Dhritee Shruti Goswami
(email@example.com. Under the guidance of Dr Pallab Kumar Sarma, Chief Scientist, Biswanath College of Agriculture)
The Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) has most recently started relocating its dumping ground in Boragaon to a new site at the defunct Chandrapur Thermal Power Station from 28th June 2021. The National Green Tribunal (NBT) has instructed the GMC to shift the dumping ground from Boragaon as it posed a threat to the ecological well-being of the Deepor Beel. The local people along with the All Assam Students' Union (AASU) protested against starting the dumpsite at Chandrapur as they weren't ready to make the popular tourist destination a dumping ground. It was further argued that since Chandrapur is a low-lying area, so during monsoon there is every possibility of the site getting inundated and polluting water entering houses of the residents. But all of these protests went in vain when the GMC, along with police officials and army forces as escort pilots on Monday, June 28th 2021, dumped all the waste in Chandrapur that was carried from Guwahati in 10 dumpers. Moreover, the Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup Metropolitan, in favour of the GMC, has mentioned that the GMC plans to build a Waste Management Plant on that site and not a dumping ground. Only time will tell the truth about the Waste Management Plant.
A solid waste management (SWM) system includes the generation of waste, storage, collection, transportation, processing and final disposal. Solid waste management (SWM) is a basic public necessity and this service is provided by respective urban local bodies (ULBs) in India. SWM starts with the collection of solid wastes and ends with their disposal and/or beneficial use. Most centralized municipal systems in low-income countries like India collect solid wastes in a mixed form because source separate collection systems are non-existent. Source separated collection of waste is limited by infrastructure, personnel and public awareness. A significant amount of paper is collected in a source-separated form, but informally. Indian cities are still struggling to achieve the collection of all MSW generated. Metros and other big cities in India collect from 70-90% of MSW. Smaller cities and towns collect less than 50%. The benchmark for collection is 100%, which is one of the most important targets for ULBs at present. This is a reason why the source-separated collection is not yet on the radar.
Guwahati city, the Gateway to NE India, is located on the south bank of the river Brahmaputra towards the south-eastern side of Kamrup district and bounded by 26°5' N to 26°12' N latitudes and 91°34' E to 91°51' E longitudes. It is 54.75m above the mid-sea level covering about 24km in an east-west direction and about 9km in the north-south direction. For a long time, Guwahati has remained the centre of trade and commerce for entire north-eastern India. The city of about 2.5 million population is now sprawled over an area of 264 sq. km of which, about 216 sq. km is within the municipal limits and is demarcated by Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) into 60 wards.
As Guwahati is the major hub of the Northeast as a lot of floating population and daily workers also contribute to increased waste generation. After initial identification of the dumping grounds and segregating the wastes in various categories as degradable, biodegradable, e-waste, hazardous and so on, appropriate steps must be taken to dispose of them using suitable methods. The main methods of waste processing include thermal processing, biological processing, composting, and vermin-composting. In the case of mixed wastes, the naturally occurring biological process called landfilling also plays a pivotal role. Although the municipal corporation has been taking untiring steps for solid waste management in the city, it is lacking in adopting novel scientific methods and fast implementations of schemes. There has been especially no provision of disposal of hazardous chemicals which if not properly handled may even be life-threatening. Every household must be encouraged to introduce a composting programme to lessen the toxic content of the waste generated from them. Further, it should be seen if the steps taken by other countries or in other regions of India can be implemented in Guwahati as well. The geographic feasibility, as well as financial expenses, should also be given due considerations while making these decisions.
Some MSW management approaches that should be brought under action in the city:
Municipal Solid Waste consists of household waste, commercial waste, construction and demolition debris, horticulture, and waste from streets. Municipal Solid Waste to be segregated into groups of bio-degradable, recyclables and hazardous waste. Bio-degradable like organic waste from the kitchen, market and commercial places to be converted into rich organic manure or energy. Plastics, papers, glass; metals are to be recycled into new products. The construction & demolition waste to be used as landfill cover.
"Segregation" shall remain to be centric approach solution. These further create an opportunity to order the sequence of collection and processing of waste – for instance, vegetable market waste which is high on organic content can be collected and processed daily and on a decentralized model with the facilities being set up at the markets itself or centralized processing unit. In the case of recyclables or dry wastes, segregation by sorting them further into plastics, paper, metal, glass, and fuel (coconut shells, sugarcane waste, etc.) and rubber. Bio-medical, hazardous and e-Waste to be managed by authorities concerned as per the existing legislation. The road sweepings, construction and demolition and the horticulture debris are to be collected separately and processed. The non-recyclable waste components and inert would finally be disposed of into scientifically designed sanitary landfills.
There are several MSW management technologies to treat the solid waste generated in the city, which are being followed in various parts of the world. Besides source reduction, reuse and recycling, the technology of composting be the most preferred option for the treatment of MSW in Guwahati. Composting process has the least environmental problems amongst waste treatment technologies. Compost is considered a slow-release fertilizer where nutrients are released slowly and over the years. However, soils undergo stress and degradation due to prolonged fertilizer use. Compost is a good soil amendment agent and helps to enrich the soil quality by increasing the oxygenation rates and organic content. It also improves the texture of the soil. In non-harvesting agricultural practices like plantations, the compost is useful and the benefits can be maximized by duel application of chemical fertilizers and compost. Assam already has a good demand for organic fertilizers and it will not be difficult to market the compost, provided it consistently meets the required quality.
