Garbage Management: Endless Chase

By Prabhakar Timble
23 July 2013 08:31 IST

It is easier to launch a satellite into space rather than establish and operate a facility to treat and manage solid waste generated in our towns  and villages. To fire a rocket, borrow or import technology and hire the  technicians and scientists. In solid waste management, the success story cannot be written by technology alone.  Along with technology, we need a combination of political leaders, public administrators, waste operators and waste generators i.e. the people to contribute in different ways to liquidate the mounting jungle of waste. We can import technology but there is no way by which we can  trade in political leaders and people. It is a culture that needs to set in that “my waste is my responsibility”. The grounding  happens through voluntary compliance in terms of segregation and obedience to waste handling and disposal laws coupled with sharp fines for non-compliance. The ‘waste crisis’ is acute in developing societies because the households, business and industry considers their waste as complete liability of the government.  The Municipal and Panchayat authorities  are expected to deal with whatever waste, wherever dumped, whenever generated and howsoever discarded. With shoe-string budgets, archaic laws and almost ‘illiterate’ public officials in solid waste management the exercise is doomed to fail. 

Failures surround

In the field of solid waste management (SWM), the failures resound and the echo demotivates investors in this social sector. There are a few oasis in the desert of breakdowns. The success stories are also little known as the priority for our media are stories of failure. Accomplishments and triumphs are not newsworthy anymore. Though waste is considered as wealth and trash recycling as a profitable business; this industry may have a good future but is presently throttled due to lack of coordinated efforts of social, political and corporate leadership. Wherever the SWM sector could manage this blend of leadership, those pockets have seen desired results.

Any person who has dabbled and dipped the hands in solid waste management parades as an expert before the urban bodies and panchayats. The fear of negetive strictures by the High Court on Municipal councils, councillors and village panchayats has almost forced these bodies to engage the services of any “expert” available to create whatever namesake facilities purely to satisfy the Court with practically no solution to the issue of garbage handling and management.  As a result, some sort of structure gets created for the purpose of reporting to the High Court which later stands unutilised and turns to be an eyesore in the villages and the municipal wards. Goa is no exception to the disorder due to this compliance disease.

Sonsoddo, the name which became infamous as a dirty garbage dump site of the Margao Municipal Council could possibly emerge as a destination of scientific solid waste management and disposal if  the political and corporate leadership converge and work together. With the establishment of the treatment plant and proposed setting up of the scientific land fill to deal with rejects matters look promising. The proposal for scientific capping of the age old garbage dump has almost reached a final stage. However, the recent observation of the top officials of the Goa State Pollution Control Board on the economics of capping could prove to be a spoke in the wheel which could puncture the well thought out decision of capping. Actually, the GSPCB has gone overboard by delving into costs and finance when its primary job is pollution control and monitoring. In case the GSPCB wants to choose the luxury of stepping beyond its carpet area, then it should come out of the comfort zone and provide a studied viable alternative for handling of the old dump site rather than shooting down an alternative which has evolved after testing of waste and consideration of expert opinions.

A waste handling and management site would definitely not be a pleasant one. Textile mills, steel plants and rubber factories have their unpleasantness. People work in such “disagreeable” environment with high levels of motivation to achieve positive results. Political leaders and bureaucrats who desire to work with commitment for clean towns and villages should not be prodigal in expressing displeasure on flimsy grounds. SWM projects demand perseverence, patience and high morale building from the leaders. Political leadership can ensure this by reducing red tape, fast approvals,  timely budgets, site selection and establishing the links of communication and education with community. It is through a process of working with community and corrections in collection and transportation of waste that in due course the solid waste management locations become less and less unpleasant. At present, we are at the nursery level in SWM and have to take the journey to graduation.

What next

The slogan of making Goa garbage free or plastic free is the celebration of our failure to deal with the issue in a professional and scientific manner. Human societies create waste. Development coupled with consumerism and urbanisation cannot exist without a booming waste, scrap and trash handling industry. Solutions can come only through investments in such business activity.  Along with SWM plants dealing with bio-degradable waste or composting; business opportunities exist in reuse, refurbishment, repairs and resale. Rag pickers and scrap yards are unavoidable as they provide value added services. If the waste appears to be an incurable issue with them working, just imagine the multiplier proportions of the problem without them.

The government should focus on enforcement and education. The time is overipe for insertion of a chapter on SWM in Municipal and Village Panchayat laws with specific demands on generators of waste in terms of segregation and handling. There should be also demands on mega housing complexes, hospitals and wholesale traders. Public authorities can create facilities of collection and disposal with clear expectations from people and ensuring compliance through a system of rewards, penalties and fines.  The solutions should be found by the local plumbers working with  social, political and corporate teams.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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Following are simple solutions to mitigate the garbage problem in Goa. All of the below should be enacted through legislation such that violators can be prosecuted.

1. There should not be any open dumpsters on streets and housing colonies, etc.

2. People should collect wet (organic, food waste) and dry (dry plastic, paper, etc) garbage at home in separate bins with liners (plastic bags).

3. A couple of times in a week the bags containing the waste should be collected by garbage trucks, e.g. Monday morning, between 7-9, organic waste, Wednesday morning 7-9, dry waste, etc. Collection spots should be designated.

4. The organic waste should be burned in incinerators. Every municipality should have its own incinerator. The incinerators will cause combustion of organic waste and all that remains will be ash.

5. The dry waste should be recycled and reprocessed (a la bhangarwala fashion).

6. There should be massive drive to educate and cause awareness on the above method of garbage management.

Violators should be punished. If you ask me, this is the best long term solution for effective garbage management in a high population density state like Goa.

- JP, USA | 24 th July 2013 05:26


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