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The Rubbish Surrounding Urban Waste

TreeTake is a monthly bilingual colour magazine on environment that is fully committed to serving Mother Nature with well researched, interactive and engaging articles and lots of interesting info.

The Rubbish Surrounding Urban Waste

The reasons for the failure of waste management in the state has been largely due to lack of awareness/political will/ legal enforcement, socio cultural factors, ineffective and non-systematic management or improper technical work among other things

The Rubbish Surrounding Urban Waste

With a population of about 4.5 million (2011 census), Lucknow generates about 1500 metric tonnes of solid waste everyday as per Uttar Pradesh Solid Waste Management Committee. The uncontrolled waste generation and dumping into the municipal boundary of Lucknow has been a major problem faced by citizens and administration. With 110 wards and eight zones for solid waste management, Lucknow Municipal Corporation, along with Lucknow Cantonment Board and M/s Eco Green Energy Lucknow Private Limited are the three bodies responsible for solid waste management in Lucknow. However, what is essentially happening is the collection and dumping of waste from inside households to outside the households. Segregation of waste at source is not a priority at all, neither is it safe or scientific disposal. If at all it is being done, it is at the mercy of private ragpickers who do it for their own living, and most of the times, it is being burnt either by local people or the safai workers themselves

Himanshi Shukla

Though Lucknow has bagged 12th position in the Swachh Survekshan 2021, which is a progress from 121 in 2019, 115 in 2018 and 269 in 2017,  for the people of Lucknow the wish to see their city completely garbage free and clean is still a far-fetched dream. The problem remains even more acute in residential areas where dumps of garbage and stray animals feeding on them is a common sight. The city is yet to see the light of a landfill site, without which garbage is being openly dumped and unscientifically disposed. The problems with the working of the Shivri Solid Waste Management plan have been highlighted by the media outlets from time to time, yet they remain unaddressed.

According to Uttar Pradesh Waste Management Committee’s order dated April 24, 2019: "The reasons for the failure of waste management in the state has been largely due to lack of awareness/political will/ legal enforcement, socio cultural factors, ineffective and non-systematic management or improper technical work among other things."

What are the claims made by the City Sanitation Plan 2011 and how far they have been fulfilled?

The claims made by the City Sanitation Plan 2011 available at Lucknow Nagar Nigam website include: “Lucknow aspires to be among the best cities in India to live in by providing universal access to sanitation facilities, especially to the under-privileged; increasing the awareness of citizens about linkages between sanitation and public health; and ensuring sustainability and coordination amongst institutions providing these facilities. To achieve this vision, a set of objectives was formulated along four broad aspects, namely infrastructure, institutional, financial, and social. The chief objectives were to ensure that Lucknow became 100% open-defecation free by 2015 and there was 100% collection and scientific disposal of solid and liquid wastes generated in the city of Lucknow by 2015. Also, the objectives included instituting processes that allowed for expansion of sanitation services along with the growth of the city; augmenting the recovery of costs involved in the provision of sanitation services; developing a mechanism for resource/cost recovery, through recycling and reuse of solid and liquid wastes; and increasing awareness amongst citizens on hygiene and health concerns in the city of Lucknow.”

As per Municipal Commissioner Ajay Dwivedi: “I am not saying that there is no problem in the waste management on roads now but when you compare it from the past then the situation has surely improved. Lucknow has achieved three-star sanitation rankings due to our 24x7 hard work for the last 12 months. When people used to sleep, our mechanized sweepers were sweeping the roads. Not only that we analysed our shortcomings and worked to ensure door-to-door waste collection from homes in every ward. The Lucknow Municipal Corporation has deployed 500 vehicles for waste collection and placed portable compactors at 84 places in the city. This has helped in compressing and transfer of waste in covered condition.”

