and household income growth.

Population of Bangalore has grown from 65 lakh in 2001 to 95 lakh in 2011,i.e. 4.7 per cent growth per annum. This means the total household waste generated is about 5,400 tons per day in 2011. Bangalore has a high density of other waste generators such as industries, commercial establishments, hotels and hospitals and these waste generators could contribute to an additional 10 to 15 per cent to the total waste.

 The problem becomes more challenging due to poor waste reduction and waste recycling measures and lack of scientific disposal of waste generated through engineered landfills, implementation of decentralised integrated waste management facilities, viable waste to energy conversion enterprises, etc. The long term scenario would be more challenging when the city has to collect and dispose nearly 16,000 tons of waste per day in 2021, particularly under the current urban development strategies and institutional dispensation of the local body.

Best practices

In the context of increasing awareness of local communities on the health impacts of unscientifically disposed wastes in open dumps and the growing enforcement of NIMBY (not in my back yard) policy by local communities, BBMP would find it very difficult to dispose the growing waste, unless the state and local governments formulate workable solid waste management guidelines. Some of the critical operational strategies and best practices required for implementing the 3R waste management strategy would include the following:

First, BBMP should formulate a robust 3R waste management strategy. This would warrants implementation of decentralised waste management strategies and guidelines through effective participation of private sector and people. The decentralised urban governance structure implemented by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation could be an appropriate model. Decentralised implementation of waste collection and disposals and execution of integrated waste management facilities; including sorting, recycling, composting, etc has found to be very effective in large cities. 

Second, the high investment required for financing sustainable waste management strategies and practices warrant efficient cost recovery and transparent fund utilization mechanisms at BBMP level. Third, scalability of the 3R interventions of Solid Waste Management Strategy could be achieved only if there is adequate commitment of local political constituents to enforce SWM regulations. Fourth, sustainable waste disposal strategy for a growing metropolis like Bangalore should entail a regional framework for implementing regional landfills, controlled dumping, and a quid pro quo approach to reward waste receivers.

Fifth, unplanned garbage dumping along the roads and vacant public/private lands is a common site in most areas. There are also a large number of old dump sites left unattended. The scope of designing and developing these dump sites as community parks is immense.

Six, lack of a clear public private partnership policy and eligibility criteria for engaging private parties in waste management activities makes the system very discretionary and thereby compromises the community ownership in these initiatives. Inadequate technical capacity of local agency to structure and manage service management contracts and the collusion of local administrators with private agencies further leads to poor service management.

Last but not the least, an essential component of successful SWM operational strategy is public awareness and community networking. Some of the successful initiatives in vogue that should be scaled up at the BBMP level are: storage facility for recyclable wastes, construction of waste collection points, public awareness programmes for school children, labourers and hospitals. Specific audience targeted communication strategy for waste reduction, reuse and recycle practices, home composting and design and implementation of revenue generation measures are important.

(The writer is an urban development and disaster risk reduction specialist)

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