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Oct 16, 2012

Advice to Thiruvananthapuram might not help alleviate the city's looming solid waste crisis

The original post is on blog.wtert.org

This is a response to an article published by FirstPost.com with the title "Thiruvananthapuram sinks in its own waste as rulers look for shortcuts" on October 16, 2012.

Public protests - The Hindu
This critique is not about the conceptual or factual validity of the article but it is to distinguish between the short-term and long-term priorities and solutions for the city. In the absence of such a distinction, various stakeholders with the same goal of solving the crisis and with correct models will end up debating ideals and fighting within each other, finally doing no good to the city.

While depicting the situation as: 
When the residents of Vilappilsaala said "no more garbage" to their neighbourhood, the corporation, which is used to an archaic collect-transport-dump routine, didn’t know what to do. They just stopped garbage collection and it started piling up everywhere. The city is putrid today.
FirstPost suggests a 4-step approach (edited for brevity)
1. Ask the city residents to mandatorily separate waste at source. Once recyclables and organic matter are removed, only about 20 per cent needs to be dumped in a sanitary landfill. 
2. Once the source-segregation is made mandatory, the city corporation can collect both the recyclables door-to-door (women-run self help groups have been doing this). Engage scrap dealers to whom the materials can be sold.

3. The bio-degradable materials can be collected door-to-door and used in compost facilities at several locations in the city.

4. The remaining 20% of waste need to be disposed off in landfills.
Thiruvananthapuram - Deccan Chronicle
The 4-step advise can be followed if the City can get over the current crisis. For whatever reason, if it fails to do so, the crisis will continue like in Campania, Italy. In that case, Firstpost's advise will provide some relief but not real solutions. Therefore, it is irrelevant to the article's subject line. Let me explain how:
The subject line and the article speak about the imminent solid waste crisis in Thiruvananthapuram, but the solution suggested is not a process but a future state that should be achieved. To achieve such a state, the suggested components should evolve together with gradually increasing infrastructure, changing social habits and the city's institutional and financial abilities. Such a change cannot be brought in with sudden interventions in a short span of time.

Oct 3, 2012

Impacts of Improper Solid Waste Management and the Case of India

This post is an edited/updated version of Section 4 from Sustainable Solid Waste Management in India


1. Impacts of Improper Waste Management

2. The Case of India

1. Impacts of Improper Waste Management

Improper solid waste management deteriorates public health, degrades quality of life, and pollutes local air, water and land resources. It also causes global warming and climate change and impacts the entire planet. Improper waste management is also identified as a cause of 22 human diseases  and results in numerous premature deaths every year. 

Indiscriminate dumping of wastes and leachate from landfills contaminates surface and groundwater supplies and the surrounding land resources. It also clogs sewers and drains and leads to floods. Mumbai experienced a flood in 2006 which was partly due to clogged sewers. Insect and rodent vectors are attracted to MSW and can spread diseases such as cholera, dengue fever and plague. Using water polluted by solid waste for bathing, food irrigation, and as drinking water can also expose individuals to disease organisms and other contaminants . 

Surat City experienced a Bubonic Plague epidemic in 1994 due to improper SWM.  Improper SWM is also a reason for the recent (August - September, 2012) Dengue epidemic in Kolkata, which affected thousands and killed 25 people (as of September 12, 2012). Improper waste management was also the reason for the large scale public protests in Vilappilsala (near Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala) and Mavallipura (in Bengaluru, Karnataka). These protests were the result of long term health effects experienced by residents living around overflowing landfills.

Open burning of MSW on streets and at landfills, along with landfill fires emit 22,000 tons of pollutants into the lower atmosphere of Mumbai city, every year. The pollutants identified in Mumbai due to uncontrolled burning of wastes are carbon monoxide (CO), carcinogenic hydro carbons (HC) (includes dioxins and furans), particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) . (Keep looking out for the next post for more figures and some charts on air pollution due to waste management).

MSW dumped in landfills also generates green house gases like...

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CH4 Methane
Carbon Dioxide
Government of India
INR Indian Rupee
JnNURM Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission
LFG Landfill Gas
Mechanical Biological Treatment
MSW Municipal Solid Waste
NEERI National Environmental Engineering Research Institute
Refuse Derived Fuel
SLF Sanitary Landfill
SWM Solid Waste Management
USD United States Dollar
WPs Waste Pickers
WTE Waste-to-Energy
WTERT Waste-to-Energy Research and Technology Council