NHRC seeks reports from Environment ministry, Delhi govt on waste management

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), the Delhi government and three civic bodies to explain within four weeks the steps taken to address the acute waste disposal crisis in Delhi.
Date of Release: 
May 2 2014

The three municipal corporations along with the MoEF and the Delhi chief secretary has been asked to submit their reports within the four-week period. The notices were issued after the NHRC took suo moto cognizance of a recent report in MAIL TODAY on the problem of overflowing garbage in Delhi.

On Wednesday, MAIL TODAY had reported about the Capital's poor solid waste management system that resulted in garbage not being lifted by civic bodies for weeks. The three landfills at Ghazipur, Okhla and Balsawa are already overflowing with waste, the report said, adding that garbage is being allowed to pile up in dhalaos to avoid dumping waste in the overflowing landfills.

"Recyclable waste is getting mixed with the organic waste, leading to contamination of the ground water and air in the surrounding areas of these sites. Rag pickers roaming in these landfills are contracting various diseases. The Corporations in Delhi have given no thought to manage them, nor the Delhi Pollution Control Committee is taking steps to check the pollution," the NHRC said in a press statement.

The Commission has observed that the contents of the press report are disturbing and if true, raise a serious issue of human rights violation, it added. Meanwhile, civic officials admitted that the existing infrastructure is stretched beyond limit when it comes to solid waste management in Delhi. In 2007-08, Delhi generated a total of 5,500 metric tonnes of garbage waste. It has now reached 9,200 metric tonnes in last six years.

"Due to the rise in the population (approximately 40 lakhs) in the last decade, the amount of garbage waste generated has increased drastically and yet the number of landfills remains the same as it was two decades ago," a North Delhi Municipal Corporation official said.

Of the 27 hazardous waste treatment plants in the country, a majority of these facilities are located in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. Considering that it doesn't have land to even treat its municipal waste, Delhi is in a tight spot.

According to sources, industries in Delhi produce more than 5,000 tonnes of hazardous waste annually. In the absence of additional treatment facilities, the untreated waste is being sealed and stored by industries generating it. The sources claimed that the waste is stored much longer than the stipulated three-month period.

The civic bodies though claim to have a better waste management plan this time. "We have added new infrastructure like dump trucks, etc as backup, in case the contracted agencies aren't efficient. I have also given strict instructions to fine these private agencies if they fail to maintain cleanliness. We are also meeting the chief secretary and the DDA vice-chairperson for identifying new landfills soon," North Delhi Municipal Corporation commissioner P.K. Gupta said.

Waste management is the key

The amount of garbage produced everyday and its flawed disposal system has ensured that Delhi is drowning in its own garbage. The national capital is running out of landfill space and now we need to find innovative ways to dispose the heaps of garbage produced by us as the days of landfill - where city's garbage is dumped - are gone.

The current system of waste disposal is flawed as the only focus is on dumping the garbage away from the main city. Earlier landfills used to be in the outer areas and poor neighbourhoods but this can't work anymore as rapid urbanisation and expansion of the city has made every locality in the Capital a part of the city. And why should poor people suffer from waste dumping in their area. Nobody wants a landfill in their backyard.

The heaps of garbage lying in the Capital are not only causing environmental degradation but are also leading to diseases. What we need is a better waste management system. Delhi, now, has the additional challenge to manage garbage disposal in a way that will focus on recycle and reuse of waste. We need to take combination of steps to ensure our future generation gets a safe environment.

Segregation of waste is one of the most important steps.

The waste collecting agency or MCD should develop a model of garbage collection which focuses on segregation in biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste at local level. The municipality should ensure that segregation of waste happens at colony levels, and then the focus should be recycling and reuse of the waste. If we can do all this at local level we can hope for a cleaner environment. When the garbage is collected, it gets mixed up during transportation as civic agencies provide no incentive on segregation of waste.

The current model provides an incentive on transportation of garbage to the landfill. This model of taking away waste to landfills and dumping it can't work anymore as Delhi is literally drowning in its own garbage. We need to change this and provide good incentives on waste segregation.

The Delhi administration, and especially, the MCD is desperately trying to find more landfill space. They are using our concern over environmental pollution caused due to garbage to get more landfill space. To say no to more landfill space is a tough call, but we need to say no to it and shift our focus on waste management at local level.

Source URL: 
http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/nhrc-seeks-reports-from-environment-ministry-delhi-govt-on-waste-management/1/358595.html
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