Fifth in the Series: 14th March 2018

Solid Waste Management:

Mountains of Trash, Stench in The Air: Welcome to Delhi's Hill Stations!

The whole world has a common problem but waste disposal is reaching alarming proportions. Most of us are unconcerned about where the garbage goes until we realise how close we are to virtual hill stations of filth!

This has been the fate of Delhi over the last few years; increased garbage generation, lack of both decentralised and centralised management has created a waste management crisis in the capital. In continuation of the lecture series on the challenges faced by the citizens in Delhi, IIC organised the 5th discussion in the Delhi matters series this time, a 360 degree look at what is happening to Delhi's waste- a problem which far beyond being an unseemly eye-sore is creating huge health hazards.

The panel was chaired by Dr. Sameer Sharma, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs and Smart Cities Mission Director. The speakers were Ms. Swathi Singh Sambyal from the Center of Science and Environment and head of the waste management project; Deepak Agarwal, Senior Vice President at IL& FS; Chitra Mukherjee from the NGO Chintan and Mr. Umesh Sachdeva, Engineer in Chief at the South Delhi Municipal Corporation.

Dr. Sameer Sharma also an author of 'Smart Cities Unbundled' and an expert in civic management and urban development stated that an integrated system which entails one agency looking after the entire process of waste management from start to end yields the best results but there was no single solution for the whole of India or for that matter even within the states. Every city has unique issues and the dynamics of handling waste was driven by a local understanding of which tools and processes to use. Giving the example of Vizag he recounted how digital technology had played a key role in managing waste. The point in short was

' Don't let garbage touch the ground! '

Dr. Sameer Sharma is the Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs and the Mission Director, Smart Cities Mission.


Ms. Swathi Singh Sambyal co-author of 'Not in my Backyard: Status of Solid Waste Management in Indian Cities' who had been a part of the implementation team of several waste management projects reminded everyone.

' Delhi is a hill station of solid waste limited by strategies like collecting and dumping, burning or converting its waste with the ultimate solution of dumping at landfills. '

' Delhi's 14 thousand tons of garbage generated every day was largely unprocessed. Even the data associated with waste management was outdated and consequently undependable.'

' Waste management is majorly social engineering and the focus must be on segregation at source and bringing behavioural change among citizens. '

Swati S Sambyal is heading the Waste Management Programme at New Delhi based environment policy and advocacy organisation, Centre for Science and Environment.


Mr Deepak Agarwal from IL & FS spoke about converting waste into useful resource material or into energy and recounted the experience of doing that with Delhi's waste. He said the quality of compost passed the agricultural standards and although the aim wasn't to make power from waste, it was certainly better than dumping it at landfills with all the attendant hazards. He elaborated on the centralised model of managing waste.

'Our integrated resource recovery model is based on three fundamental principles: it must be environmentally friendly, socially inclusive and economical. '

' Whereas there have been several innovations in converting waste into products for agriculture and the construction industry, none of the projects have been economically viable. '

Mr. Deepak Agarwal is Senior Vice President IL & FS dealing with Environmental Infrastructure and Services

Mr.Umesh Sachdeva the E-in-C of SDMC did not deny what was stated but gave an idea of steps taken and on the anvil with the coming into force of the new Rules on segregation. However he did not express much hope with the composting strategy which according to him had no takers among farmers.

Mr. Umesh Sachdeva is Engineer in Chief in Department of Environment Management Services (DEMS), South Delhi Municipal Corporation.


Ms. Chitra Mukherjee from Chintan spoke with passion about the plight of the waste pickers and their immense contribution to the waste management of cities as a part of the informal economy:

' The community of waste pickers is 1.5 lakh strong and is responsible for not just collection but segregation and channelising what is retrievable in a most efficient and economical manner. '

' Waste pickers are champions of recycling but suffer physical injuries, face animal attacks at the dumping sites, suffer severe gastrointestinal and respiratory problems and are continuously being exploited. '

' Strengthening the informal sector and making laws socially inclusive can contribute hugely to establishing a greener and less wasteful economy. '

Ms. Chitra Mukherjee has specialised in waste management and sustainable consumption and operating as Head of Programmes at Chintan which is an UN-Accredited NGO


The session concluded with a common consensus that the focus should lie on making the citizenry aware of the various personal practices of segregation, waste reduction at home and bringing about a behavioural change in the minds of the so called educated class. Solutions are simple and need to start at home, before investing in high end technology.