Maneuvering Environmental Challenges with Tech-Based Solutions, Policies
“TERI is a not-for-profit research institute that focuses on all the aspects of environment, energy, and waste management as well as their linkage to climate change, health and sustainable development. The Institute is also working to develop and implement technology solutions, emerging from national policies, to address the adverse impact energy use and waste management on the environment”, shared Dr. Suneel Pandey, Director, Environment and Waste Management Division, TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) with Poulami Chakraborty of BW Businessworld. Excerpts below
Please elaborate on the role TERI plays in the nation’s environment, energy, and waste management segment.
TERI is a not-for-profit research institute that focuses on all the aspects of the environment, energy, and waste management as well as their linkage to climate change, health, and sustainable development. The Institute is also working to develop and implement technology solutions, emerging from national policies, to address the adverse impact energy use and waste management on the environment. For instance, in the past, TERI has been instrumental in developing background framework for National Environment Policy, 2006, National Action Plan on Climate Change, 2009 and recently background documents for the Government of India’s Nationally Determined Contributions.
What is your opinion about the banning of single-use plastic by the central government? How will it impact the environment and waste-management scenario in the country?
Banning single-use plastics is not a solution unless we have alternatives that are affordable, environmentally benign, and can be rolled out in the market. Also, the ban would affect manufacturers of these items, who are mostly from the small-scale industry sector. The ban on single-use plastics however would with effective monitoring result into lesser littering. As a result, there would be fewer instances of drains getting chocked, lesser plastics packaging would reach waste dumpsite and a result lesser instances of landfill fires and local air pollution. Overall there would be a positive impact on the environment as its single-use plastics reaching rivers and finally to coastal and marine waters. So far as waste management is concerned, cities will also not have problems of plastic waste littering.
What are the prime challenges that you notice in India with respect to the environment and waste management? What methods of mitigation do you adopt with the same perspective?
A key challenge, with respect to the environment and waste management, is our inability to segregate waste at source. However, the situation is improving consistently. It is now reported that on an average around 50% of households in India have been reported to segregate the waste. Effective waste segregation would ensure that wet waste is processed (composted or bio-digested) locally and not transported long distances since wet waste carries around 50% moisture (water) and it makes no sense to transport it long-distance adding cost to the transportation. The second benefit of effective waste segregation is that recyclable waste will not be contaminated and recycled effectively. It would also ensure that urban local bodies (ULBs) pick up wet waste on a daily basis and dry waste can be removed only periodically (weekly or fortnightly), thus reducing the overall waste management logistics costs.
What plans or strategies do you advise for treating the bad air quality and waste management issue of Delhi NCR?
In Delhi NCR, the immediate strategies for improving waste management would include:
Processing wet waste locally -no wet waste should go out of ward boundary
Remediation of waste disposal sites (to address landfill fires, to make available more space for disposal). Also, available space needs to be redeveloped as an integrated waste management complex
Setting up authorized recycling units in industrial areas
With the impending issue of massive waste management in Delhi NCR and most parts of India, what strategies must be adopted for ensuring no water logging in the monsoons?
Drains need to be cleared to ensure that the silt collected is dried and recycled at C&D recycling plants. Plastics recovered should either be recycled (if clean) or sent to existing waste to energy plants (if dirty), other non-recyclable yet combustible waste (rags, shoes, slippers, mattress, etc.) should be shredded and used as refuse-derived fuel. Also, reclaiming the natural hydrological flows by removing unauthorized constructions is critical.
Please share with us all future mandates you have with regards to energy and waste management.
1. Audit of Municipal Corporations with respect to their compliance with regards to the waste management rules notified in 2016.
2. Handholding Municipal Corporations to improve their waste management operations with a focus on reducing GHG emission in waste management.
3. Assisting Pollution Control Boards on pollution control issues.
4. Working with the packaging industry to arrive at a solution for packaging waste
5. Research on alternatives to single use plastics.