Indian Municipal Garbage: How to manage it?

In India, under the business as usual scenario, the total Municipal Solid Waste Management (MSW) generation within next five decades would multiply five times the present level of about 50 million tones per day.

In such a backdrop, issues ranging from centralized waste management, decentralized waste management, regional waste management, resource generation & recovery, sanitary landfill to carbon credits for MSW projects were debated at a National workshop on Municipal Solid Waste Management (MSW): Sharing of Experiences and Lessons Learnt during 13th –14th July, 2005.

The workshop was co-sponsored by Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO), Union Ministry of Urban Development & Poverty Alleviation USAEP, Water Sanitation Program (World Bank) and was held at India International Centre (IIC) Annexure, New Delhi. International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) and Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) also supported this workshop.

Finance and consultancy for waste management seemed to be the central theme of the workshop in the context of increasing population, consumerism, resource constraints and the directions from the Indian Supreme Court and the High Courts.

Perhaps taking note of the fact that the current waste management practices adversely affect human habitat, panelists like N C Vasuki, President of International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) and CEO, Delaware Solid Waste Authority, USA, P U Asnani, USAEP and others shared their wisdom on waste management.

Vasuki said India and China are biggest dioxins emitters. Therefore, before embarking on incinerator projects in India, there must be proper pollution control and regulation in place. He is an ardent advocate of thermal treatment process for waste management. He is known for misleading people with his talk of multiple benefits by using thermal technologies, which according to him leads to reduction in landfill volume, energy recovery by displacing fossil fuels, recovery of metals, and some reduction in global-warming gases. These claims of Vasuki are factually incorrect.

He refers to European waste policy as non-pragmatic and is generally dismissive about "Polluter Pays” principle. He makes fun of this policy, which makes the companies that manufacture, and sell products as the "polluters," not the "consumers" who purchase the products and the EU decree that polluters should pay to collect and recycle all the packaging materials. He feels something is wrong with EU system of thought insisting that placing organics in landfills was not acceptable and its Directive about landfilling of materials containing more than 5% carbon would not be allowed after 2005.
Vasuki will have the Indian policymakers and citizens believe that the American waste policy is more pragmatic and less dependent on Government.

Asnani who was introduced as the Patron, Municipal Solid Waste Association of India advocates pelletisation and seems convinced about its appropriateness. He has articulated his views on it at a seminar on "Urban Waste Management-Options for Future" which was organsied by Consultancy Development Centre (CDC) and Sycom Consultancy Services and sponsored by Thermax, Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources (MNES) and Global Trust Bank. Asnani is a member, Technology Advisory Group (TAG), Union Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India. He has divided the country into three parts for SWM solutions:-
1. Cities with population of 1 million-according to him, these can go for state of the art technology provided it is approved by the TAG
2. Corporations and municipalities with a population of 1/2 million and-these should go for simplest technology
3. Nagar Panchayats-these should go for simplest technology

At the HUDCO’s workshop on the 13th July, the session on “ Providing Nation-wide infrastructure for SWM” was chaired by Dr Indrani Chndrasekharan, Director, Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF). The panelists were P U Asnani, United States –Asia Environment Partnership (USAEP) {USAID}, Dr A B Akolkar, Additional Director, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and member, Supreme Court Committee on Waste to Energy, H Lanier Hickman, former Executive Director, Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), USA.

Hickman who is a long time advocate of waste to energy is the author of books like American Alchemy: The History of Solid Waste Management in the United States and Principles of Integrated Solid Waste Management. He said, “I do not agree with the statement that Indian waste is different. Trash everywhere is trash and if it can be managed at other places it can be managed here.” When it was pointed out to him that all the reports from government and the statistics about waste composition in India showed that Indian waste has low calorific value which led to the failure of the Timarpur waste to energy plant, he had no answers. Hickman suggested top-down public policy for waste management.

When the report “Resources up in Flames” of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), Washington was cited to respond to his support for incinerators, Hickman agreed that for last 15 years there has been no new incinerator in U.S but the old ones are functioning efficiently with pollution control equipments.

The session on “Initiatives in Indian Mega- Metro-cities” had panelists like Ravi Dass, Director in Chief, Conservation & Sanitation Engineering Department, Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), Subhash Chandra, special commissioner, Bangalore Mahanagar Palike, Anil Mukim, Municipal Commissioner, Ahmedabad, Pankaj Joshi, Municipal Commissioner, Surat, Vivek Agarwal, CDC, Jaipur and S Dasgupta, WSP.

Ravi Dass gave an outline of how waste is being managed in Delhi. He referred to privatization of collection & transportation for which agreement has been signed on 31st January 2005 with three companies for six out of the twelve zones of MCD. Quoting Delhi Waste Master Plan Report of 2004 he said, MCD has identified processing and treatment technologies for MSW such as composting, pelletisation & biomethanation. What he does not mention is that in the preparation of the Delhi Waste Master Plan Report, it did not consult any civil society group from India.

MCD has commissioned first two pilot facilities based on Methanation and RDF with daily capacities of 50 and 100 tonnes respectively through a renewed call for proposals from the private sector and rigorous scrutiny. MCD has signed agreement with IL&FS unmindful of the environment, health and safety of the residents of Delhi, which RDF technology will jeopardise.

MCD is either pretending ignorance about incinerators (including burning of RDF system) being net energy losers when the embodied energy of the materials burned is accounted for or it has been completely misled by some vested interests. MCD refuses to understand that recycling of waste materials saves three to five times the amount of energy, as incinerating these same materials would generate. For every ton of material destroyed by waste incineration, many more tons of raw materials must be mined, extracted, processed, or distributed to manufacture new products to take its place.

