At a recent conference on Smart Waste Management organised by India Infrastructure, Vinod Kumar Jindal, joint secretary, Swachh Bharat Mission, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), spoke about how the government’s Swachh Bharat Mission is successfully promoting open defecation free (ODF) practices in cities and ensuring efficient solid waste management (SWM) services. He also provided an update on the steps being taken under the mission. Excerpts…
India generates about 160,000 tonnes of solid waste per day. Against this, it has capacity to treat less than 20 per cent of the waste generated. The remaining 80 per cent is disposed of untreated. Most Indian cities
struggle to meet minimum standards for collecting, transporting, treating and disposing of municipal solid waste. Waste generation far outstrips collection and treatment infrastructure. Segregation at source is non-existent, sorting is manual, coverage is limited, disposal is unscientific, and service backlogs are huge.
In this backdrop, the MoHUA launched the Swachh Bharat Mission on October 2, 2014. The objectives of the mission are to eliminate open defecation in cities by October 2, 2019, eradicate manual scavenging, introduce modern and scientific municipal SWM, bring in behavioural changes regarding healthy sanitation practices, generate awareness about sanitation and its linkage with public health, besides augmenting the capacity of urban local bodies to create an enabling environment for private sector participation in capital expenditure and operations and maintenance services. To achieve these objectives, the installation of household toilets, the conversion of insanitary latrines to pour-flush latrines, setting up of community toilets, public toilets and urinals, management of solid waste, public awareness creation, and capacity building will be taken up.
Since the inception of the mission, the pro-gress card of the mission is as follows: About 2,000 towns of a total of 4,041 towns (2011 census) in India have been identified and verified as ODF. Of the total 84,049 wards, door-to-door garbage collection has been successfully implemented in 61,846 wards. This huge achievement in a short span of time has been mainly possible with the introduction of several SWM initiatives by the MoHUA. For instance, a Swachhata mobile application was launched in 2016 to enable efficient waste collection. This mobile app allows the user to post pictures of overflowing dustbins, littered garbage or any other civic issue which gets automatically forwarded to the concerned municipal authority. These issues are then dealt with by the concerned department within a set time frame, thus ensuring faster complaint resolution. When we look at its success, so far about 7,600,000 people have downloaded the app and we hope that the number will increase going forward.
Door-to-door garbage collection plays a key role in efficient SWM. No waste processing technology will be useful unless proper door-to-door garbage collection and segregation at source is practised. Awareness is being created through electronic media and field publicity to cover all the wards under door-to-door waste collection. Besides, segregation of waste into wet and dry, and hazardous and domestic has to be practised to generate high quality compost and energy. Many private companies bear the brunt of improper waste segregation as domestic waste mixed with hazardous materials leads to the generation of low quality compost. This dissuades companies from developing new waste-to-energy (WtE) plants.
Many other positive steps are being taken to encourage effective SWM. Earlier, power purchase tariffs were a key concern for companies. The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission has revised the tariffs upwards from Rs 2.50-Rs 3.25 per MW to Rs 7.05-Rs 7.95 per MW. With this, many private companies are coming forward to set up WtE plants without seeking viability gap funding. However, assurance with respect to waste segregation has to be ensured.
The introduction of a market development subsidy of Rs 1,500 per tonne on compost generated from waste-to-compost plants has given a boost to its sales. In the past two years, sales have increased five times from 200,000 tonnes per annum to 1,311,000 tonnes per annum.
On the policy and regulatory front, there have been significant interventions in the past few years. The Central Public Works Department had issued guidelines on the reuse and recycling of construction and demolition (C&D) waste. The concerned sectors are stringently following these guidelines. Plastic waste is being used to construct roads and C&D waste is being utilised in the construction of buildings. This has significantly reduced the quantum of C&D waste lying in dump yards.
Waste management companies are being encouraged to use information technology-based solutions for efficient waste management. For instance, vehicle tracking systems are being deployed on garbage vehicles. Under this system, global positioning systems along with surveillance cameras are installed on vehicles for real-time monitoring. Smart bins deployed with sensors are also being placed across cities. These sensors sound an alarm and send signals remotely to the concerned authority when the bins are filled to the brim. This helps in timely clearance of garbage. Besides, the civic agencies are able to monitor the actual pick-up of waste from these geotagged bins. Further, surveillance cameras are fitted at collection points to monitor collection and transportation of waste through remote sensors.
In order to encourage cities to be a part of this initiative, various schemes and campaigns have been launched such as Swachh Survekshan (a ranking exercise taken up by the Government of India to assess rural and urban areas for their levels of cleanliness and active implementation of Swachhata mission initiatives in a timely and innovative manner). Recently, another protocol – Star Rating of Garbage-Free Cities – has been launched. Under the initiative, cities will be ranked on a 7-star rating system based on multiple cleanliness indicators for SWM. Some of these are door-to-door collection, bulk generator compliance, source segregation, sweeping, scientific processing of waste, scientific landfilling, plastic waste management, C&D management, dump remediation and citizen grievance redressal systems, among others. Based on these stars, cities can be compared each year.
Before the Swachh Bharat Mission reaches completion on October 2, 2019, the MoHUA has the clear objective of ensuring a 100 per cent clean India. For this objective to be met, there needs to be equal participation from all stakeholders, especially the public. Besides, successful models of cities like Ambikapur in Chhattisgarh have to be replicated across the country.
In Ambikapur there was concerted effort to attain zero waste levels. For this, training sessions were held for waste pickers, and awareness drives conducted to increase resident participation in segregating waste and using colour-coded dustbins for waste disposal type.
Despite several interventions, issues persist. We can see that some of waste management projects face hurdles in implementation. Most of the projects are not being taken up due to lack of financial closures. Companies are facing difficulties in arranging financing from financial institutions. To this end, the MoHUA has already written to the Ministry of Finance seeking assistance. We are hoping that funds sought for waste projects will be treated as private sector lending and a decision from the ministry is expected soon.
Ultimately, we are all working towards one common objective of generating energy from waste and ensuring 100 per cent sanitation across India through much better waste management infrastructure development in the country.