MSW has a definite amount of calorific value content (Gross Calorific Value of MSW of Guwahati is about 1250kcal/kg) through which energy can be exploited. Energy can be recovered from MSW in the following form:
• Recovery of biogas and utilizing its energy content.
• Usage of MSW as fuel.
Biogas is generated due to the controlled aerobic decomposition of organic wastes or MSW. Methane or CO2 are the principal components of biogas with methane share typically about 50-55%. By doing some calculations considering various data, it was estimated that by using solid waste in Guwahati, nearly 4.2 MW of power can be generated daily.
NEPRA- A success story of total waste management in INDIA:
Presently, dry waste collection and segregation in India is mainly undertaken through informal channels. The industry being unorganized has not only resulted in low rates of recovery but also an extremely inefficient supply chain. Moreover, Municipal/ULBs do not have the bandwidth to manage multiple value chains in a highly reactive industry.
Let's Recycle-NEPRA is a unique waste management services company in India that strategizes to bring in environmental solutions that can help the communities and organizations to become sustainable.
So, how does NEPRA work? Dry waste collected by collection vans from homes, schools, hospitals, malls, colleges, hotels, place that generates waste by registered drivers into the ERP app. (Enterprise Resource planning app).[ERP is a business process management software that allows an organization to use a system of integrated applications to manage the business and automate many back-office functions].
They collect dry waste from registered waste pickers, input their items and pay them a fair price. The entire process is controlled, monitored and live tracked from the support office. The entire value chain involved is effectively put to use with fair payouts. By the time the truck reaches their facility, all the information is updated in real-time and cross-checked by the supervisor. From there, the bags are unloaded and fed to the machinery. The dry waste is processed in the automated system designed by NEPRA using optical sorting and prepared as per the recycler's requirements as per commodity. Meanwhile, the team at the NEPRA facility has daily strategies to ensure that the system flows smoothly. The segregated items arrive at the post-sorting belt for final segregation and quality check where 55% of women are employed (So it creates employment opportunities as well). Finally, different items arrive at the bailing area. They are compressed or shredded and the material is made ready to dispatch. Out of the total input, 90% is recycled into various commodities like T-shirts, pipes, buckets, bags, etc., and the remaining 10% is sent to the cement companies as Refused Derived Fluent (RDF) which means ZERO WASTE. This helps to build a happy and sustainable economy.
Young aspiring entrepreneurs can take inspiration from the above success story to devise a kind of the same model in Guwahati too so that the issue of massive waste generated each year can be significantly reduced in the city.
Although the Guwahati Municipal Corporation is taking commendable steps to implement the process of waste treatment and power generation from it, there is still a lot that needs to be done to exploit the full resources from the waste generated in the city.
The West Boragaon Treatment plant is undergoing certain changes to adopt novel methods of waste treatment. A new provision for the treatment of hazardous and electronic waste is also underway at the plant site.
Article 51 A (g) of the Constitution of India makes it a fundamental duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.
Developed countries like Singapore, Switzerland, and the United States are not clean because their population is educated or disciplined; it is the fear of laws that makes it work.
People must learn to pay for services. The provision for payment for waste services are there in the laws but are not enforced because of objections by politicians. Surveys suggest that people will pay to segregate their waste if there are systems in place.
They are reluctant to object to service fees because municipalities have never provided that kind of efficient and quality service, that one can go and ask for a service fee for SWM.
If the Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 are implemented in letter and spirit, more than 12,000 jobs may be created in Guwahati city. If extended to all villages, nearly 40,000 jobs related to door-to-door collection, composting and recycling value chain can be created. But municipalities lack the technical know-how. Some staff members lack adequate training and exposure. Most training programs are organized for commissioners and engineers but seldom for collection staff or sanitary supervisors.
What can each of us do individually at our level to tackle this issue?
The best place to start making a difference is right in your own home. We can reduce, reuse, and recycle materials to decrease household waste. As a general public, we cannot do much in policy and regulations formulation, adoption of newer technologies related to recycling and other waste management options but we can play a very important role in this process if we can adopt only a few tips. Here are a few tips to achieve this goal.
1. Keep ourselves informed: We must know about what is happening on the environment front. Read about how untreated sewage is thrown into the rivers, attend public lectures about air pollution, & keep in touch with new policies that affect our environment. The more informed we are, the better equipped we are to fight such issues.
2. Consume less: Motto - Refuse…Reduce….Reuse… Recycle. This means consuming fewer resources, reusing whatever we can and finally recycling what cannot be reused. This process greatly reduces the garbage.
3. Say 'No' to plastic bags: One of the biggest sources of pollution in Indian cities is the ubiquitous plastic bag. Refuse to accept one. Instead, carry a shopping bag made with fabric or paper.
4. Separate our garbage: India has one of the world's most efficient recycling mechanisms. Use the service of our raddiwalla. Newspapers, bottle cans and other such recyclables can fetch us money and in the process, we can help to save the environment. Rag pickers, too, perform a vital function for the city. Kitchen garbage (biodegradable) should be separated from non-biodegradable waste.
5. Compost our organic waste: We can start vermiculture bins and also produce compost manure.
6. Stop burning garbage: Desist from burning solid wastes. It may seem harmless but smoke emitted from burning contributes to air pollution. Also, when there is plastic in the heap, it emits dangerous toxic fumes. Leaves can be converted to fertilizer through composting & plastic can be recycled.