With Urban India alone generating a gigantic 1.5 lakh metric tonnes per day of Municipal Solid Waste, waste management has grown to become a huge burden in urban India. Despite the existence of strong laws — Solid Waste Management (SWM) Rules, 2016 and Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 — cities are stuck at the implementation level.
Reliable, useful journalism needs your support.
Over 600 readers have donated over the years, to make articles like this one possible. We need your support to help Citizen Matters sustain and grow. Please do contribute today. Donate now
Now, a new report shows that while smaller cities have done a good job of complying with the major clauses of key environmental legislation, larger cities including Bengaluru and New Delhi are yet to satisfy the basic mandate of waste management: source segregation, or in more elaborate terms, segregation of different types of waste at the point at which they are generated.
A detailed assessment by the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Technology (CSE) of 20 Indian cities, which are part of the Forum of Cities that Segregate (see box below), reveals that smaller cities such as Vengurla and Panchgani in Maharashtra, and a few mid-level cities such as Alappuzha and Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala have been the most consistent and successful in dealing with waste in eco-friendly ways.
|CSE Launched the ‘Forum of Cities that Segregate‘ on December 12 2017, in order to push cities to adopt an effective waste management system.
The key objectives of the forum include developing a knowledge exchange platform for participating cities on solid waste management, training and capacity building on source segregation model, tracking and assessing the progress of cities and documentation of best practices.
The cities that are part of the Forum are:
Based on the provisions of SWM rules, CSE included 13 parameters for the assessment of these cities, including segregation at source, collection, transportation, waste processing, adoption of decentralised systems and the inclusion of the informal sector.
Getting the basics right
One of the key aspects of waste management is segregation at source. Waste should be segregated into three types – wet waste, recyclable waste and rejected waste.
Unfortunately, only four out of the 20 forum cities assessed in 2017-18 have a segregation rate of higher than 90 per cent — Indore in Madhya Pradesh, Panchgani and Vengurla in Maharashtra and Alappuzha in Kerala.
In contrast, bigger cities such as East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC), South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), Patna, Gaya, Imphal and Gurugram have segregation levels below 33 per cent.
It may be noted that Alappuzha municipality is among the earliest cities to have started pushing for source segregation since 2013.
|>90 %||Indore, Panchgani, Alappuzha, Vengurla|
|75-90%||Thiruvananthapuram, Muzaffarpur, Mysuru, Gangtok|
|50-75%||Bhopal, Bengaluru, Bobbili, Vaijapur|
|33-50%||Greater Hyderabad, Balaghat|
|<33%||SDMC, EDMC, Patna, Gaya, Imphal, Gurugram|
Read more on waste management in Alappuzha and Indore here.
A majority of the cities, have deployed casual workers for door-to-door collection of garbage (including non segregated) and transported it to the landfills. While cities such as Indore, Bhopal, SDMC, EDMC, Mysuru and Bobbili have compartmentalised GPS tagged vehicles for transportation, bigger cities such as Patna, Gaya, Bengaluru, Gangtok, Gurugram and Balaghat need to further invest in efficient transportation systems.
|>90 %||Indore, Panchgani, Alappuzha, Bhopal, Greater Hyder- abad, SDMC, EDMC, Thiruvananthapuram, Mysuru, Imphal, Bobbili, Vengurla|
|75-90%||Bengaluru, Patna, Gaya, Gangtok, Gurugram, Balaghat|
Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 emphasises decentralised waste processing, which means treating waste within the locality, preventing transportation to dumpyards. Thiruvananthapuram and Alappuzha have followed the rule book, as more than 50 per cent of households in the former compost waste at source.
In Alappuzha, the Municipal Council has been providing subsidies on technologies for installation of plants in households. Basic aerobic technologies such as Matka (pot), pit and pipe composting as well as potable biogas plants are promoted.
