Centre for Science and Environment urges Bihar to segregate and ramp up waste collection and releases book on Solid Waste Management at Patna

  • Not in my Backyard, book on solid waste management by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) 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 

  • The book was released nationally in June released by union urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu 

  • Bihar need to ramp up waste collection and more importantly waste treatment as municipal solid waste generation in the state is projected to increase from the current level of 680 tonnes per day (TPD) to 1537 TPD by 2030. 

The latest publication of New Delhi based public policy advocacy organisation Centre for Science and Environment on solid waste management, titled Not in my Backyard, was released at the state-level by Chaitanya Prasad, principal secretary, department of urban development and housing, Bihar. The book has earlier been released nationally by union urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu. 

Speaking at the book release function, Chaitanya Prasad said, “If all the rules and regulations on waste management have to be complied, it would become a mountain of material. This book is a practical guide for various states and cities to pick up successful models in waste management and emulate the same. Models like those presented in the book are something that we all should aspire for.” 

Also present at the function was environmental conservationist Dr. R K Sinha, also known as the “Dolphin Man.” 

“Patna is one of the worst cities in terms solid waste management. One can see heaps of solid waste piled up on the banks of the Ganga River here. Apart from the ecological cost, this is also a method to illegally reclaim land. Waste management is an issue where the onus is not only on the state and municipal authorities, but every household has to be part of this,” said Dr. Sinha. 

Talking about the urgent need for solid waste management in the current context, CSE deputy director general Chandra Bhushan said, “This book assumes relevance in the face of the rapid urbanisation and consumption based lifestyle that we are confronted with today. In l this context, our research for this book pointed towards the urgent need for policy changes in garbage management.” 

About the publication itself, Bhushan said, “This book started as a survey—we wanted to simply know which city of India is cleanest. We knew that once we found out which is the cleanest, we would also find out what makes it so. This would give us the answers for future policy.” 

“This is where we hit a roadblock. 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,” he added. 

From the data available in the public domain, CSE has estimated that Bihar currently produces over 2,500 tonnes per day (TPD) of solid waste, about 10,00,000 lakhs annually. 

Of this, Patna alone accounts for 42%, Bhagalpur 12% and Muzaffarpur 10%. Of this huge quantum of waste, less than 50% is formally collected. In addition, there is no processing or treatment of the collected waste and open dumping is the most preferred option for disposal. 

“One of the key factors for this is the lack of inventorisation and segregation apart from compliance issues and negligence in enforcement,” said Chandra Bhushan. “Even states like MP, UP and Rajasthan treat 5, 7 and 12 per cent of the collected waste, which is not a very big percentage, but is better that zero per cent of Bihar,” he added. 

The dismal rankings in the health index, explains poor performance of Bihar in waste management with Patna ranked at 362, Muzaffarpur at 523 and Kishanganj at 589. 

The situation is not entirely bleak though, with door to door collection efficiency increasing from 20-30% to over 50%, as well as better infrastructure in class I cities in the form of manpower, vehicles for collection and treatment as well as resources and funds. 

It is clear that much more needs to be done on a war footing, especially in the light of the ever increasing generation of waste. In Patna alone for instance, municipal solid waste generation is projected to increase from the current level of 680 TPD to 1537 TPD by 2030. 

“If we are to see any visible difference, it is imperative that we to move towards zero landfill cities in Bihar,” said Bhushan emphatically. “As India becomes more literate and politically aware, most cities are encountering stiff resistance when they attempt to dispose of waste in somebody else’s backyard. In Pune, Bengaluru, Panaji, Alleppey and Gurgaon, village communities have been up in arms against the dumping of waste by a neighbouring city. This resistance will continue to grow. Cities are also finding it difficult to secure ‘environmental approval’ for their landfills.” 

“But what is absolutely clear to us as we researched for this book 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,” added Bhushan.