“The Lucknow Municipal Corporation has distributed three coloured bins in each house of 55 wards. I inspected the waste treatment plant at Shivri plant every month to check the segregation, recycling and composting of waste in a scientific way. The survey also took note of our efforts in material recovery facility points which we established to process construction material. Besides, over 10,000 plots were made waste free, 120 open garbage dump yards were closed down and at the same time started sweeping 62 roads in the city with the help of mechanized sweeping machines. The Lucknow Municipal Corporation has ODF ++ certificate. Lucknow Municipal Corporation has also constructed 390 community toilets and 96 air-conditioned deluxe toilets across the city besides making 510 urinal points. In addition, 74 pink toilets were also made. These pink toilets have sanitary pad vending machines, hair dryers, dispensers, baby changing stations,” he added.

Repeated calls to Mayor Sanyukta Bhatia went unresponsive.

Yet the Uttar Pradesh Solid Waste Management Committee has a different viewpoint to offer. Pointing out the stark reality of the city’s plight, its order declares: “We feel that even the ocean of tears is not enough to narrate the plight of the people of Lucknow and future environmental disasters which may engulf the whole city of Lucknow in due course of time." Keeping in view the gravity of situation due to dirt and dust, bad odour emerging from dumping places of solid wastes and further administrative failure to implement the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016, and Biomedical Waste Management Rules 2016 as also the incapacity of the UP Pollution Control Board, Lucknow to provide comprehensive plan with regard to solid waste management, a Standing Counsel for the Government of India at Lucknow, Chet Narayan Singh was engaged as an Advocate Commissioner to submit a report by the committee.

Water bodies in Lucknow practically turned into a dump yard of municipal solid waste

The Advocate Commissioner appointed by the UP Solid Waste Management Committee, Chet Narayan Singh, as well as the joint team of CPCB and UPPCB officers noted the ground scenario of solid and biomedical waste within the area of Cantonment Board at Lucknow, showing the piling of garbage and discharge of untreated effluent into the drainage system, which ultimately meets the river Gomti. “This is happening despite the fact that on account of open defecation and flow of sewage in drainage system in coming summer or in due course of time, the citizens are likely to suffer serious ailments like cholera, diarrhoea, salmonellosis, shigellosis, schistosomiasis, malaria, dengue, etc. The plight of river Gomti can be explained by the fact that 33 drains are discharging sewage into Gomti River without any STP and whatever arrangements have been made, it meets out the requirements of not more than 25%. The riverine biota being affected by pollution is an indicator of an impending ecological disaster,” the report of Chet Narayan Singh states.

The order of Uttar Pradesh Solid Waste Management Committee specifically talks about the GH canal- which is over a century old canal system at Lucknow. A pumping station had been installed at the 1090 women Power line crossing in the year 1992 with the capacity of 158 MLD. The total flow of sewage in GH canal is about 400 MLD, which is almost 75% of sewage discharged into river Gomti. Also captured is the sorry saga of the Sital lake in ELDECO colony, Lucknow. Covered with boundary from all sides, and situated amidst residential area, clinics, hospital, school and shops. The ELDECO was given the Sital lake area for house construction on the condition that it will protect and preserve the lake. Far from it, the lake has been converted into an encroached area and dumping of Municipal solid waste, plastic waste and garbage from the houses, biomedical waste from the nearby hospitals has been duly noted by the Uttar Pradesh Solid Waste Management Committee. The lake is divided into two parts and the second part of the lake has completely dried and is being only used for dumping of plastic waste and garbage from residential society.

