Urbanization : 

Waste Management & Bioremediation 

Waste management problem in delhi 

Ghazipur garbage mountain is already nearly as tall as the Qutub Minar, as the Supreme Court caustically observed recently 

Garbage problem set to rise 

  • The impasse in Delhi is a reflection of India’s troubling relationship with waste 
  • India’s cities already generate over 150,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste every day, with Mumbai being the world’s fifth most wasteful city 
  • The waste heaps that dot the edges of India’s cities are set to double in size by 2025 
  • Only one-third of the waste undergoes even rudimentary treatment, according to the urban ministry and hardly any of it is segregated, which would make processing easier 
  • As India’s economic growth accelerates, the garbage problem would only get bigger, unless immediate solutions are found to delink growth from garbage generation 

How India plans to deal with the waste? 

  • The only big national idea on offer has been to incinerate or burn the garbage.  
  • That is what the NITI Aayog had proposed in its medium-term three-year vision for the country, which was released in August 2017 
  • By burning the waste, a small amount of energy could also be produced, at least in theory 
  • Currently, about 3% of urban India’s daily garbage output gets fed into waste-to-energy incinerators 
  • A minuscule amount of energy is generated, but there has been very little debate on whether incinerators work in the Indian context 

Problems with incineration 

  • Unlike the Western world, a large chunk of India’s waste is still organic kitchen waste—almost 40% of the total volume 
  • Since segregation of waste is yet to become a reality, incineration is a highly inefficient solution 
  • In the Indian context, there is also very little certainty on whether the harmful gases, which are a byproduct of incineration, are adequately contained and treated 

Using bioremediation 

  • Apart from incineration, the other big idea that several cities have tried is bioremediation, which effectively involves the use of living micro-organisms to degrade the contaminants in a landfill into less toxic forms 
  • While the technology is somewhat effective in dealing with existing landfills, in an ideal future, the waste processing chain should abolish the need for a landfill to begin with 
  • Various Indian cities have set on aim to build a “zero landfill” city Ex Alappuzha & Mysore 
  • Segregation and composting are a big part of the mix of solutions that are being implemented 
  • Their experience in inducing collective action among ordinary citizens to segregate waste may hold important lessons for India’s large cities 

Way forward 

  • Global examples show that the national mood changes under the influence of an adequate trigger, which makes a radical change in collective behaviour possible 
  • When PM Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Mission, the hope was that it would serve as India’s trigger. Four years down the line, nothing much has changed 
  • Indians should start demanding clean and healthy cities as a basic right and governments must step up and deliver that basic human need 
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