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Northeast swamped by solid waste; can generate INR 812 crore from it, says expert

By Henlly Phom Odyuo Updated: May 28, 2022 9:44 pm
A file photo of garbage being strewn on Circular Road in Dimapur. (EM Images)

Our Reporter

Dimapur, May 28 (EMN): A number of north-eastern states have not seen local body elections for decades, while women are almost a non-entity in electoral politics and governance in the region. The absence of election deprives the states from finance commission grants and no real effort to make solid waste management (SWM) inclusive, enforce source segregation, segregated collection, waste appropriate treatment, recovery and recycling.

These are the key challenges of SWM in the region, said Municipal Solid Waste, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) Programme Director, Atin Biswas while addressing a webinar on “Solid Waste Management in India’s Northeast” organised by CSE on Saturday. The webinar was organised to help understand the key challenges and possible solutions, as well as reimagining the stories that can be written in Northeast.     

Biswas revealed that the total solid waste generation in the region is 3115.45 tonne per day (TPD) and key challenges in SWM are: terrain makes dumping easy, state capitals or bigger towns have total or partial collection and disposal system in place, solid waste management in town panchayats are either very limited or non-existent, and SWM in the region is perceived to be a service and not a source of revenue. 

He also pointed out that the capacity of urban local bodies / town panchayats to deal with municipal solid waste (MSW) is limited.

“Given the waste generation, the north-eastern states have the potential to generate INR 237 crore per year from compost, INR 573 crore per year from selling recyclable dry waste, INR 1.68 crore per year from user charges, penalties with an overall total generation of INR 812 crore per year,” maintained Biswas.

Solid Waste Management Programme Officer at the CSE, Dr. Richa Singh, revealed that Nagaland accounts for 91% of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) — dumped, land filled, and untreated –, making the state third highest in the Northeast region with Dimapur reported to be the major dumpsite.

Assam reported 96% of MSW and Meghalaya 92% as per the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) 2019-20 report.

Addressing the issue of “dumpsite remediation and sustainable landfill construction and operations,” Singh said that Assam has the highest number of dumpsites with 63, followed by Arunachal Pradesh at 27 and Nagaland 23, while Manipur has 21, Tripura 14, Meghalaya six, Sikkim two and Mizoram one (CPCB 2019-20 report).

However, she pointed out that it was debatable if the numbers of the other states with less percentage of MSW were genuine, as Mizoram reported only 11% of MSW and Tripura 33%.

According to Singh, environmental challenges, particularly for hilly regions, include dumpsite remediation by bio-mining, wherein the operation constitutes sale of Refuse Derived Fuel (RDFs), tie-ups with nearest cement plants, high transportation cost, difficulty in sale of inert fraction; another is in the infrastructural availability of space, availability of customised equipment and skilled manpower; while the last one is in the financial aspect as most of the bio-mining projects were under budgeted and the cost burden for transporting the soil and inert maybe INR 4000-5000/MT for 10-50 km, which may become exponentially higher than the cost for remediation itself.

The roadmap to a zero-landfill city, she said, should be through maximum utilisation of mined fraction without harming the environment, reclamation of maximum land and reuse, complete ban on land filling of wet waste and combustible waste is imposed as a legal mandate, scientific landfill to be used only for a negligible amount of residual wastes (rejects) and fresh wastes are not taken to the dumpsites.

The key to sustainable solid waste management in the region are legacy waste (old waste) dumpsite remediation, efficient treatment and recycling and sustainable landfill construction and operations for rejects only, it was informed.

MSW, CSE Programme Manager, Subhasish Parida, speaking on “key considerations to initiate circular economy in SWM”, observed that in the Northeast, there are limited door-to-door collections, almost negligible source segregation, extremely poor waste treatment/processing except for Mizoram while maximum waste gets dumped with unsustainable SWM system.

Among the north-eastern states, Mizoram fairs well with 80% of waste processing, followed by Tripura with 61%, Manipur 39%, and Sikkim 16.8%. The percentage of waste processing in Nagaland stands at 7%, Meghalaya at 6%, Assam 3%, and Arunachal Pradesh nil.

According to Parida, the way forward is organising rigorous information educational campaign, behavioural change campaign for source segregation, and capacity building for all stakeholders through training.

‘If they are not trained, the next process will be a waste,’ he maintained. He said that the stakeholder should ensure source segregation of waste by ensuring that every household is segregating their waste and to act as a monitor for SWM. 

The CSE reported that the Northeast is getting swamped by a mammoth mountain of solid waste, generating more than 3,100 metric tonne of waste every day, of which nearly 85% is dumped on land or in water bodies without processing and treatment.

Every city in the region is struggling to manage the solid waste it is generating, he added.

By Henlly Phom Odyuo Updated: May 28, 2022 9:44:37 pm