In 2016 Govt of India through Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change in exercise of the powers conferred by sections 3, 6 and 25 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and in supersession of the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000 constituted through a gazette notification dated 8th April 2016 Municipal Solid Waste (Management & Handling) Rules also known as MSW Rules 2016. These rules not only apply to municipal bodies in urban areas but they are to be followed by areas called outgrowths in urban agglomerations, census towns as declared by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, notified areas, notified industrial townships, areas under the control of Indian Railways, airports, air bases, Ports and harbours, defence establishments, special economic zones, State and Central government organisations, places of pilgrims. As per Rule No 13 of MSW Rules 2016 these rules apply to Rural also. Rule 13 (1) of MSW Rules reads :
“The Secretary–in-charge of village Panchayats or Rural Development Department in the State and Union territory shall have the same duties as the Secretary–in-charge, Urban Development in the States and Union territories, for the areas which are covered under these rules and are under their jurisdictions”.
This makes it clear that any violation of MSW Rules 2016 may invite penal proceedings against the officers / officials of Rural Development Department or Panchayati Raj Department or the State Mission Directorate under SBM Gramin. From a village Panchayat Secretary to Administrative Secretary of RDD & Panchayati Raj department at state or UT level are accountable for any violation of MSW Rules 2016. In addition to it like ULBs the panchayat local bodies are also supposed to submit their Annual Report on waste management before June 30th every year to State Pollution Control Board in states and Pollution Control Committees in UTs. Is this being done in J&K? I am sure not even ULBs would be filing the annual reports to JK Pollution Control Committee-JKPCC and they too (JKPCC) would be unaware of it .
Recent violations done by RDD
By setting up Segregation Sheds, Compost Units near Water Bodies in villages, the Rural Development Department (RDD) especially its Rural Engineering Wing (REW) is openly violating MSW Rules 2016 and the Water Prevention and Control of Pollution Act 1974. The officers of the department can be prosecuted for the same by way of filing a simple application before local magistrate or the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The preamble of Water Act 1974 says that this law is to provide for the prevention and control of water pollution, and for the maintaining or restoring of wholesomeness of water in the country. The Act was amended in 1988. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act was enacted to provide for the levy and collection of a cess on water consumed by persons operating and carrying on certain types of industrial activities. This cess is collected with a view to augment the resources of the Central Board and the State Boards for the prevention and control of water pollution constituted under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. The Act was last amended in 2003. Section 24 of Water Act 1974 prohibits use of stream or well for disposal of polluting matter. The relevant section reads:
“Subject to the provisions of this section, no person shall knowingly cause or permit any poisonous, noxious or polluting matter determined in accordance with such standards as may be laid down by the State Board to enter (whether directly or indirectly) into any [stream or well or sewer or on land] or no person shall knowingly cause or permit to enter into any stream any other matter which may tend, either directly or in combination with similar matters, to impede the proper flow of the water of the stream in a manner leading or likely to lead to a substantial aggravation of pollution due to other causes or of its consequences.”
If Govt is already incentivising home composting of food and other organic waste by providing Rs 5500 through local Panchayats to construct compost pits in every house and Rs 11000 are being provided for Soakage Pits to treat liquid waste, why shall mixed waste (kitchen waste and plastic waste etc) be carried to another site for Segregation which are known as Segregation Sheds. If this was to be done what was the need to provide Rs 5500 to each household for constructing Compost Pits near their houses? Are these compost pits operational in villages? As per my field experience and having visited many villages around Budgam district especially , I have not come across even a single such village where people have been educated on how to use these pits (compost pits or soakage pits). Even the design of these compost pits is wrong as there is major engineering fault because these puts have been constructed using stone boulders which have been pitched in the deep ditches. It would be difficult to take out the compost once the waste gets decomposed. Ideally the pits should have been rectangular with only 2 feet depth plus a boundary wall of 2 feet around.
People feel agitated
In many areas the Segregation Sheds have been constructed either near water bodies or public places near roadsides etc. Recently Greater Kashmir reported that in Chount Waliwar village in Ganderbal district a segregation shed has been built at a public place. The local residents raised their voices, demanding that the segregation shed be relocated to another suitable location. Similarly in Sail Beerwah this shed has been constructed near a stream which is in violation of Water Act 1974. In Branwar village of Chadoora Budgam , the segregation shed was being constructed on a main road which would be a threat for the local population as the area would become a safe haven for street dogs. The site was later dismantled when I highlighted this by making a live video from the area and that went viral on social networking site Facebook.
At an average Rs 4.50 lakhs are provided to each Panchayat for constructing segregation sheds, compost pits, soakage pits. For 5000 village panchayats in J&K a whooping amount of Rs 225 Crores have been allocated. In addition to it, crores of rupees have been spent on purchase of steel trash bins as well. Rs 23.40 lakhs are available given to each panchayat halqa every year plus share from DDC and BDC grants. This makes it clear that we have no deficiency of funds under the rural infrastructure and waste management sector especially from the last 3 to 4 years. What we lack is the dearth of technical human resources who could have made the Rural Waste Management programme under Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) successful. The Civil Engineering wing of the Rural Development Department needs to be guided and trained about creating waste management infrastructure in villages. The District level consultants should be appointed to prepare a complete roadmap for the rural waste management programme. The officers of rural development department will face lots of problems in future if complaints are lodged against them for violating MSW Rules 2016 because these rules apply to them as well in addition to Urban Local Bodies (ULBs).
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow & Anant Fellow for Climate Action. He is Chairman Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.