Guidelines for Biomedical Waste openly being flouted

Dr Durga Prasad Verma, MD- Physician at the King George Medical University told TreeTake: “A plethora of biomedical waste generated from medical activities can be hazardous, toxic and even lethal because of their high potential for diseases transmission. The hazardous and toxic parts of waste from health care establishments comprising infectious, bio-medical and radio-active material as well as sharps (hypodermic needles, knives, scalpels etc.) constitute a grave risk, if these are not properly treated/disposed or is allowed to get mixed with other municipal waste. Its propensity to encourage growth of various pathogen and vectors and its ability to contaminate other non-hazardous/non-toxic municipal waste jeopardises the efforts undertaken for overall municipal waste management. The rag pickers and waste workers are often worst affected, because unknowingly or unwittingly, they rummage through all kinds of poisonous material while trying to salvage items which they can sell for reuse. At the same time, this kind of illegal and unethical reuse can be extremely dangerous and even fatal. Diseases like cholera, plague, tuberculosis, hepatitis (especially HBV), AIDS (HIV), diphtheria etc. in either epidemic or even endemic form, pose grave public health risks.”

“The rules framed by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Govt. of India, known as ‘Bio-medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998,’ notified on 20th July 1998, provides uniform guidelines and code of practice for the whole nation. It is clearly mentioned in this rule that the ‘occupier’ (a person who has control over the concerned institution / premises) of an institution generating bio-medical waste (e.g., hospital, nursing home, clinic, dispensary, veterinary institution, animal house, pathological laboratory, blood bank etc.) shall be responsible for taking necessary steps to ensure that such waste is handled without any adverse effect to human health and the environment. Further, biomedical waste is to be mandatorily segregated at source itself according to National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers (body under Quality Council of India) laws. The waste is segregated as per colour codes- Red, Orange, Green, etc. Also, it is cleansed by Hypo chloride solution, thus preventing the risks of any hazards.” Yet the order of the Uttar Pradesh Waste Management Committee has taken special note of the uncontrollable proliferation of biomedical waste in the city. Sital Lake and Sadar Cantt are the worst affected areas.

Open Dumping, the biggest culprit

The most serious cause of pollution in Lucknow is the open dumping of waste throughout the city at various spots. Instead of there being a proper mechanism of transfer of waste in covered vehicles till the point of covered transfer stations, household are commercial waste that is collected by the Municipal Corporation employees, private hawkers or M/s Eco Green Energy Lucknow Private Limited is being dumped at arbitrary sites throughout the city. There is no place that is made free from open dumping of waste be it on the roadside, in the drains, around trees, plantations, underneath old and used vehicles buses vacant plots road dividers officers old and use buildings or any place imaginable. Such open dumping is done in a manner that does not protect the environment, instead it can cause various diseases.

“Most of the safai karmcharis employed with the LMC are on an ad-hoc basis. We are entitled to 7000 rupees salary yet we don’t even receive the half of it, which is siphoned off by the corrupt officials,” a group of safai karmcharis operating in Gomti Nagar area told TreeTake, on the condition of anonymity.  When asked about whether they have protested or ever complained to the officials, they claimed: “We are not on permanent commission, hence we cannot protest, else we will be shown our way out and someone else will be employed in our place. Hence, we have to be content with what we have.” When asked about where they dispose of the waste after it is collected from the households, they claimed: “Our job is to collect the waste and dump it at the site at which we are told. Then it is collected by a bigger vehicle from there. When we find a lot of waste being accumulated at residential plots, we burn it.” Rashid, a ragpicker spotted rummaging through waste on an open plot near Kathauta lake in Gomti Nagar, practically converted into a dumping point by the residents, told TreeTake: “I am segregating plastic from the pile of garbage for my own profit. I sell this at Green Earth Recycling in Chinhat.” When asked about his employment status, he told he was only working as a freelancer and not employed. “I sell the scrap to the highest bidder for the profit.” The owner of Green Earth Recycling declined to comment.

