India Waging A War Against Waste

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Waste Management

Urbanisation has brought multifaceted challenges to the nation related to environment due to growing population, economic activities, industrialisation and changing lifestyles. Today, managing waste is a major concern, which has led cities and towns to deal with piles of garbage left in the open, write T Radhakrishna and Sudheer Goutham of Elets News Network (ENN).

The nation is not only managing waste due its day-today activities (municipal), but it is also forced to manage throw away from various industries located in the peripheral areas of urban settlements. The disposal is both hazardous and non-hazardous. Some of it is bio-medical while the remaining is from recent advances in the electronic and IT-related sectors.

There is a need to relook into the present systems of waste management in the country, as poor management of waste has direct implications on environment, leading to air, water, and soil pollution. It also has long-term health impact and indirect implications for the economy and growth prospects.

“Urban local bodies in India are trying to provide efficient waste management services in their jurisdictions respectively,” said Yalamanchili Satyanarayana Chowdary, Minister of State for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, Government of India, recently.

Urban Growth

India is home to over 1.21 billion people, as per 2011 census, and the population has increased by almost 181.5 million since the last decade. The population growth in India has been high. It grew by 22% during 1991–2001 and 18% in the last decade. The economy of the Indian sub-continent has also resulted in a rapid change in the demographics of the country from a rural to an urban society with a fast pace of urbanisation. Due to this an estimated 600 million Indians will start living in urban areas by 2031.

Today, India generates over 1,00,000 metric tonnes (MT) of solid waste each day and it is increasing. Large metropolis such as Mumbai and Delhi generate around 9,000 metric tonnes and 8,300 metric tonnes of waste per day, respectively. Metros such as Bengaluru and Hyderabad are focusing on finding suitable solutions to minimise waste by managing it.

Waste Management

Waste management (WM) is all about the activities and actions required to manage waste from its inception to final disposal. This includes amongst other things: collection, transportation, treatment and disposal of waste together with monitoring and regulation. It also encompasses legal and regulatory framework that relates to WM encompassing guidance on recycling.

The term normally relates to all kinds of waste, whether generated during the extraction of raw materials, the processing of raw materials into intermediate and final products, the consumption of final products, or other human activities, including municipal (residential, institutional, commercial), agricultural, and social (healthcare, household hazardous waste, sewage sludge). WM is intended to reduce adverse effects of waste on health, the environment or aesthetics. WM practices aren’t uniform among countries (developed and developing nations); regions (urban and rural area), and sectors (residential and industrial).

Key Stakeholders

The management of solid waste through collection, processing, transportation and disposal in India is with the urban local bodies (ULBs). ULBs are responsible for segregated waste collection, transporting waste in covered vehicle, processing, recyclables, separating domestic hazardous waste and disposing inert material in sanitary landfills.

According to the Constitution of India, the responsibility for solid waste management is under the purview of the State government and the urban local bodies (ULBs). MSWM is governed by the Municipal Solid Waste Management and Handling Rules, 2016.

The rules designate ULBs as solely responsible to manage solid waste in their area and direct that ULBS be responsible for the management of municipal solid waste within their territorial area and be responsible for the implementation of the provisions of these rules, and for any infrastructure development for collection, storage, segregation, transportation, processing and disposal of municipal solid wastes.

However, the Government of India, State governments and various institutions in the country, including the Planning Commission and the National Institute of Urban Affairs, have brought the requisite knowledge and advocacy to deal with this subject.

Currently, waste management is one of the pressing issues that the Government of India is dealing with under its flagship programmes such as the Smart City Mission and the Swachh Bharat Mission. Currently, the waste management issue has been taken up through serious involvement of various ministries and institutions.

Telangana: Swachh Bharat Movement

The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) is toying with the idea of mandating a vermicompost unit in every hotel, function hall, big apartments and gated communities. The idea behind the proposal is not only to reduce environmental pollution but also promote usage of manure at households, said Bonthu Rammohan, the Mayor of GHMC.

At least 4,500 metric tonnes of garbage is being generated every day in the GHMC limits of which over 1,000 metric tonne waste is being segregated as dry and wet separately. The GHMC is one of the few municipal corporations in the country that has provided a two-bin system to its households for segregation of dry and wet waste.

In all, 44 lakh bins were provided. Now, the Centre has instructed all the 4,041 municipalities in the country to implement the two-bin system as is being done by the GHMC.

Private corporates such as Godrej and ITC as well as non-governmental organisations and self help groups (SHG) have been working to generate public awareness among people on waste segregation. The GHMC has provided 50 Dry Resource Centres for segregation purpose.

“The cost of a vermicompost unit is around Rs 2.5 lakh for a 50 kg unit being used by hotels. The Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), which provided the technology, has been asked to come up with small units of capacities ranging from 5kg, 10kg and 20 kg for households at lesser prices. The vermicompost units would not only help the corporation to reduce the cost of transportation of waste, but will also generate bio-gas and manure,” said the Mayor.

