The National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) has been valued as a key partner organisation for various capacity building initiatives that are part of the flagship urban development programmes of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), Government of India like the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Smart Cities Mission (SCM) and the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban). Through this article, Hitesh Vaidya, Director, NIUA and Paramita Datta Dey, Head, Resources and Waste, NIUA, share their experiences and insights from one such vibrant programme, the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban).
Launched on October 2, 2014, the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) or SBM (U) is one of the most ambitious initiatives undertaken by the Government of India. The mission had the twin objectives of making urban India open defecation-free along with 100 percent scientific management of solid waste. To achieve this, it was important to build the capacity and knowledge of the municipal officials, who had the challenging task of implementing and ensuring the guidelines stated in the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016.
On behalf of MoHUA, NIUA was entrusted with the task of organising training and exposure workshops for the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) from 2016 up to 2020. In these five years, the institute conducted 154 workshops spread across 58 locations in India that witnessed the participation of 6160 officials and elected representatives from 3221 Urban Local Bodies.
This programme was designed keeping in view the needs of the participants. Hence a variety of features were incorporated which eventually led to its popularity. These include providing on-ground exposure, enabling cross-learning efforts, workshops designed for smaller cities and towns, incorporation and use of sustainable and green products, and a focus on convergence. This consistent plan helped build an effective and easily replicable model. To begin with, the institute conducted Training of Trainer Workshops and partnered with experts and organisations that had a rich knowledge of the subject as well as local conditions. This enabled the effective dissemination of knowledge.
Each three-day workshop began with the orientation of the participants regarding policies, practices and technologies for effective management of solid waste management, wastewater and Fecal Sludge and Septage Management (FSSM) on the first day. The second day was exclusively reserved for field visits for the demonstration of centralised and decentralised waste management technologies. These sites were carefully chosen to highlight innovative and good practices being implemented across the nation for uptake by other ULBs of the cluster. These sites were chosen from 58 cities across India and included visits to the landfill sites, Waste to Energy Plants, Construction and Demolition Waste Recycling Plants, decentralised wet waste composting sites, Material Recovery Facilities (MRF), bio- methanation plants, Fecal Sludge Treatment Plants (FSTP) and Solid and Liquid Resource Management (SLRM) Centre. Visits were also organised to Integrated Waste Management Facilities to show how a combination of technologies can work when bundled together.
The last day began with a summary of what was communicated during the previous two days. This recapitulation was done through group activities and a quiz to test how much knowledge the participants were able to assimilate during the course of training and the field visits. One of the most pivotal sessions of the closing day focused on developing a financially viable and sustainable waste management plan for the cities. It concluded with a presentation by the participants on the business models they came up with. It was followed up by feedback and impact assessment. These assessments done at the individual and group level helped in comparing the knowledge pre and post-workshop and if the participants’ perspectives had widened and myths dispelled. The pre and post-workshop assessments were mapped through a survey in the last lap. The feedback indicates an improvement of nearly 12 per cent in the understanding and knowledge of the participants. To practice what was preached, care was taken to ensure that these were green events that included the workshop kits comprising metal or glass water bottles, notepads made of recycled paper, and token prizes and mementoes made up of upcycled materials.
As an outcome of this journey and with an overall purpose to disseminate the takeaways and experiences with a wider audience keen on working towards sustainable waste management, NIUA has produced a series of knowledge products and compendiums. These documents are a compilation of the various waste management practices and innovative approaches undertaken and initiated across the nation. It provides information on cities that have shown commendable efforts in solid waste management practices. Additionally, keeping in view the appetite and ease of learning, the team developed a portal collating the information and data gathered across various cities over the past five years. The portal is an interactive GIS platform that provides the user with an opportunity to traverse through the journey of several sustainable and innovative practices adopted across Indian cities. Through the click of a button, one can browse through the entire value chain of waste management beginning from the collection, transportation, processing, treatment and disposal, across cities classified into different population sizes and characteristics (like tourist cities, capital and administrative cities, industrial and commercial cities and trailblazers). The impact of the project has been far- reaching across the country and the same is showcased through the ‘impact stories’ and ‘feedback’ from participants.
The achievements of these workshops have been due to the comprehensive and inclusive format of the workshop. The workshops provided a holistic opportunity for cross-learning. We present some of the key takeaways:
The twinning of cities: Going forward, the various annual “Swachh Survekshans” or National Cleanliness Surveys have been collating information and awarding well-performing cities. Those that have achieved considerable success at scale can be the mentors and thus help a recipient city (mentee) or a small cluster of cities to imbibe lessons and hand-hold to implement good practices.
Cross learning among cities: Cities can be clubbed and dedicated workshops can be designed for cities with similar challenges and opportunities (e.g. those located in hilly areas, coastal areas or famous as religious or pilgrim towns).
Upscale the workshops for elected representatives: Based on the good response received from the workshops conducted for elected representatives, it is worthwhile to scale it up for all elected representatives in the country.
Workshops for targeted groups of stakeholders: Our experience has shown that there is a need to conduct workshops for some target groups like ground functionaries (Swachh Mitras and Safai Mitras) and Bulk Waste Generators (e.g. RWAs, Educational institutes, office complexes, hotels, etc.). Workshops for Safai Mitras have already been initiated for those ULBs that have participated in the ‘Safai Mitra Suraksha Challenge’ (the challenge for ‘Machine Hole to Man Hole’).
Link waste management with the creation of green jobs and a circular economy: The concept of circularity in waste management holds a lot of promise when promoted through the use of biodegradable, upcycled and recycled products. This will also facilitate the skill development of marginalised groups in the preparation of such products and add to a reduction in GHG emissions, thereby aiding in the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 11.6.
Periodic ‘Swachh Melas’ or Fairs can act as marketplaces for the exhibition of innovative, affordable and home- grown technologies and products in waste management along with the display and sale of biodegradable, up-cycled and recycled products.
The conduct of an SBM Fellowship Programme can give students and youth the much-needed exposure to understand ground realities by working with institutions and stakeholders in this sector (e.g. working with ULBs).
Thesis competitions on waste management and circularity will be a good channel to enrich the sector with fresh and innovative ideas from young minds.
Creation of a National Waste Management Alliance: The empanelment of training institutes, agencies and experts will make collaborations faster to achieve outcomes. This has been incorporated in the guidelines of SBM 2.0 and efforts on creating dedicated ‘Centres of Excellence’ has been initiated.
Establishing Learning Platforms: Development of curriculum, e-modules, learning and gamification apps, online and face-to-face training and site visits, customized courses linked to citywide projects, certified courses endorsed by MoHUA and NIUA linked to ‘Swachh Survekshan’ or the annual cleanliness surveys and related protocols, are imperative. Much of this is being taken up as part of the National Urban Learning Platform of MoHUA and NIUA.