Home / Politics / Policy /  Pollution watchdog issues guidelines to manage odour at urban solid waste landfills

New Delhi: The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has come out with detailed guidelines for proper monitoring and management of odour at urban municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills. The guidelines suggest a series of preventive and remedial measures to tackle the issue.

Solid waste management is a major problem in India. As per official estimates, at present around 62 million tonnes of solid waste is generated every year and it is expected to reach 165 million tonnes in 2030. Of the 62 million, only 43 million tonnes is collected and only 12 millions tonnes is treated. This means about 31 million is dumped in landfill sites and this number is expected to grow as the total amount of waste increases.

The Solid waste Management Rules 2016, notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) last year, identified odour as a public nuisance. In urban areas the common source of odour is garbage (bio-degradable MSW) and sewage.

Unlike air pollutants, which have specific standards for compliance, “odour regulation" is still in nascent stage in India.

Odour is basically a perception of smell, it may range from being unpleasant (like rotten smell of garbage) to pleasant (fragrance). Though the effect of odour differs from person to person but at sufficiently high concentrations, odorous compounds may have a direct effect on human health. It generally leads to vomiting, headaches, nausea, stress, anxiety, frustration, restriction in outdoor activities, children unable to sleep, and discomfort for elderly people and others.

Due to such reasons, pollution watchdog CPCB felt the need of issue guidelines to manage the odour from these landfill sties and address it through a scientific process.

The guidelines suggested a green belt around landfill sites and advocated for selection of “appropriate plant species for vegetation cover" to assist in reducing odours.

“MSW Landfill system be designed for tapping LFG (landfill gases) efficiently to mitigate fugitive odorous emissions," it added.

The guidelines also batted for initiating “legislative norms for creating baseline data on odour".

It, however, noted that as “manual measurements are time consuming", there will be a need for gradual shift for installation of Continuous Odour Measurement Systems (sensor based) similar to Continuous Air Quality Monitoring Stations (CAAQMS), Continuous Noise Monitoring Stations and Continuous Water quality monitoring stations that are being used by CPCB for getting real-time data.

It also outlined challenges to odour monitoring like lack of source-based database on odour levels, low awareness on odour (public nuisance) and lack of legislative obligations, among others.

CPCB had come up with draft guidelines for odour management in March 2017, seeking comments from all stakeholders. These guidelines have now been prepared after considering all comments and suggestions.

The guidelines also stated that the selection and number of landfill sites for a city should be based on factors like requirement of land for the disposal site by considering the present population and projected growth over the next 20 years at least. Other factors include whether the selected site is free from the influence of other odorous sources and the topography of the site (slope, proximity to water sources like river and natural springs).

It further said that “selection of landfill site should be integrated with the urban development planning so that even expansions of city in next two or three decades are not encompassing the selected MSW site". This is significant for India as it is often estimated that India over the next 20-30 years would witness massive urbanization.

CPCB said the guidelines have been prepared keeping in view the various mandatory and statutory provisions and the climatic conditions that accelerate biodegradation of organic wastes.

“This is the first initiative by CPCB to address odour problems by a scientific investigation way, similar studies can be undertaken by other institutions for areas (ex. Industrial estates) other than MSW landfills so that a database can be created to highlight importance of odour minimisation and prepare a framework for odour management in urban areas," the guidelines added.

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