Prevention better than cure for garbage in the cities

Dr. Parinita Kaur, Consultant, Internal Medicine
The most common sight in any large city, after the massive crowds, is the heaps of garbage lying on roadsides. It often gets the drains blocked and hence during rainy seasons, we see water logging all around. Apart from this, improper disposal of garbage on streets can result in breeding of mosquitoes, flies and other insects, leading to various vector borne diseases.

India produces about 1.5 lakh tonnes of waste everyday, not too much compared to global levels. What makes it hazardous is the fact that we are unable to segregate kitchen and recyclable waste. There is absence of marked garbage bins on streets. There is little mass education and awareness of benefits of cleanliness. There is no implementation of strict laws to deal with defaulters.

In India, most states’ municipalities are just dumping garbage in landfills, which are themselves almost always unscientifically developed and used in most careless manner.

Speaking to Drug Today Medical Times (DTMT), Dr Arun Sharma, Professor, Community Medicine, University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi, said, “The by-product of this untreated mess is pollution, groundwater pollution as well as air pollution. One fifth of India’s methane generation is just because of garbage.”

He said, “It is well recognized that untreated garbage gathers water which breeds dengue, chikungunia and other disease causing mosquitoes. Further, poisonous gases leaking from these garbage hills also cause breathing problems.”

Dr. Parinita Kaur, Consultant, Internal Medicine, Aakash Healthcare, says “Garbage is the term used for rubbish or waste, especially domestic refuse. The biggest problem that India faces is the non segregation of waste, despite regulations from the Government regarding proper waste disposal. Ideally, the kitchen waste and the recyclable waste should be disposed in separate bags or containers for effective waste handling and recycling. But this is not what is being followed.

She further said, “Apart from this, the waste from small scale Industries is also dumped on roadsides, open grounds or landfills. This can contain hazardous substances which can lead to contamination of soil and groundwater, as well as produce poisonous inhalational gases. The contaminated soil becomes infertile for vegetation to grow. On the other hand, the humans get exposed to contaminated groundwater by ingestion of plant or animal products exposed to such water. Such water is also unfit for drinking and bathing purposes. Also, it poses risk to the flora and fauna of the surroundings.”

Ashish Jain, the founder of Indian Pollution Control Association (IPCA) has  a mission of improving standards of living in India with a focus on solid waste management and rainwater harvesting. With as many as 100,000 homes sending garbage to IPCA for vermi-composting, and a daily growing roster of costumers, Jain’s creepy crawly subjects are always working over time.

In a sidelines of a recently held Air-o-Thon conference in New Delhi, he told DTMT, “50% of the generated garbage is fit for composting and 30% is recyclable; which means that only 20% should reach the landfill. Building new landfills are not the solution. Apart from the fact that they are dangerous and dumping garbage like in Ghazipur landfill site causes the leaching of dangerous chemicals into the soil, it would be unfair to citizens of that neighbourhood to export the city’s garbage to their locality.”

He argues, “Commitment and discipline from both the municipal corporations and the residents is needed to successfully implement segregation of waste at source to reduce the amount of garbage that arrives at landfills.”

He said, “What we always fail in doing, though, is to segregate garbage at our home between biodegradable and non biodegradable. We don’t throw garbage in designated spots or in designated bins, and we never say no to polythene bags. We also barely bat an eyelid before throwing fruits peel, or plastic bags on sides of roads, oblivious of the fact that these all contribute to the foul odour and unpleasant sight that we so hate.”

More than a year after the notification of the much-delayed Solid Waste Management Rules, cities and towns are in no position to comply with its stipulations, beginning with the segregation of different kinds of waste at source and their scientific processing.

Prashant Gargava, additional director, Central Pollution Control Board said there is a need for technical capacity-building for which state boards need training and which the pollution control board is eager to arrange.

On the lacunae the state boards are facing in implementing waste management rules, Gargava highlighted the need to meet manpower and fund requirements and technical capabilities.

"These are some of the shortcomings and we will resolve them. New rules have already come and in order to implement them, we need to educate the people," Gargava said.

We have decided we will identify the training needs of the states and organise a specific programme through our regional offices around the country," Gargava said.

Gargava further said, "We were told that many states have done a lot of work in terms of plastic waste management. A request was made to all the states to share their good practices with other states so they can follow the project."

He said a series of workshops will be organised to educate and make people aware of the new rules of waste management, mandates and responsibilities.

A new paradigm is needed, in which bulk waste generators take the lead and city managers show demonstrable change in the way it is processed.

Half-hearted efforts have been made to segregate waste at source and to create waste to energy plants within all landfills. There has been no real change in the way that many states including Delhi, Haryana and Punjab deal with the problem of waste management.

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