High time to handle solid waste properly

With the notification of new rules for solid waste management, the Centre has taken a badly needed step to address more seriously than in the past a problem that has been growing in size and becoming increasingly difficult to handle. Solid waste is a product of urbanisation. The birth of new towns and the fast growth of existing cities generate mountains of waste and there has not been any effective plan to dispose them of. The new rules will replace a set of rules of 2000 vintage which were not effective in managing solid waste. In fact, the problem of solid waste needs to be tackled in rural areas also. The government has recently notified rules for management of other kinds of waste too. But the management of solid waste is the most challenging because every house produces waste and there is the need for coordination of a number of agencies to make the disposal of waste a success.
Every stage of waste management, like segregation at houses, apartments or other places, the logistics of transporting waste to assigned spots and its destruction and recycling in these places is extremely difficult. The rules have assigned different responsibilities to various players but the challenge is to ensure that the work gets done efficiently at every stage and at every level. The chain has to function smoothly every day. Civic bodies have the most important role in managing the entire operation and success depends on their commitment and efficiency. The rules are now applicable beyond municipal areas also. The functions of other stake-holders like the state and governments have also been identified in the rules. Training, capacity building and other requirements have received attention.

Waste management has not worked well in the past not because of the lack of rules. Revision and updating of rules is necessary and important but implementation is the most important task. Collection of waste has never been done well. Arranging facilities for transportation is often only a money-making process. Treatment and recycling is not much to talk about. Uncollected waste is a problem at the source and dumped waste is a health hazard for those living in the vicinity, usually villagers. The importance of waste disposal has to be conveyed to everyone and the processes have to be improved. Basically, it is matter of civic sense. Today’s 62 million tonnes of waste a year in the country will grow into 165 million tonnes by 2030. It may pose the most serious health problem to both urban and rural communities, if it is not handled well.

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