• Mon. Jun 17th, 2024

Assessment of Municipal Solid Waste Management in Silchar Town of Assam: A thought for Clean Environment

ByDr.Mithra Dey

Jun 19, 2023

5th June is celebrated as World Environment Day and it aims to remind us about our duties and responsibilities towards keeping our environment clean. Celebrating this day is a conscious attempt to make people aware that our environment needs to be protected against damage and degradation. Air, water and soil are the abiotic components which if degraded can cause severe problems. Air, water and soil pollution are primarily caused by human beings and is also designated as anthropogenic sources of pollution. Pollution due to different wastes like solid waste, garbage both biodegradable and nonbiodegradable, plastics and polythenes create havoc in the environment and is responsible for several health issues like water borne diseases, respiratory illness, contamination of drinking water, air pollution, degradation of the natural environment, loss of aesthetic values, etc. It is also responsible for water logging and flash floods during rainy season.

The theme of World Environment Day 2023 was solutions to plastic pollution under the campaign #BeatPlasticPollution. More than 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced every year, half of which is designed to be used only once. The slogan was ‘Our Planet, Our Responsibility!’ Considering the theme and the slogan it becomes the responsibility of each one of us to think about our duties. Silchar is the headquarter of Cachar district of Barak Valley and is on the way of being declared a city. The river Barak flows through Silchar and is the lifeline of the city. It is also the source of water supply to the total population of the city. However, due to improper solid waste management in the city and lack of awareness among the public the city suffers from improper disposal, haphazard dumping of garbage, blocking of flow of water in the nallahs and drains causing urban flooding in the rainy season.

Solid waste management is a major challenge these days and one of the most important issues for environmentalists, administrators, engineers, and planners. Waste generation is an essential part of everyday life and disposal of this unwanted material is also an essential activity. Urban local bodies are failing in compliance with the Municipal Solid Waste rules in the country. The proper management of ever-increasing amounts of solid waste is vital to avoid serious environmental and socio-economic issues. In developing countries management of solid waste has become a public health concern due to unregulated landfills causing contamination of drinking water, air pollution, degradation of the environment, loss of aesthetic beauty of the city, etc. People are dependent on surface as well as ground water and pollution of both is a serious environmental hazard. Study of water quality around the dumpyard indicates that water quality is poor and unfit for human use. The composition of solid waste indicates that plastics and polythenes are found in good quantity especially as the use of polythene bags have not been done away with. The excess generation of plastic waste is becoming a global threat due to its harmful and non-biodegradable nature. Hence, it is essential to discard use of plastics and polythenes.

Waste collected is primarily dumped in dump yards which are not designed scientifically and waste is not segregated. Dump yard also releases major greenhouse gases like Methane and Carbon dioxide by anaerobic decomposition of solid waste and is responsible for increase in atmospheric temperature. Solid waste in Silchar is either dumped in the Meherpur dumpyard or is thrown in some plot of land which apparently does not have any owner or is disposed off in some drain/nallah. Such dumping causes blocking of drains and after a shower of rain causes urban flooding. Silchar Municipal Board has collection system which is not effective and is not followed seriously and hence garbage piles up causing pollution of all types. There is no installation of dustbins and garbage is disposed off haphazardly at different points along the roadside. The door to door collection of waste is very much irregular and unsatisfactory. There is no accountability and no punishment for those who don’t follow the instructions . In short ‘Polluter’s pay’ is not enforced on the defaulting citizens, hence management is ineffective.

Considering that the environment needs to be kept clean and pollution free, the next question arises WHO IS RESPONSIBLE? People and administration are both responsible and consciousness is the most important aspect. However, there is only blame game: People blaming the ‘Urban Local Body’ and Administration and vice versa. It is important to understand what should be done. Many cities in India are successful in keeping their city clean but for that the following is essential:

Planning : Identification of gaps and issues in management and devise a micro-pocket plan for effective waste collection and segregation in the town. It must include design of a low-cost operational model and reporting and monitoring mechanism for waste collection and transportation within the town. Capacity building of stakeholders and training of ULB personals and holding focus group discussions for effective management.

Capacity building and compliance of the Solid Waste (Management and Handling Rules (SWM) Rules, 2016 and 2000 is necessary. “Uniform Guidelines” for managing municipal Solid Waste Management in all wards has to be issued and Capacity-Building programme must be launched – which will focus on training public health workers and Municipal Board employees.

Studies on water quality both surface and ground water including soil quality should be carried out by the administration to ensure the safety of water supplied to the public. In this regard help of educational and research institutes can be utilized where research is carried out on pollution of water, soil is carried out. The expertise of the Central Pollution Control Board can also help the administration and Municipal board.

On this day as responsible citizens let us pledge to keep the following in mind to save our environment:

1. Segregate waste at source and priotize waste segregation at household and market level.

2. The District authority should focus on the management of organic fraction of the waste which is the major component of the MSW. The biodegradable portion is an essential resource and can go for composting and vermicomposting and used widely.

3. Such practices should be started and it can be encouraged appropriately within the present Skill India and Swachh Bharat missions.

4. The District authority /Urban local body should look for a landfill site according to the “Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016” instead of the present open dumping of waste.

5. Proper awareness should be created to avoid the mixing of untreated biomedical waste with MSW.

6. Recycle, Reuse and Reduce should be followed.

7. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is an environmental protection strategy aimed at decreasing total environmental impact from a product and its packaging, by ensuring that the producers of the product take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products. If this strategy is implemented to remove/recover different types of solid wastes like plastic cans, bottles of different products like toilet cleaners, containers of room cleaners, etc a part of the municipal solid waste would be managed. Many e-wastes also finds its way in the municipal waste which needs to be taken back by the producers.

8. Everyone should carry cloth bags to market so that plastic and polythene bags are not brought home. Each one of us should refuse use of carrybags.

9. There are several good practices followed in different states of India which have proved effective in management of municipal solid waste. Such practices can be introduced in Silchar too. Surat in Gujarat, Indore in Madhya Pradesh are some cities from which lots can be learnt and taken up.
As responsible citizens it is the duty of each one of us to do our part and keep the environment clean and pollution free. Silchar is reeling under water logging and problem of flash flood which is due to improper garbage disposal and dumping and lack of water flow in the nallahs. Stringent measures have to be taken to implement the SWM Rules and keep the city safe. Segregation of waste at source, regular collection and disposal and reuse of the reusable portion, preparation of compost from biodegradable portion of waste etc needs to be followed. Public consciousness and participation has to be strictly imposed to prevent hardships during rainy season and ensure a clean and pollution free environment.

(The article is solely the opinion of the author. The views expressed here are solely personal and not in any way connected to any organisation or any political party ).

By Dr.Mithra Dey

Professor (Retd) Dept of Ecology and Environmental Science, Assam University, Silchar. Email: deymithra57@gmail.com

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