Dr B Janardhan Reddy, Commissioner, GHMC, said the management of hotels and function halls were asked to initiate in-situ composting, biomethanisation or any other waste management techniques as mandated in the MSW Rules, 2016 to intensify the Swachh Bharat movement.

The GHMC had initiated a number of awareness programmes at the household- level, shops and establishments, hotels and function halls so as to ensure waste disposal is followed as per Municipal Solid Waste, 2016. The corporation had also asked hotels, function halls to file a self declaration on in-situ composting. The self declaration form for hotels and function halls is available in all circle offices and on GHMC website www.


The Municipal Solid Waste Management (MSWM) is governed by the Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 (MSWM Rules, 2016), which designates ULBs as the legal entity to manage waste in its jurisdictions. According to ASSOCHAM-PwC report: “Waste Management in India – Shifting Gears”.

Following are major concerns in the MSWM.

  • The regulatory framework for the sector has not been equipped with necessary clauses for its effective implementation, like financial implications for non-compliance of the rules by a ULB. Though such clauses are still missing from the MSWM Rules, 2016, the recent updates have been encouraging with clauses to support the sale of compost and RDF, and purchase of power from waste to energy plants.
  • The MSWM Rules, 2016, provide clear guidance for treatment of waste using technologies based on biological treatment of waste (e.g. composting); however, they fail to provide a clear course of action on some of the latest technologies such as pyrolysis, gasification, and waste to fuel oil. They also provide limited directives towards the implementation of mass burning or incineration.
  • Challenges are faced to devise collection of revenues from User Charge collection as several ULBs don’t have By-laws to execute them.
  • The waste to energy sector remained stagnant in the last decade, as during the hearing held on 15 May, 2007 on the matter relating to the stay on government subsidies for projects on recovery of energy from municipal solid waste, the Supreme Court has permitted the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy to go ahead with setting up of five waste-to-energy projects to study the viability of such projects.
  • The Supreme Court also directed that no projects for waste-to-energy be taken up till 5 pilot projects are completed. Besides, the sector also remained deprived of the necessary support with respect to the regulatory clarity regarding various applicable norms, viz. performance parameter and cost norms are yet to be established.
  • Even the CERC Renewable Energy (RE) Tariff regulations entail project specific tariff determination. The regulatory process for project specific tariff is time consuming and cumbersome. Also, it will yield tariff outcome which would only be applicable for that specific project case and cannot be taken as generic tariff order for guidance for all other MSWM projects.

Waste Categories

The solid waste management sector is defined by following kinds of waste based on their types and sources of generation. The waste types are governed by various rules laid down by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India:
Municipal Solid Waste
  • Commercial and Residential Wastes generated in a municipal or notified areas, excluding industrial hazardous wastes but including treated bio-medical waste.
  • Governed by the Municipal Solid Waste Management and Handing Rules, 2016
Industrial Waste
  • Attributes to waste material produced during the industrial activity. Can be Hazardous as well Non-Hazardous in nature.
  • Governed by various rulesl based on the type of waste.
Hazardous Waste
  • Waste either generated from residential, commercial or industrial activity. Attributed to its qualities – ignitability, corrosively, reactivity, toxicity.
  • Governed by the Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016.
Bio-medical Waste
  • Any waste which is generated during the diagnosis treatment or immunisation of human beings or animals or in research activities pertaining thereto or in the production or testing of biologicals.
  • Governed by the Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016.
Plastic Waste
  • Waste generated from indiscriminate use and disposal of plastic in to the physical environment leading to water, soil and air pollution
  • Governed by the Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016
  • e-waste means electric and electronic equipment, whole or in part discarded as waste by the consumer or bulk consumer as well as rejects from manufacturing, refurbishment and repair processes.
  • Governed by the E-waste (Management), Rules 2016.


Reports say, Indian mixed waste poses a serious challenge to economically treat and dispose the waste in an environmentally acceptable manner. The treatment technologies, available thus, require a great deal of mechanical separation using sets of trommels/ screens/air density separators or in some cases through manual separation (in small plants only). Mechanical separation adds to the project, and hence cost per tonne of handling waste. The technology options for waste to energy is not yet established and there is a lot of uncertainty with the implementing agencies about the suitability of the technologies, as well as preparedness of the ULBs to manage these projects.

Opportunities for Private Players

Opportunities are many for private players in waste management. Those, who have best practices, innovations and technologies, have better advantage.

In his recent column, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates wrote: “The hard work is paying off. By aiming high, the people of India are demanding change, and they are taking action to make it happen. It is a great example for other countries and an inspiration for all of us who believe everyone deserves a chance at a healthy, productive life.”

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