‘Pune is experimenting with many ways to deal with all kinds of waste’

Neha Basudkar
Sunday, 18 February 2018

Dr Isher Judge Ahluwalia, a renowned economist and chairperson on Board of Governors for the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), in an interview with Neha Basudkar said that Pune is one of the best cities when it comes to Solid Waste Management (SWM), where there is a highest percentage of household segregation in the country.

When you say that Pune is the best city in terms of  Solid Waste Management (SWM), what are the factors that have contributed towards it?
Based on my studies, the SWM in comparison with other cities in our country, I find that Pune is experimenting with a range of solutions to deal with all kinds of waste. The city had tried several projects including gasification project, refuse-derived fuel (RDF) the fuel produced from various types of wastes such as municipal solid wastes (MSW), industrial wastes or commercial wastes and also the biomethane exercise. Even after facing challenges in these projects, the results are appreciating. 

According to your research, how Pune became a pioneer in SWM?
In fact, when SWM rules were not even formulated for the country, Pune had activists creating awareness on the segregation of  waste as they thought that it will improve the working conditions of waste pickers. Similarly, housing societies took initiatives in Pune by starting the compositing units which further helped the municipal corporation in SWM. 
Which are the other cities in India that are still lacking in SWM system?
Most of the cities in the country have failed to achieve proper mechanism to segregate waste. For example, in Delhi, there is no segregation of waste and the municipal corporation collects the mixed waste which is sent directly to the processing sites. The waste gets dissolved or mixed with the soil making it impossible to segregate. The landfill sites in Delhi are full of bio-degradable waste that has led to leachate and methane emission.

How urban waste is related to global warming?
As per my research, over the last century, human activities have added considerably to Green House Gases (GHGs) emissions in the atmosphere, which has contributed to global warming. GHG emissions from solid waste disposal as reported to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, an international environmental treaty (UNFCCC) in 2015/16 by India increased at the rate of 3.1 per cent per annum between 2000 and 2010. However, there is a reason to believe that for India, the estimates of emissions from the waste sector are underestimated as it does not consider the emissions from the transportation of waste. Much of the problem arises because we mix biodegradable waste with other waste at the point. This increases the volume of the waste that is transported the landfill. The increased fuel usage in transportation results in more emissions. 

What are the measures taken to reduce it?
The simplest and easiest way to reduce is to segregate it at the site. Similarly, biodegradable waste can be processed locally through aerobic decomposition with the help of microbes or earthworms (vermicomposting) to produce compost or organic fertilisers. Compost helps store carbon back in the soil. Its usage reduces the need for chemical fertilisers which emit large quantities of nitrous oxide both during production and in application and thereby helps mitigate emissions. Compost also improves moisture retention in the soil. 

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