India’s march towards ‘Zero Waste’

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DR Ravi Gupta

The Father of the Nation Mahatama Gandhi had always dreamt of a clean and garbage-free India. However, our cities, covered with a smog blanket and lacking proper management of municipal waste, wastewater and proper sanitation present a different picture of urban India altogether.

With the heightened pace of urbanisation, not only does the pressure on civic resources surges but also leads to increased waste generation, vehicular emissions, industrial emissions, and other types of waste. This bane of urbanisation calls for upgradation of methodologies & processes of waste management by the municipal bodies to prevent deterioration of the urban environment and enhance the liveability of cities.

Following the footsteps of Bapu, the patron of “Swachh” India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Government of India launched Swachh Bharat Mission – Urban (SBM-U) on October 2, 2014, which brought a cleanliness revolution in the country. From the big names in Bollywood to NGOs and the PM himself took to the streets with a broom to kickstart the journey of cleaning India. In the next five to seven years, India witnessed a transformation in its sanitation systems, wastewater management, and solid waste management on a massive scale. On October 1, 2019, PM Modi launched Swachh Bharat Mission – Urban 2.0 after the massive success of its prequel.

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After looking at the number of toilets constructed (including community & individual toilets) to make the country open defecation free (ODF), the Swachh Bharat Mission was named the ‘world’s largest sanitation drive’. Also, as bringing a behavioural change among people and developing a mindset of making India ODF was one of the core agendas of the Mission, it was also named the ‘world’s largest behavioural change programme’ to stop open defecation. Apart from improving sanitation, the SBM-U played a key role in improving waste management by stressing door-to-door garbage collection, source segregation, and recycling. Also, the move gave a boost to startups, artisans and private companies who identified economic opportunities in utilising waste for energy production, craftwork, brick making, making roads, etc.

Besides municipal waste, air pollution is another big menace that plagues most metro cities and industrial towns in India. The national capital, Delhi can be a classic example that is seen gasping for breath in the month of November every year, especially after Diwali celebrations. The emissions from vehicles, industries, stubble burning, and of course the firecrackers for the Diwali celebration makes up most of Delhi’s pollution during this month. However, both the Centre and the Government of Delhi have been proactive in taking measures to mitigate the adverse impacts of pollution. The National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) is one such programme. It aims a targetted approach to cut down particulate matter 20 to 30 percent by 2024. Further, mandating the shift to BS- IV standards, promotion of EVs & CNG vehicles, well-connected network of Metro Rail, shifting industries to cleaner fuels, gas-based power generation, etc. are some more mitigation measures taken by the governments to curb the pollution woes in the capital.

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This issue of the eGov Magazine compiled in collaboration with the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) comprises articles and interviews of domain experts and members of academe with their invaluable viewpoints on achieving SDG target 11.6 that aims to reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality, municipal and other waste management by 2030.

We hope you enjoy reading the magazine!

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