Several reports of the Government has sought exclusion of RDF, waste pelletisation and waste incineration from qualifying as renewable or sources of renewable energy, fuel, energy programs, and other related programs, regulations, legislation, and policies because of its contaminating effect. The reports of Planning Commission and Union Urban Development Ministry illustrate the need for non-burn technologies like composting given the fact that we are biomass deficit.

MCD has done well to revamp the operation of MCD composting plant in Okhla at a capacity of 200 tonnes per day (tpd). It is planning a new composting plant with a capacity of 600 tpd. Private operators are operating the Bhalaswa Compost plant at 500 tpd.

The operation of New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) compost plant is happening with 200 tpd after discussion with MCD and NDMC. A proposal to set up a compost plant in Okhla has been put forth to NMDC by the IL&FS. The project will be implemented through Public Private Partnership. The plant will solve NDMC's problem of cutting down the load from sanitary landfill sites. NDMC pays Rs 2 crore annually to use MCD's sanitary landfill sites for disposal of garbage in its area. MCD is providing financial and technical support for two local composting projects implemented by Resident Welfare Associations (RWA) and NGOs at neighborhood level.

Dass said, MCD is commissioning new sanitiary landfills at Jaithpur, Narela Bawana Road and Bhatti Mines on Design, Build and operate basis. MCD is working on the closure of existing three landfills and development of restoration projects.

Dass misled the workshop about MCD's proposal to build a landfill at Bhatti Mines by not informing that there is risk of contamination of water resources from leachate emissions. Also it lies in the vicinity of sensitive locations like Asola Wild Life sanctuary and two villages, Sanjay Nagr and Balbir Nagar.

Dass said, MCD has conducted workshops on segregation of waste. The fact is MCD has failed to encourage 'segregation at source' mandatory as per MSW Rules, 2000.

Dass claimed that MCD has taken initiatives to earn carbon credits through Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of Kyoto Protocol. It is dealing with Landfill Gas quantification from 3 landfill sites, the project note has been submitted to the World Bank and feasibility study funding approved with World Bank work started. MCD feels that trading of carbon credits would benefit approximately Rs 400 crores in next 20 years. The private sector can set up CDM capturing facilities.

What is astounding is the fact that the when world over use of incineration and combustion of RDF is discouraged due to its polluting nature, MCD is encouraging incineration technology. The claim of carbon credits is fraudulent because Waste Incineration is green house gas emitter as per Kyoto Protocol and therefore it cannot qualify as a CDM project.

Deepak Sanan of WSP chaired the session on “State Government Initiatives”, with panelists like A K Jain, IAS, All India Institute of Local Self Government (AIILSG), Ramkumar, Adviser (Environment and Energy), Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Finance Corporation (KUIDFC), Mahesh Singh, Joint Secretary, Urban Development, Gujarat Government.

On 14th July, D K Mittal, CEO, Special Infrastructure Projects, Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) and member, Supreme Court Committee on Waste to Energy with Dr A K Saxena, National Productivity Council as the co-chair, chaired the session on “Public-private Partnership and Business Opportunities”. The panelists were Anjan Das, Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) & S R Maley of Excel Industries.

T Prabhakaran, Director, Finance, HUDCO chaired the session on “Resource Generation and Financing”. The panelists were Dr. Vivek Kumar, The Energy Resources Institute (TERI), S.N. Jain of MGM International, S Mukherjee of Environment Information Centre and IL& FS Ecosmart India Limited.

The concluding us session was chaired by Dr Dilip Biswas, former chairperson, Central Pollution Control Board and Chairman, Supreme Court Committee on Waste to Energy. The panelists included A K Jain, AIILSG, Prof. Manoj Datta, N C Vasuki, Dr N B Majumdar, Dr A K Saxena, H Lanier Hickman and others.

A K Jain sought the attention of the participants towards the financial reforms underway for local bodies, which would provide fiscal power to them. Referring to examples from Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka, he stressed the need for minimization of waste, recycling of waste for employment generation, community contracting, micro-planning of the city and the division of the city between large waste generators and small waste generators. He called for use of CDM for composting.

Prof. Manoj Datta sought one week training at all levels from workers to officers on composting and waste to energy to ascertain whether it is possible with 40-45 % inert in the waste.

Majumadar referred to composting experiments in India since 1934. He stressed the need for quality assurance and grading of compost.

With regard to incinerators, one participant highlighted the inconsistency between different Union Ministries because Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources, MoEF and Ministry of Science and Technology promote it while Ministry of Commerce opposes its inclusion in the WTO list of Environmental Goods and Services.

It was pointed out to the workshop in the presence of the Chairman, Supreme Court Committee on Waste to Energy that D K Mittal is an interested party in the waste to energy project in Delhi therefore his membership to the Supreme Court Committee on Waste to Energy constituted by Union Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources (MNES) raises the issue of conflict of interest.

The statement of concern with regard to burn technologies was also made after Dr Biswas asked the workshop to be informed about the environment and health concerns emerging from it.

Dr Biswas acknowledged that AWM and DCSE has shared its concerns with him. He wondered as what comes first- the education or legislation- with regard to waste management. He underlined the need for a carrot and stick policy to deal with the problem.

There is no substitute to waste minimization, waste segregation; composting and recycling but mere lip service to these issues were deemed sufficient.

Sadly, these are not pondered over at such workshops with the seriousness they deserve.


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