SDMC finally wakes up to the problem of unsegregated waste. Other urban local bodies must a take a cue.
The South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) has, for the first time ever, issued notices to households in parts of its jurisdiction, imposing fines on the latter for not segregating waste. This is the first time any of the Delhi’s urban local bodies has acted to enforce the segregation provisions under the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016. That fact, by itself, shines light on the sorry state of affairs in waste management in the national capital. The total solid waste generated in the country is estimated to increase from 64-72 million tonnes at present to 125 tonnes by 2031, and the majority of unsegregated waste lies dumped on open land sites that were designed to be landfills for the disposal of only residual waste. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation data shows that 56.3% of the city’s bulk waste generators are not segregating waste at source.
With municipal solid waste being dumped in the manner it is right now in most cities, organic waste rots anaerobically in landfills, generating methane, a deadly greenhouse gas. While the towering landfills’ size itself makes them death traps—two people were killed last year when a 15-storey high mound of garbage collapsed on them—the methane makes it a double whammy, fire risks shooting up. With waste segregation, both problems can be avoided. In fact, aerated bioremediation can happen at the site of waste segregation itself, saving on transport costs and giving biofertiliser in the bargain. Isher Judge Ahluwalia and Utkarsh Patel, in an ICRIER paper, cite the examples of cities like Gurugram, Faridabad, Nagpur and Suryapet in Andhra Pradesh where waste is treated in an environmentally sound manner and segregated at source. The SDMC’s step is one in the right direction, albeit late in the day. Other municipal corporations, and not just in Delhi, must follow suit. That change, though, requires a behavioural change, and per diem fines will hopefully nudge this change.