Saturday, May 16, 2015

India's failed model?: Urban Gujarat is poor performer in solid waste management

By Rajiv Shah
Despite big talk about Gujarat being a model state of urban development, latest figures, made available at a workshop organized by Paryavaran Mitra, an Ahmedabad-based environmental NGO, has said that just about 14.67 per cent of the solid waste collected in the state’s eight municipal corporations and 159 municipalities, is processed. This puts Gujarat way behind the national average of 27.94 per cent of the solid waste being processed, with seven out of 20 selected states performing better.
Revealed during a presentation by Shailendrasinh Jadeja of Seva Foundation Trust, Rajkot, in the presence of senior experts, consultants and a Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) official, the figures suggest that there has been slight improvement of less than two per cent since 2010, when 12.94 per cent of the solid waste was being processed. However, the progress vis-à-vis the all-India average was dismal – in 2010, 17.78 per cent of the solid waste was being processed, suggesting an improvement of 10 per cent in the country as a whole up to 2014.
A child amidst solid waste thrown around in an open field in Rajkot
Jadeja’s presentation, titled “Scenario on Municipal Solid Waste Management”, said that, in Gujarat, 9,277 tonnes of municipal waste was generated every day in 2014. And, if official Government of India figures – on the basis of which Jadeja has maked his calculations – are any guide, all of it was collected. Of this, 1,354 tonnes of solid waste was processed. In 2010, 7,379 tonnes was generated, 6744 tonnes was collected, and 873 tonnes was processed. However, he indicated, the figures do not tell the full story, and there appears to something amiss.
Thus, Jadeja’s presentation said that of the eight municipal corporations, in 2014, three did not have any functional compost plants, and four did not have any landfill sites. Things were found to be worse in 159 municipalities, where 66 of them did not have any compost plant, and 106 did not have any landfill sites. Further, three municipal corporations out of eight (Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar and Junagadh) and 125 municipalities never filled up necessary monthly details of how much of solid waste was being generated, collected and processed.
A woman atop a landfill site in Rajkot
Talking to Counterview, Paryavaran Mitra’s Mahesh Pandya said, the workshop was held against the backdrop of the national consultations currently being held on finalizing rules on hazardous waste, e-waste, solid waste, plastic waste and biomedical waste. “This is being done by keeping at pay the country’s senior environmental experts”, he added. While the consultations have already taken place in Delhi (May 1) and Mumbai (May 8), they are scheduled for May 22 in Bangaluru and May 23 in Kolkata. Only industry representatives and consultants have been invited.
“If ignoring environmentalists was one reason why we held the workshop, another reason was, Gujarat a highly industrial state, as very level of pollution levels and poor environmental management. The consultations should have take place in Ahmedabad or Gandhinagar, but this has not happened”, Pandya said, adding, “This is one reason why we decided to hold the workshop and prepare a list of recommendations to be sent to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) for consideration.”
An important point raised at the workshop was that the rural areas have been completely kept out of solid waste management draft rules despite the fact that they also generate all types of waste – degradable as well as non-degradable. It was suggested, the Government of India should work out a proper authority which should monitor solid waste management. The participants also raised concern over the fact that there has been a steady downward slide in the amount of waste that is being generated, despite official “efforts” to the contrary.

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