Solid Waste Management : Issues & Challenges
Solid waste management is fast becoming a nightmare for citizens and local authorities in cities across India. Homes, commercial establishments, hospitals, industries and construction sites are estimated to generate a total of 10,000 MT of waste per day in the country. Even as the warning alarm regarding proper management of waste has been sounded across India, the problem seems to be particularly exacerbated in Kerala. Unofficial estimates indicate that Kerala generates 6000 ton of waste every day. However, local issues and sentiments have prevented even the collection of solid waste. The end result is that the stunning Kerala landscape has been converted into a stinking, garbage strewn one.
Reasons for Rise in Waste Generation in Kerala
(i) Increasing urbanisation: The Census 2011 figures indicate that 47.7 percent of Kerala is urbanised. This is on par with global figures. The trend of urbanisation in the state is also different from that in the rest of the country. There is an urban-rural continuum with even the rural areas displaying distinct urban characteristics like high population densities and composite primary and tertiary occupation structures. The higher the urban population, the greater the amount of wastes that are generated. In their study, `What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management’, authors Daniel Hoornweg and Perinaz Bhada-Tata state that the world’s urban residents are producing significantly more waste than they were just 10 years ago. By 2025, the report anticipates that the world’s urban population will be producing 2.2 billion tons per year. Given the global experience, the rise in Kerala’s urbanised population can be expected to give rise to greater waste generation.
(ii) Changing Lifestyles: Rising disposable incomes have led to a change in values. The use-and-throw culture is now more pronounced. There is also the insidious presence of plastic in our lives. It’s not just plastic bags that are the problem. Food, water, phones, computers – almost everything we use in our daily lives uses plastic in some form or the other. This just increases the problems of disposal, as the current composting and recycling rates in India are hardly encouraging.
(iii) Rise in Tourism: While tourism is a major revenue earner for Kerala, there is a serious flip side too. The United Nations Environment Programme states, “In areas with high concentrations of tourist activities and appealing natural attractions, waste disposal is a serious problem and improper disposal can be a major despoiler of the natural environment – rivers, scenic areas, and roadsides. Solid waste and littering can degrade the physical appearance of the water and shoreline and cause the death of marine animals.” The Kerala government has been taking steps to address this issue with its Kerala – Waste Free Destination Campaign. However, much more needs to be done to educate both the tourists as well as the tourism industry.
The Solutions to Kerala’s Waste Crisis
Education can play a major role in helping to deal with the solid waste management crisis. In addition, the government should encourage the setting up waste disposal units at the household level via composting/vermiculture or the installation of biogas units. The participation of NGOs and community organisations is critical for the success of such programmes. Open dumping grounds have far reaching environmental and health consequences. Local citizens should therefore be made aware of the need for integrated waste management which includes waste processing and treatment.