Assam Chief Minister releases CSE's new book on solid waste management in Indian cities

Aizawl and Gangtok receive Clean City Awards

  • In its book titled Not In My Backyard, CSE has rated Indian cities on their management of solid waste; two cities from the north-east region – Aizawl and Gangtok – received awards for their exemplary solid waste management practices

  • India faces a mammoth waste problem: India generates  more than 60 million tonnes of waste each year – of which less than 25 per cent is processed and recycled; the rest is dumped in poorly managed dumpsites.

  • In North-eastern states, not even 70% of the wastes is collected; less than 20 per cent is processed & recycled. However, cities like Aizawl is showing the path towards a sustainable waste manangement practices.   

  • The book is one of the first of its kind attempts in India to understand the state of solid waste management in the country, the numbers behind it, the gaps that exist and the path towards harnessing the opportunities

Guwahati, August 10, 2016:
 Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the New Delhi-based research and advocacy organisation, organised a book release and discussion here today, where its latest publication – titled Not In My Backyard – was released by Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal. The book is a comprehensive analysis of the state of solid waste management in Indian cities, including cities in the northeast.

Sonowal also conferred CSE’s Clean City Awards on two cities – Aizawl and Gangtok. These are two of the 14 urban centres that CSE has rated in its publication as cities with good waste management practices.

“CSE has a roadmap to tackle the situation,” said Sonowal. “More public awareness is required, and the civic sense of city and town dwellers should be part of the solution. I am sure that this journey undertaken by CSE will be successful with the support of the people of the country. I am also hopeful that next time, Assam will also be put into the category of awardees.”

Speaking at the release function, Chandra Bhushan, CSE’s deputy director general, said: “This book started as a survey to simply find out which is India’s cleanest city, and what makes it so. We knew that if we could find the answers to these questions, we will have the answers for future policy.” 

The book release was followed by a discussion with city officials, regulators, urban planners, consultants and NGOs on the direction that waste management should take in the northeast. 

Solid waste management in northeast India
The entire northeast region currently produces about 1.0 million tonnes of waste annually. Of this, Assam accounts for about 40% and Mizoram about 20%. Less than 70% of the waste is formally collected by the city governments of the northeast; less than 20 % is processed and recycled. 

  • In Arunachal Pradesh, haphazard dumping is the common practice of waste disposal in local communities. The state lacks waste segregation procedures. Landfill sites constructed are also not engineered well. 

  • Meghalaya has only one compost plant located in the Mawiong dumpsite, 8 km from the city of Shillong. However, due to very little waste segregation procedures adopted, the compost facility is facing problems in efficient operation. 

  • The municipal solid waste generated from the Imphal municipality area is now haphazardly dumped at a privately-owned low lying ground at Lamphelpat. 

  • In Kohima, the only recycling carried out to some extent is by the rag pickers. Wastes are generally dumped in open streams or burnt in empty spaces. This is due to the limited waste storing capacity available in the city.

  • In Guwahati, the municipality is dumping its waste on a wetland site. So far, no concrete system of segregation has been put on place. 

  • In Agartala, all the garbage collected from the city is disposed of in two open dumpyards without proper processing.

These instances reflect the larger picture of poor waste management practices not only in the northeast, but across the country. Chandra Bhushan says: “While the present waste management practices of the cities in northeast India is not up to the mark, it is clear that landfills or incineration is not the solution. Segregation, processing, recycling and a policy to make cities zero landfill is the way ahead. That the hills cannot afford landfills should be a loud and clear message.”

Tentative steps in the right direction
Cities like Aizawl and Gangtok have taken the lead to show the way forward to tackle waste management through collection, segregation and processing. For instance, Aizawl is investing around Rs 60 lakh for running a pilot project in five localities. This includes an investment of Rs 15 lakh for construction and infrastructure for a waste facility. The infrastructure for solid waste segregation has been completed and rag-pickers are being trained for systematic segregation of the waste.