If their version is to be believed, then what is essentially happening is the collection and dumping of waste from inside households to outside the households. Segregation of waste at source is not a priority at all, neither is it safe or scientific disposal. If at all it is being done, it is at the mercy of private ragpickers who do it for their own living. Yet its importance has assumed alarming proportions in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Laxmi Singh, a resident of Vibhav Khand, Gomti Nagar, Lucknow told TreeTake: “Private hawkers ask for money on a monthly basis, ranging from rupees hundred to two hundred and are often quarrelsome. The Nagar Nigam vehicles come in late when most of the people have bathed. They ask for tea, etc. Most of the people give household waste (unsegregated) to these safai karmcharis, yet what I find appalling is how still we find waste being dumped from pillar to post. This generates foul smell, causes diseases like dengue, malaria, etc. Stray animals that feed on such waste are also seen as a nuisance by the residents. It is not only harmful for the residents but the animals as well. Most of the time it is burnt either by the residents of the colony or by safai karmcharis themselves. I urge the authorities to take into account the situation and its expeditious redressal.”

The Uttar Pradesh Solid Waste Management Committee in its order has taken note of the Ghaila Dumping site, located 20 kilometres from the city. Spanning an area of about 14.37 acres, and has average height of 8-10 metres and accumulated waste of about 202264 metric tonnes. “It has become a potential threat due to release of leachate landfill gas and suspended particulate matter. In addition to this the uncontrolled waste that falls on the road during transportation causes blockage on the drains adjacent to the disposal site. More than 80% of the site is accessible through in a than roads. There are no utilities at the site, no way bridge is available and leachate management system is absent. The total volume of dumb is 40033 1.6 metre cube and the area is 5815 9.25 square. A natural water stream drums adjoining to the existing dumpsite and was observed to be polluted with solid waste leachate and runoff from the dump site. The residents of the nearby Ghaila village with a population of 3323, are paying the price of the close proximity to Lucknow city. Discourse contamination of groundwater and soiled due to uncontrolled dumping at the site,” the order notes.

Right to sanitized and clean city

Shivendra Dutt, Deputy Chair, POCT group told TreeTake: “The courts on various locations have declared unequivocally  that maintenance of health preservation of sanitation falls within the purview of article 21 of the Constitution as it adversely affects the life of citizen and it amounts to slow poisoning and reducing the life of citizen, because of the hazards created, if not checked. The court also declared that it is a primary mandatory and updated duty of the Municipal Corporations councils to move rubbish, filth, night soil, or any notices or offensive matter the pollution boards and its officers have a basic duty under the Environment Protection Act 1986 to stop unauthorised movement and or disposal of the waste. There are also empowered to take action against earring industries and persons in Virendra Gaur vs state of Haryana and in many other cases the Supreme court has time and again declared that the right to life under article 21 encompasses the right to live with human dignity. Quality of life and decent environment does pollution free environment and proper sanitary condition in cities and towns without which life cannot be enjoyed is an integral facet of right to life the landmark case of Dr BL Wadhera vs Union of India the supreme court in practically pronounce that the residents of Delhi have a statutory right to life to live in a clean city. Thus, New Delhi Municipal Corporation is under a statutory obligation to scavenge and clean the city. Likewise, under the Uttar Pradesh Municipal Corporation Act 1959 it is the statutory duty of Nagar Nigam to clean the city clean.”

Stray Animals and Waste- an unhealthy combination

Dr Manilal Valliyate, CEO, PETA India told TreeTake: “The scale of our plastic problem is hard to comprehend, as countless vulnerable land and sea animals suffer and die every day after ingesting or getting entangled in huge amounts of plastic rubbish. Many cows have up to 70 kilograms of plastic rubbish surgically removed from their stomachs. Others who ingest the material aren't so lucky and die slowly and painfully. Most cattle on streets are discards from the dairy industry. PETA India is calling on caring people to consider the harm a piece of discarded plastic can cause and to opt for reusable canvas bags in order to help keep animals and the planet healthy and safe. More people going vegan would prevent cows from ending up on streets and eating plastics from garbage bins.”

“We have been receiving numerous calls on our national helpline number- 98201 22602- where incidences of animals’ heads or other body parts trapped inside containers have been reported. PETA India encourages everyone to dispose of rubbish properly by keeping it in tightly sealed, chew-proof containers; rinsing out tins and putting the tops inside so that they won't cut an animal's tongue; and crushing aluminum cans, securing lids on jars, and cutting open empty cardboard and plastic containers so that animals can't become stuck inside them. Shoppers should also choose reusable bags rather than plastic ones and avoid other single-use plastic items,” he added.


