Home / Politics / Policy /  Government pins hopes on rag pickers to manage solid waste

New Delhi: The urban development ministry on Thursday released a draft manual on municipal solid waste management.

The manual prescribes a decentralized system of waste management which involves rag pickers and waste collectors in an organized way. It stresses on recycling waste, and describes technologies such as composting, waste-to-energy, and refuse-derived fuel in detail.

It also includes extended producer’s responsibility, where makers of electronic goods are responsible for the entire lifecycle of the product and are to tie up with e-waste recyclers to ensure safe disposal.

Drafted by an expert committee, the manual is intended to guide the highest implementation body as well as those who implement these rules on the ground.

Urban India generates 109,589 tonnes of waste per day, according to a 2012 World Bank report.

For comparison, urban United States generates 624,700 tonnes per day, the highest in the world, and urban China generates 520,548 tonnes a day, and is the second largest garbage producer.

Urban waste generation in India is projected to more than triple to 376,639 tonnes per day by 2025, as urban population is expected to rise to 538 million by then.

The draft says informal sector workers will be organized into legally recognized, membership-based associations which will be officially recognized as viable partner organisations for solid waste management service delivery.

Under this system, ragpickers will be upgraded to waste collectors—instead of sorting through rubbish on the streets, they will collect the waste from the source (homes and offices).

The draft also talks about incentives to motivate private organizations and non-government organizations to involve these associations, and government schemes to provide health and social security benefits to these associations.

Urban development secretary Shankar Aggarwal said that a change in mindset is needed to address the problem of solid waste management. “The focus should be on reducing generation of solid waste and focusing on appropriate technology-based segregation, transport, recycling, reuse and disposal of solid waste with appropriate revenue-based models," he said.

The environment ministry had notified a manual on solid waste management in 2000, which were then issued as a directive to urban local bodies, but nothing much came of it. “We all know that nothing much could happen with those rules," said Neeraj Mandloi, joint secretary at the urban development ministry.

“The new manual has a seven step approach for cities to prepare a municipal solid waste management plan based on this manual," Mandloi said, adding that the manual also addresses the issue of waste minimisation, in addition to management.

To ensure compliance, the ministry has said that it will assess projects from states, union territories and urban local bodies.

Bharati Chaturvedi, director at Chintan, a non-profit organisation working on environmental issues, particularly waste management, said the manual looks better than the last one.

“I have not gone through it in detail but the inclusion of extended producer’s responsibility and informal sector are encouraging," Chaturvedi said.

The German organization GIZ (Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit) has also assisted in the preparation of this manual.

Mandloi said that anyone who wants to send suggestions and comments on the draft to the ministry can do so by 31 July and the ministry will come out with a final version of the manual next month.

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