Last week, the Supreme Court took the Centre to task for not taking action to enforce garbage magement rules and refused to accept its voluminous report, calling it nothing but solid waste that the court cannot accept and which the government cannot dump it on the court. A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said the Centre has not been able to implement its own law framed in 2016, leading to huge pile-up of garbage across cities (Guwahati is eminent for this) causing vector-borne diseases like dengue and chikungunya. It also said the Centre has failed to persuade States to appoint State-level advisory boards for monitoring and implementing the rules. The court is in favour of strict implementation of the 2016 rules. It has now directed all States to comply with the law. It has asked the Centre to collect information from all States and Union Territories on whether they have set up bodies to frame policies on waste magement. The court has rued that even as there is no paucity of funds because Rs 30,000 crore has been earmarked under the Swachh Bharat Mission, there is a lack of initiative and willingness on the part of the State governments to address the problem of garbage magement.
Life in Stink
How are the figures then? Shocking. According to the Centre’s own estimates, 62 million tonnes of waste is generated annually in the country, of which 5.6 million tonnes is plastic waste, 0.17 million tonnes is biomedical waste, 7.90 million tonnes is hazardous waste, and 15 lakh tonnes is e-waste. Municipal bodies collect 43 million tonnes every year, of which 11.9 million tonnes is treated and 31 million tonnes is dumped in landfill sites. All this boils down to the fact that only 75-80 per cent of the waste is collected and a mere 22-28 per cent is treated. This, despite the 2016 rules that have made provisions for timely collection and disposal of garbage, including establishment of waste-processing facilities by all local bodies in cities having one million or more population within two years. This brings us to the harrowing garbage experience of the top city of Northeast India – Guwahati. On every street in the city you are welcomed by the filth of heaps of unmaged garbage, morning hours being the worst. It is not that the State government is helpless for want of funds. Money is there, but will is not. Or it could well be that the powers-that-be, in their air-conditioned cars, do not feel the stink even as they see it all around and hence are just not bothered because, after all, who cares for the man on the street when there is a pretence called ‘functioning democracy’. This must change. And yet we hear of Guwahati being the epicentre of Act East Policy! The Sarbanda Sonowal government, which calls itself a dispensation of a differently progressive kind, should now inform the people of Guwahati, as also of the other filth-filled towns of the State, of its constitution, if any at all, of any body/entity to frame policies on waste magement as the apex court has pointed to. If there are policies in place, where is implementation? For, Guwahati remains too dirty a place to qualify for any brand of city worth living without its people having to suffer the fear of contracting some vector-borne disease any day, any time.
Want Good Life?
An alysis by researchers in Germany and the UK, published in the jourl ture Sustaibility, suggests that you must pay the cost if you want to lead a good life. Their conclusion is disturbing: basic needs like nutrition and sanitation may be achieved by all countries without violating environmental limits, but the pursuit of high-life satisfaction could well demand use of resources far beyond sustaible levels. Countries across Western Europe and North America have scored quite high on multiple social measures such as life satisfaction, healthy life expectancy, education, nutrition, sanitation, access to energy, income, and equality. These countries, nevertheless, have been able to go beyond the key thresholds of social parameters at the levels of tural resources use that is far beyond what is globally sustaible. “The more social thresholds a country achieves, the more environmental boundaries it transgresses. At this point, we don’t see any country that meets all social thresholds and does so at sustaible levels,” says William Lamb, co-author of the study at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change in Germany. The bad news for India – as usual – is that it is among the bottom 20 in key good life measures, but the fact remains that it has lower levels of environmental transgressions too. The latter could be music to the ears of the many pro-active environmentalists around, but it is a dampener to the upbeat mood of the developmentist. So, the tangle is like this: if you want the quality of life as those fortute ones lead in Cada, for instance, you must play with Mother ture. The other way of looking at this is that the earth cannot bear so much; perhaps it already has. Here comes Bhutan. The Bhutanese are more concerned with what they call "gross tiol happiness" rather than with gross tiol product. They are a happy people but they have taken ture along with, their environment being virtually their god. Bhutan is a case of case study then; it has wonderful lessons to teach us all.