Improve waste processing
While wet waste can be processed by composting, to reduce the burden on the ever-mounting landfills, dry waste should be recycled. Indian cities, with an exception of a few, are yet to channelise the procedure.
|Wet waste processing||Cities|
|>90 %||Indore, Mysuru, Alappuzha, Panchgani, Balaghat, Vengurla|
|75-90%||Bengaluru, Greater Hyderabad, Thiruvananthapuram,Bobbili|
|50-75%||Bhopal, SDMC, EDMC, Vaijapur|
|<33%||Muzaffarpur, Patna, Gaya, Gurugram|
Indore leads the way in wet waste processing, as the idea of treating it at source is promoted by the civic body. In this commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh, composters have been installed in markets to treat wet waste. Besides Indore, Mysuru, Alappuzha, Panchgani, Balaghat and Vengurla have taken the SWM rules seriously to treat wet waste. Wet waste processing happens at the seven operational zero waste management units in Mysuru. In Alappuzha, the majority of wet waste processing is done in-situ.
Only four cities in the Forum have 90 per cent or higher dry waste processing — Panchgani, Vengurla, Indore, and Alappuzha. Dry waste is categorised into recyclables and non recyclables. It is sent to the processing units for shredding and reusing.
“Many forum cities have a mechanism for dry waste channelisation and processing, however, the scale is very small. This needs to be further up-scaled in a majority of the forum cities,” stated the CSE’s report.
|Dry waste processing||Cities|
|>90 %||Indore, Alappuzha, Panchgani, Vengurla|
|50-75%||Mysuru, SDMC, Imphal, Gangtok, Balaghat, Bhopal|
|<33%||Bengaluru, Muzaffarpur, Patna, Gaya, Gurugram, Greater Hyderabad|
E-waste management takes a backseat
Indore is the only forum city that has set up an efficient system for collection and processing of electronic waste, construction and demolition (C&D) waste and bio-medical waste. India is among the world’s largest consumer of mobile phones with 1.5 million tonnes of e-waste generated in 2015, mentioned a report in The Hindu.
The pace at which Indian cities are embracing e-waste management is certainly not enough to deal with the mountains of such waste generated. While e-waste collection occurs in cities such as Indore, Alappuzha, Bhopal, Bengaluru, Mysuru, Gangtok, Gurugram and Balaghat, there are no comprehensive methods followed to process it, as per the E-waste (Management) Rules, 2016.
|Common Bio-medical Waste Treatment Facility
|Indore, Alappuzha, Bhopal, Bengaluru, Greater Hyderabad, Panchgani, SDMC, Muzaffarpur, Thiruvananthapuram, My- suru, Patna, Gaya, Gangtok, Gurugram, Vengurla, Vaijapur|
|C&D processing||Indore, SDMC, EDMC|
|E-waste collection||Indore, Alappuzha, Bhopal, Bengaluru, Mysuru, Gangtok, Gurugram, Balaghat|
|Alappuzha, Panchgani, Muzaffarpur, Thiruvananthapuram,Mysuru, Balaghat|
Non compliance with SWM Rules
While civic bodies in most forum cities give protecting gear to the casual labourers at various stages of the waste management cycle, additional health assurances were unfulfilled.
“As per SWM Rules, 2016, municipalities need to formalize the informal sector and issue identity cards to them. They should be incentivized to sell dry recyclable waste. Considering their occupational health risks, workers also have to be provided personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as health facilities, including health insurance,” the report points out.
According to the assessment, the informal sector was issued ID cards and the right to sell dry waste in a majority of cities. “But, cities have done poorly on protecting the health of these workers. PPE has been provided by many cities, but health check-up, health facility and insurance are missing,” the report pointed out.
In summary, while a few Indian cities are slowly taking the path to waste management methods, the fact that a majority of them face hiccups cannot be overlooked. However, waste is everyone’s responsibility, and every individual or organisation has to look inward instead of blaming the civic bodies alone.
The final analysis
Cities have been awarded the green leaves award by CSE based on the percentage of marks obtained in the waste management assessment. To reflect the size of cities and the scale of the Solid Waste Management systems, the assessment has been done separately for cities of different sizes.
The Forum cities were divided into three categories: Cities with a population of more than 1 million, cities with a population between 0.1 – 1.0 million and cities with less than 0.1 million population.
Cities that performed the best were given the five leaves award. The top six cities (five and four leaf award recipients) according to this assessment are as in the table below:
|City||Population||No of leaves|
|Thiruvananthapuram||0.1 – 1million||Four|
|Alapuzzha||0.1 – 1 million||Four|