In Gangtok, due to intensive drives since 2005 for cleanliness and solid waste disposal, garbage, or even a person smoking, on Gangtok’s roads is a rare sight. However, the city is still struggling with segregation and treatment of waste leading to illegal dumping on hills and in rivers. But in the last few years, the  municipal corporation has tied up with various non-profit organisations for segregation of waste and behaviour change among residents. The city has has started a pilot project in two wards, Ranipul and Tadung where an all-women team is working with residents on waste segregation. Despite initial opposition, people were eventually convinced to separate wet and dry waste. Residents have already started collecting their plastic, paper, glass and metal to sell them to ragpickers. Kitchen waste is handed over to the Gangtok Municipal Corporation collection trucks. Community organisers have also started distributing two bins to every household in both the localities.

“The initiative taken by Aizawl and Gangtok must be scaled up and replicated across the northeastern states” says Swati Sambayal, programme officer, CSE and the co-author of the report.

Not in my backyard
What becomes clear is that the issue of solid waste management is a mountain of a problem that needs to be tackled on a war footing. The central government has put ‘clean India’ at the top of its agenda with the Swachh Bharat Mission. The common ground between the government and citizens will be a place where waste is managed, not a landfill.

Across India, citizen movements against garbage have expanded beyond simple calls for cleaning up. People living in villages and cities are saying they do not want garbage to be disposed of in their vicinity—not in my backyard (NIMBY). There are protests against dumping of garbage and location of landfills. 

The way forward
Talking about the CSE report in Delhi, Sunita Narain, CSE’s director general and the lead author of the report, said, “What is absolutely clear to us as we researched for this report is that technology for waste disposal is not the problem. The problem is two-fold. One, households and institutions are not responsible for management, through segregation or payment of the waste they generate. Two, there is an absolute collapse of financial and institutional (human) capacity, and so accountability in our municipal systems.”

“In this scenario, the best option is what we have found exists in Kerala, where municipalities have withdrawn from the waste business. People segregate and compost; informal recyclers collect and sell. This is perhaps the most exciting model for future waste business in the country. And even if it cannot be emulated completely, it holds important lessons for other cities,” added Narain.

The CSE report points out that a combination of solutions is required to tackle the issue of waste management. Segregation at source, imposition of usage fees and penalties for non compliance and littering, restrictions on use of landfills and structuring of waste management contracts to ensure segregation happens at source, are some of the key components that can form part of the solution. It is also important that the informal sector be recognised for its role and made a key partner in the process in waste management.


  • For any queries please contact Souparno Banerjee ( / 9910864339) of The CSE Media Resource Centre.

  • For details of the national release of Not In My Backyard,
    please click here


NOT IN MY BACKYARD – A Brief Note on the Book

“We were under the assumption that this was a much-researched area. But we found that this is not the case. In fact, in spite of the fact that solid waste is taking over our streets, fields and sidewalks, there is little that known about the quantity or quality of waste that is generated. The last survey to understand quantity and composition was done over a decade ago.” 

– Sunita Narain, director general, CSE


This latest publication by CSE started out as a survey to determine which of India’s cities are the cleanest, and what makes them the cleanest in terms of solid waste management practices. The idea was that this would help in determining the parameters for future policy.

There is a real lack of reliable on-ground data available the quantum of waste or its composition in terms of organic, bio-degradable, or plastic. For instance, in 2007, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) had published a damning report on the “first generation” of solid waste management and a lack of compliance with MSW Rules. Apart from having done no surveys on either the quantum or composition of waste government agencies at that time hadn’t made any future projections on either aspect. To add to this, the focus was on waste disposal, and only 8 per cent of the states identified had even considered a policy on waste minimisation.

The last survey to understand quantity and composition was done over a decade ago. This was a report produced by CPCB with the assistance of Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) in 2004–05 in 59 cities (35 metro cities and 24 state capitals). This was the last report having real time data and estimates on waste generation in the country. Since then, data on solid waste generation are extrapolated from values taken from this report. Data on generation of solid waste is calculated by multiplying the urban population by the amount of waste generated per capita per day. This makes estimates of solid waste generated in the country pretty much a guesstimate which, in turn, confounds management.

For CSE, what had started out a survey had, in many ways, turned out into a gap analysis, which led to this book. It is not however, the final word on the issue. The book hopes to provide a stimulus for more work and an enlightened discourse on the issue. It is the need of the hour, because as India’s consumption patterns change with its growth, so will the quantum and the composition of waste.

For more information on the book go to: