Decentralization: An answer to Gurugram’s waste management woes

Greater efforts need to be channelized in the direction of crafting innovative communication campaigns educating the public about the benefits of a decentralized system which will go a long way in inducing a behavioral change among them and eliciting their cooperation for making Gurugram a clean and sustainable city.

India is the second most populous country in the world with over 2.9 million sq Km of land housing close to 18 per cent of the world’s population. Though the country has tried to keep pace with the burgeoning population yet its basic necessities have been ignored. In the wake of increasing focus on the provision of food and shelter to the ever-increasing population, the issue of waste management has been relegated to the background. 

The term ‘waste management’ encompasses a series of activities and actions required to manage waste since its inception to disposal. This includes collection, transport, resource recovery treatment and disposal of waste along with monitoring and regulation. The term ‘waste management’ also encompasses the legal and regulatory framework relating to it, *roles and responsibilities of the waste generators and stakeholders*, and guidance on recycling *(Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016)*.With Indian population predicted to rise from the current 330 million to about 600 million by 2030, the challenge of managing municipal solid waste (MSW) in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner is bound to assume gigantic proportions. India houses over 5,000 cities and towns which generate about 40 million tonnes of MSW per year today. According to The Energy Research Institute (TERI), the amount of waste generated could is expected to reach 260 million tonnes per year by 2047. 

Until now, waste management has been considered as the sole responsibility of urban administration entailing little or no participation from other stakeholders and citizens. Though waste management in India accounts for 20 percent of cities’ budget, a considerable proportion ranging from 20-40 per cent is not managed at all. Furthermore, it is transported inadequately and disposed off in an unscientific manner. This, in turn, leads to poor public sanitation, and a higher incidence of vector-borne diseases.

Coming to Gurugram, the city’s solid waste generation has doubled in the last ten years due to rising population.  Today Gurugram generates 650 metric tonnes (MT) per day of solid waste, according to non- governmental organization, Gurgaon First. A family of four generates a little more than 2kg of waste in a day. The city has so far followed a centralized approach to waste management. About over 90 per cent the waste in mixed form goes to the landfill at Bandhwari.  Since treatment plant at Bandhwari has been dysfunctional, the waste pile has become a health and management hazard.  Waste is collected and disposed off at Bhandwari by contractors who have service contracts with the authorities. Municipal Corporation Gurugram is the nodal body for waste management which has divided the city into four zones. It is manned by 3,648 sanitary workers, including permanent and contractual. 

It has been found that the centralized waste management suffers from several drawbacks. Firstly, they do not distinguish between different needs of the neighborhoods within each city and between cities. Secondly, the centralized arrangements are often capital and land intensive owing to the scarcity of land. According to TERI, the land requirement is slated to rise from 200 sq km in 2011 to 1,400 sq km in 2047. 

Thirdly, centralized arrangements have minimal scope for community-based participation, social entrepreneurship, livelihood generation, and fostering innovation. Certain modes of centralized systems (such as incineration plants) may not permit access to the recyclable material, make available space to segregate waste and add value to it locally. The livelihoods of a large number of persons (such as rag-pickers and scavengers) currently involved in India in waste management in the informal sector may be adversely affected by these modes. 

Fourthly, the centralized waste disposal arrangements shift the problem from the source of waste generation to waste disposal sites. They also involve long-distance transportation of waste entailing higher fuel consumption. Centralized waste treatment in India is also found to be more susceptible to neighbourhood resistance resulting in judicial activism.

Given the above drawbacks, the decentralized system is the need of the hour. In case of a decentralized system, the solid waste is treated near its origin and in most cases; it becomes an economic resource thereby eliminating the need for transport, landfill, or treatment at the waste disposal site. They also encourage civic responsibility and innovation. 

One must take lessons from cities such as Pune and Bangalore where several residential condominiums have embraced a decentralized system of waste management involving processing of organic waste into compost for meeting neighborhood gardens’ needs and the excess being sold to private companies. 

Fortunately, the Haryana government has woken up to the magnitude of the menace and provided some incentives to encourage waste processing. *As on today, the GST on composting systems is 12 per cent, packaged compost is 5 per cent, biogas plants is 5 per cent. The government should cancel out the taxes on such services and products to encourage citizens participation in waste management activities.* It announced a hand-holding grant for creating sheds for composting site and is mulling an exemption of house tax for up to 10 per cent for a period of five years. Under the Haryana Building Code 2016, the Haryana government has made it mandatory for all buildings to have solid waste management. Composting sites are being encouraged such as Ward 6 (Gaushala), and Sector 15 (Part I), Sikandarpur, Nathupur.  Swachh App has also been launched to identify sites where garbage has been dumped. Waste portal and waste book launch are among other initiatives. Bio-remediation of Bandhwari landfill has also begun. In Gurugram, 16 colonies and condominiums have started segregation and composting of waste through authorized vendors. In the Swachh Sarvekshan 2017 conducted under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Gurugram has shown some progress.  In 2015, the city was ranked 466 out of 476 cities; in 2016, it had ranked 36 out of 73 cities; and in 2017 it had ranked 112 out of 434 cities covered under the survey. 

However, there is a need to accord sufficient incentives to make these arrangements viable and enable the communities to expand their reach. Large commercial ventures such as hotels, hospitals, educational institutions and corporate canteens should institute their own waste management system on the premises.  Stringent regulations need to be put in place for ensuring the separation of solid waste into organic and inorganic components. Furthermore, greater efforts need to be channelized in the direction of crafting innovative communication campaigns educating the public about the benefits of a decentralized system which will go a long way in inducing a behavioral change among them and eliciting their cooperation for making Gurugram a clean and sustainable city.

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