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Pressing need for waste segregation in Doon

GUEST COLUMN

Neeraj Kumar Pande
From being a quaint tourist town, known for its scenic beauty and pristine cultural heritage, Dehradun has come a long way into evolving as the bustling provisional capital city of Uttarakhand. Contemporary Dehradun pretty much stands as a minuscule reflection of several overpopulated and impromptu urbanised medium sized Indian cities. Two decades down the lane post its being made the provisional capital in the year 2000, the infrastructure has grossly fallen short to accommodate the rising population. The past few years have witnessed a substantial increase in migration of people from villages and sub urban towns to Dehradun for better education and employment opportunities. This has inevitably resulted in massive commercial and residential constructions. As per the census data the population of Dehradun has swelled from 5.78 lakh in 2011 to an approximately more than 10 lakh in 2019. In the face of such a hefty population rise, the biggest challenge remains management of disproportionately huge amount of solid waste. It is estimated that the total waste generated in the city will be doubled by 2035. Yet the overall waste collection and disposal practices have remained rather abysmal. In line with the solid waste management and handling rules of 2016, a sanitary landfill plant has been developed in the Shishambada locality, where the waste collected from Dehradun was to be disposed off systematically. However several procedural gaps continue to exist in the process. The most critical yet neglected facet of the solid waste management process continues to be lack of effective segregation of household and commercial waste at the source. Though the revised rules clearly mandate source segregation for better channelising of waste for recovery, reuse and recycling, the practice still is a distant dream here. The simple yet effective procedure for domestic waste segregation is to be done by separating the waste into three distinct components — biodegradable waste, dry inorganic waste and domestic hazardous waste. For the institutional generators like hotels, event management setups, restaurants and malls the rules mandate segregation and sorting of the waste and managing it in partnership with local bodies. These separation practices have to be maintained before handing over the waste to the municipal collectors. Whereas in cities like Hyderabad and Bengaluru, grassroot implementation of this practice has been in place already since some years ago, the scenario is still bleak in Dehradun. Most gated communities in such metropolitan areas with area of more than 5,000 square metres, have been systematically segregating their waste at source into materials like plastic, tin, glass and paper and handing over recyclable materials to the authorised waste-pickers and recyclers. Any failure on the part of residents to adhere to the segregation norms is met with punitive monetary fines. However despite many large apartment complexes having come up in Dehradun and its suburbs, no such systems are being followed here yet. Municipal corporation of Dehradun has been unable to succeed as it should have in creating adequate mass awareness on the necessity of waste segregation. Most residents even in the upmarket localities like Dalanwala, Vasant Vihar and Subhash Road still practice the rudimentary disposal habits of dumping all the kitchen, dry and sanitary discards together. The use of polythene as wastebags is also a really common practice. A considerable amount of mixed up municipal solid waste gets dumped openly into empty residential plots and drains by residents. This poses health risks to communities living in their vicinity and attracts rodents and stray animals. Even small eateries and hotels do not seem to be following official regulations of separate disposal. They get away with a messy dumping of food and inorganic waste mixed together, by wrangling with the waste collecting personnel and blatantly refusing to take up the responsibility for their actions. Another danger of non segregated waste is the health risk which it poses for the waste collecting municipal workers and even for the informal sector waste pickers. Incidents where waste collectors sustain severe injuries due to shards, needles, metal articles besides expired topical and edible medicines often mixed in food waste, go unreported. The medical insurance cover if at all granted to them by the government in the wake of such critical injuries is rather meagre and most of these employees are not aware of the same.A more aggressive awareness campaign by more NGOs, besides the already existing ones, community workers, municipal organisation, teachers, traders organisations and media houses is the need of the hour. The campaigns need to focus on converting the solid waste management in to a truly democratic and participative resident’s movement. This is possible by sensitising people door to door and including waste management as a mandatory and independent subject in the curriculum of all schools. Domestic helps and municipal cleaning staff should be offered routine waste management workshops and trainings on right methods of segregation and disposal. In public spaces separate trash cans should be demarcated for different kinds of waste. These initiatives can bring a sea change in the mindset of people and take the solid waste management to the grassroots. Unless every individual willingly adopts waste minimisation and strict segregation practices, expecting a complete change is not practical. We have to adopt a bottom to top approach, by beginning from our homes, locality and workplace till eventually the entire city gets involved in tackling this waste management constraint. (The author is a retired civil servant)
Monday, 20 May 2019 | Neeraj Kumar Pande | in Guest Column

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