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Sustainability issues in Solid Waste Management

Solid Waste Management in India is still in its nascent stage. The regulatory mechanisms as devised by the Ministry of Environment and Forest in the year 2000, popularly known as MSW Rules 2000, have not been implemented fully by most of the urban bodies in the country. The reasons can be assigned to the lack of administrative and political will, lack of financial resources with municipal bodies, as well as lack of knowledge and expertise in the field.

N. Vittal, the former CVC, has quoted Prof. Lant Pritchett of the Harvard University in his ‘Mumbai Mirror’ (January 12, 2009) article – Prof. Lant Pritchett in a recent T.V. Programme while describing the state of governance in India has called India a ‘flailing state’.

On the one side, Prof. Pritchett concedes that India’s policy makers are among the best. They have the right concepts & goals and draw up impressive plans. However, when it comes to implementation, there is uniform failure. This observation of Prof. Lant Pritchett aptly describes the situation in the field of SWM in this country. The MSW 2000 Rules can easily be termed as one of the best framed rules at the international level. However, it is at the level of implementation that we have not succeeded so far.

It is not that urban bodies did not take up these rules seriously and started implementing the same. However, most of the projects, which were started with good intentions, have either been closed or are facing problems. A study carried out in India (UNDP, 19911) analysed 11 Mechanical Municipal compost plants constructed between 1975 to 1985 ranging from 150 to 250 tons refuse handling capacity per day. The study concluded that in 1991, only three were in operating condition and that these plants were operating at much lower capacities than their designed capacities. In the post-2000 scenario, some of the Municipal Corporations have also run into litigations with the operators who had promised free processing for the MSW and had drawn rosy pictures of implementation of MSW 2000 Rules to that urban local body. My personal research and discussions directly with so many Municipal Corporations have given me an interesting picture about the state of waste processing plants in different cities. A few are being quoted below:-

Delhi (Okla) Municipal Corporation:

It’s installed capacity is 300 TPD. However, it has been functioning with only 80 TPD capacity. Per day production of compost is 10 to 16 tons. MCD was unable to run the plant. Hence, it has been taken over by IL&FS and they are marketing compost through fertilizer firms like Coromandel, Zuari.

Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, Gujarat:

It had an installed capacity of 500 TPD. It was shut down one and half years back because there was no provision for tipping fee and no sanitary landfill for rejects. There was problem in marketing of compost.

Thane Municipal Corporation, Maharashtra:

The operator started processing with no cost to corporation on a 17 acre land in Kopri with installed capacity of 30 TPD. Present status – closed and went into arbitration. The Arbitrator decided against the Corporation. TMC owes around 18 crores today to the operator. The land is still in possession of the agency.

Kolhapur Municipal Corporation, Maharashtra:

The operator started with an installed capacity of 160 TPD. The agreement signed for 30 years. The agency was to pay 4.8 lakhs fixed annual payment to Kolhapur Municipal Corporation as royalty. Present status – Plant is closed because there was problem in compost sale and also there was no sanitary landfill. It was closed in 2003.

Kolkata Municipal Corporation, West Bengal:

The operator started with installed capacity of 700 TPD. Present status – closed. The Company never took more than 200 TPD of waste in reality. The land given to the Company is much more than required for composting. However, the Company has not been accepting 700 TPD mixed waste as per agreement and has only been accepting 200 or less TPD because of marketing problem of compost. In litigation, they are now demanding segregated market waste only.

Nashik Municipal Corporation, Maharashtra:

The installed capacity of composting plant is 300 TPD. This is being run by the Corporation itself and has been in operation since last six years. The Corporation spends 2.5 crores annually in running the compost plant whereas it gets revenue out of sale of 30 TPD of compost annually, which is around 60 lakhs. The officers agree that there is difficulty in running the plant. The Corporation has also developed a sanitary landfill of five hectares at a cost of 2.5 crores.

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