A ray of hope

Flowers have emerged as a focal part of religious affairs and ceremonies thus virtually imbuing with the culture of India. However, mankind often fails to comprehend the fact that this very act of devotion generates a tremendous amount of floral waste. Eight million tonnes of floral waste are disposed of unethically every year, accounting for one-third of the total solid waste in India. These worn-out flowers contaminate the water quality and the residue of pesticides used on the flower percolates into the waters, thereby hampering marine life. Determined to combat these grave issues, Enactus Aryabhatta, a group of 60 passionate student entrepreneurs set out on a mission to address this challenge by initiating project ‘Palaash’ in 2019.  Under this project, floral waste generated from places of worship is collected and utilized to naturally dye fabrics, curbing the problem of floral waste management and water pollution. By offering natural dyeing services to various brands PAN India, Project Palaash aims to bring about a wave of sustainable fashion. The project has synergic collaborations with the renowned NGO – STOP Global Movement through which it provides employment to women who are victims of human trafficking.

“Starting the journey with waste flowers and using them to create employment and business opportunities through a zero-waste model, the loop is closed by creating organic compost, which helps in the regrowth of these flowers. Thus, enabling a circular economy. With the vision to expand Palaash further, the project is venturing into textile waste management which also battles the problem of water pollution,” their media head told TreeTake. “Through our relentless efforts, Palaash has been able to salvage 10 tonnes of floral waste, produce 600kg+ of handloom cotton, avert more than 50,000 litres of chemical pollution, reduce 20 tonnes of carbon emissions, while creating an impact on more than 25,000 lives,” they added. “India is the home to 11 out of the 12 most polluted cities in the world. These alarming levels of air pollution contribute to 4.2 million deaths every year. Having witnessed such grave issues over the years and experiencing the high AQIs ourselves, we decided to take action. Project Ibtida was born to help curb this issue by tapping into unidentified sources of air pollution and upcycling agricultural waste. With our synergic collaboration with GreenJams, we have come up with a line of home decor made out of Agrocrete® (Innovation of GreenJams), a carbon-negative alternative to concrete. With this, we lay a two-fold impact on the environment by providing the farmers with an alternative to stubble burning and helping replace plastic and concrete home decor. Our goal this year is to upcycle over 50,000kgs of stubble and prevent 60,000kgs of CO2, 16,000 kgs of organic carbon, and other pollutants. We also aim to employ over 15 artisans to create these products, as a result of this uplifting them and helping them lead a better life!” the media head added.

“Project Utkarsh simultaneously tackles the issues of gender biases, food wastage and unhealthy consumption patterns by empowering destitute women by giving them the means to earn by attaching an entrepreneurial approach to their existing cooking skills. These women entrepreneurs utilize the waste pulp of vegetables like carrot, beetroot, and spinach by making healthy savouries called VEGGITOS from them. Established in 2016, Project Utkarsh has achieved numerous milestones in its 5-year journey. It has provided employment opportunities to more than 50 women beneficiaries and helped them in becoming self-sustainable. Utkarsh has led to an increase in the income-generating capacity of these women entrepreneurs by 300% while generating a revenue of 4 lakhs annually. The unique innovation of Project Utkarsh has salvaged 4000kgs of waste food and more than 1,50,000 litres of water,” the media head told TreeTake.

Shivendra Dutt, Deputy Chair, POCT group, concludes: “Waste generation and redressal is a part and parcel of urban governance. It is no doubt fraught with many challenges, yet there is nothing that a determined mindset cannot achieve. The approach should be to inculcate a proper civic sense in people and make the authorities more accountable and actionable. Cities like Indore can be a source of inspiration and aspiration.”

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