Five policy and programmatic pointers to take urban waste management to the next level
Moving ahead on the path of achieving clean cities, effective engagement with citizens and multi-tier capacity building need a push through program or policy elements. Decentralised waste processing and building human capital are required to be enunciated with more vigour. Incentivizing ULBs for waste reduction and thrust on time-bound bio-remediation of legacy waste are other elements need to be featured in the program, moreover, long-term actions on circular economy possess the key to the garbage free cities of future.
Under SBM (Urban), waste management in cities and towns have witnessed a rapid transformation. Significant improvements in the collection and processing of waste are perceptible. As per the SBM (Urban) dashboard, till January 2019, over 75,000 (89% of total wards) across the country got covered through 100% door to door collection. The garbage free cities star rating website is showing that 56 cities have been awarded star ratings of Garbage Free Cities with three cities getting a 5-star rating. Nonetheless, observations in three Indian cities (Ajmer, Jhansi and Muzaffarpur) suggest that to take urban solid waste management to the next level, significant transformation is desired in policy and program elements.
One-push on segregation-at-source through effective citizen engagement: Considering the role of segregation–at- source in a sustainable waste management system, there is an immense need to educate, motivate and mobilise citizens around segregation of waste. The responsibility towards waste needs to be realised by every citizen. The mobilization on segregation and processing of own waste is required to be addressed through a multi-tier approach which may include educating waste collectors, domestic workers, students and youth among others. The IEC strategy may be dovetailed in the guidelines highlighting a multi-tier education approach using demonstration and other participatory methods.
The mechanisms to monitor segregation- at -source and other initiatives should get a place in program/ mission design. The monitoring function can be effectively delivered through the organised and aware groups of citizens. Multi-stakeholder platforms like Citizen Forum on the lines of the ones created in three cities under EU supported ECRC program has the potential to change the way citizens look at the waste and deal with it. Similarly, volunteer groups like Settlement Improvement Committees (SIC) can play an important role in mobilizing youth and women for promoting segregating- at- source in informal settlements of the cities.
Two- waste processing through decentralised community driven systems: The SBM data of January 2019 shows the total waste processing at pan India level close to 51%, indicating a long way to go. Adopting decentralised processing of organic waste is the way forward to fill the gaps in a sustainable manner. The scale of decentralised systems should be such that they can be owned and operated by the communities (RWA’s, informal settlement residents, market associations, educational institutions etc.). Clear-Cut guidance on types and prioritisation approach on models should be provided under the programme. Few replicable models on decentralised composting (with modular options) having costing, revenues, land and human resource requirements need to be provided to ULBs for easy customization.
Three- Building human capital for effective waste management: the most critical elements of the waste management system are human resources. A dedicated sub-mission or mission element with funding provision is needed to professionalise the sanitation cadre and build capacities through skill training of sanitation workers in a time-bound manner. The elected representatives in cities and towns possess the huge potential of bridging the gap between service delivery executives and the people. The role of elected municipal representatives needs to be spelt out in the institutional and IEC parts of program design. The capacity of councillors should be built through especially designed orientation programs across cities.
Four- Incentivise ULBs for waste reduction and bio-remediation of old dump sites: Reflecting on the fundamental principle of 3R, the need for a greater shove on waste reduction by ULBs is critical which should be put forward piercingly as a program trust area. An incentive mechanism through program funding instruments will be helpful in encouraging ULBs in reducing waste reaching to landfill sites. The timelines should be fixed for ULBs as per their size class so that bio-remediation or scientific closure of a significant number (say 50% in next five years) of old dump sites can be completed in the next mission period. Ambikapur is one of the cities, which has shown the path for bio-remediation of legacy waste.
Five- Convergence required for the implementation of EPR and promoting a circular economy: The initiative of collecting plastic waste and recycling by Dabur was recently in the news. Now, it is the time to ensure enforcement of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). The program should provide for City governments’ role in monitoring EPR implementation provisioned in Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2018 complementing the efforts of the state pollution control boards. Such monitoring may be embedded into city-specific SWM bye-laws. Also, a mechanism to facilitate ULBs engaging with producers to effectively plan the collection systems are required to be built into the program elements. Lastly, a larger initiative on the circular economy may be institutionalised through MoC&I or state industry departments, provisions of this may be monitored through ULBs in future.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.