'Garbage is money, handle it properly'
— Dr. Amiya Kumar Sahu, President, National Solid Waste Association of
Mumbai-based National Solid Waste Association of India is
active in solid waste management and biomedical waste. The association also
collects data on municipal and hazardous waste. Dr. Amiya Kumar Sahu
spoke to Madhu Chittora.
How does one define solid waste and which laws govern its
treatment and management?
First of all we have to define waste. Waste definition differs from person to
person and the waste generated by you may be useful for me and waste generated
by me may be useful for you, secondly, the physical nature of the waste should
be solid. Broadly, solid waste is classified into two - hazardous and
non-hazardous. Hazardous waste is generated from the industries and is toxic in
nature. Non-hazardous is the municipal waste comprising the waste generated from
households like kitchen waste, hotels, corporate offices etc.
Even in the municipal waste there is hazardous waste like batteries, retired
electronic goods, but not in that volume which is being generated by the
industries. Biomedical waste, a special category of solid waste, is generated
from the hospitals, dispensaries and pharmacies. Another special category is the
electrical and electronic waste comprising computers, televisions, expired cell
All these four types of waste are govern by different laws and policies as the
nature of the waste differs. Hazardous waste is governed by Hazardous & Toxic
Waste Handling Rule of 2001 Act, non-hazardous that is municipal solid waste is
govern by MSW Rule 2000; bio-medical waste is governed by Bio-Medical Waste
Management Rule 1998. The electrical and electronic waste policy is yet to be
formed. As India is a large country, national rule for waste treatment may not
be feasible. As per local conditions modification of rules and regulations is
necessary because waste has to be managed.
How much solid waste is generated in India and what are major sources?
Generally, considering economic zones (high, low and moderate) at least 200 to
250 gm per capita of municipal solid waste is generated per day. Industrial
waste differs from industry to industry. In India, agriculture waste is not yet
recognised as real waste. Waste from the field itself is used as manure in the
same field. Large agriculture fields generate huge amount of waste that can be
converted into green compost food processing industries, juice centres,
wineries, etc generate huge amount of agriculture waste and this waste has to be
treated to form green compost.
What are the hindrances in solid waste management?
The will to manage the waste will bring in understanding for the rule. With
respect to waste, the problem is attitudinal. There is resistance towards
scientific treatment and disposal of waste. The existence of rules reflects that
the government is serious in their act, but, implementation is still an issue.
For policy making, implementation and regulation, the bodies are different and
there is no integration between them. In the waste management public
participation is also important.
When planning for any city or industrial sector, first you have to see if there
is any capacity to accommodate industries in case of industrial sectors, or
houses for housing sector. For a comfortable life of a single individual
carrying capacity of a particular place has to be studied.
Our system is wrong. A personal concern is very important. The municipal
commissioner responsible for solid waste management comes for three years;
afterwards, another municipal commissioner comes in. In our system there is
interference of politicians, corporators, bureaucrats and NGOs. The
administrator should not be an IAS officer but a technically sound person. This
is lacking in our system. In most municipal corporations there is no civil
Instead of mechanical engineers, we should have more of civil engineers. The
design is being done by civil engineers. The regulatory body should be highly
educated. In our system, everything is governed by the cost. Government planning
is bad and none of the municipalities has earmarked the space for garbage
What measures then do you suggest?
Around 50 years ago, Singapore was the dirtiest country of the world. Today it
is the cleanest. Severe penalty on littering is a threat that ensures
cleanliness. Solid waste management is an attitudinal problem and to manage it,
there has to be some sort of threat to the public. For proper solid waste
management, city fathers, politicians and administrators are responsible.
General public should also cooperate. Strict implementation of the rule is
There are four types of treatment for toxic and hazardous waste - direct
disposal at the sanitary landfill, physio-chemical treatment, solidification and
incineration. Industries, particularly the large ones, aim to be profitable and
hence if the waste treatment is expensive, they modify the manufacturing
process, change raw materials, etc. In some cases, industry has to pass the zero
waste discharge tests.
But the small and medium industries face problems, and hence are mainly
responsible for improper waste management.
For the municipal solid waste management, segregate the waste into dry and wet;
it is mandatory so that appropriate processing is easily possible. Education and
awareness amongst public is very important, so is technical knowledge amongst
municipal engineers. Financing is not a problem. One can evolve entrepreneurship
for solid waste management through administrative support and incentives. After
all, garbage is money, if you handle it properly.
[May 19-25, 2008]