Bhopal's Plastic Pundit

After a thorough research the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, in year 2009 gave a nod to put into use waste plastic for road construction. Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh (MP) were the first states in India which decided to undertake some pilot projects wherein waste plastic was used along with Bitumen to blacktop road surfaces. The first road in MP made of plastic reinforced by Bitumen was constructed in Raisan district of MP in 2010. This 5 kms stretch also known as Silvani road was constructed by Madhya Pradesh Rural Roads Development Authority (MPRRDA)  and even after almost 10 years the road hasn’t got damaged as I have been told by some reliable sources.

After successful testing of Silvani road the biggest challenge before Government of Madhya Pradesh was procurement of waste plastic as the same is not available in bulk especially in a segregated manner. Getting virgin plastic was not at all a challenge for Government but to put into use waste plastic material was indeed challenge. Imteyaz Ali a renowned plastic waste management expert from Bhopal who heads an NGO called Sarthak came forward and accepted this challenge. Infact he had already provided waste plastic for construction of Silvani road in 2010 when he was working in mere 10 wards of Bhopal city.

After testing of Silvani road Imteyaz Ali‘s services were availed by MP Government and he was sent for one month training course to IIT Kharagpur as well. Today Imteyaz Ali’s  Bhopal Model of Plastic Waste Management is an accepted  technique to get rid of plastic waste and converting the same into resource.

From 2012 till date Imteyaz Ali has provided more than 20,000 metric tons of waste plastic to Madhya Pradesh Government who use the same in road construction. During last 10 years Imteyaz Ali has played a major role in constructing more than 8000 kms (eight thousand kms)   of roads in rural Madhya Pradesh. In addition to it around 150 kms of plastic roads have been constructed in urban areas of MP state.

What is a Plastic Road ?

 Plastic roads are not fully made up of plastic material but they are constructed by collecting waste plastic material which includes Poly Plastic (carry bags) , Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) ie plastic mats , carpets etc , Low Density (LD) plastic ( Milk pouches etc) and Multi layered (ML)  plastic like chips packets , biscuit rappers with aluminum coating etc. This is followed by segregating the material and then the same is cleaned and finally shredded into 2.4 mm chips. These chips are then added to the aggregate and finally mixed with Bitumen in Hot-mix plants by decreasing 10 % of Bitumen and adding 12 % of the plastic chips. When the shredded plastic waste chips are added to the aggregate which includes sand, gravel, crushed stone, slag, recycled concrete etc  it gets coated uniformly within 30 to 60 seconds, giving an oily look. The plastic waste coated aggregate is mixed with hot Bitumen and the resulting mix is used for road construction.

World Bank & UNDP

Imteyaz Ali’s Bhopal Model of  plastic waste management  was few years back adopted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The model was demonstrated last year in July before the the Global Environment Facility (GEF) council at the World Bank headquarters in Washington.  Imtiaz Ali made a presentation at the conference where representatives from around 165 countries were present along with top officials of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). UNDP has been providing technical support to Imteyaz Ali’s organization Sarthak which includes training , documentation and capacity building. Prabjhjot Singh Sodhi a senior official in UNDP India who looks after environment and waste management has been a great supporter of Plastic waste management model adopted by Sarthak in Bhopal.

Mr Sodhi who was also present at World Bank conference in Washington while speaking to press after the meeting said that he feels proud that the initiative taken up by MP Government and Sarthak with the support of UNDP is being appreciated globally.

In-fact I had a chance to have a personal interaction with Mr Sodhi in New Delhi recently wherein I urged upon him to give people of Kashmir relief from the menace of plastic waste. He has agreed to visit Srinagar by May this year and plans to undertake plastic waste management work in Srinagar in collaboration with local Government.

Pertinently a small project has already been taken up by UNDP in Jammu city last year by empaneling an NGO Regional and Urban Development Agency (RUDA) .   

Livelihood to Ragpickers

 Non-recyclable and waste plastic is being put into use by Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) and several other Urban Local Bodies with the help of Imteyaz Ali’s Sarthak. Imteyaz Ali with the help of MP Government not only manages plastic waste but this activity also provides livelihood to more than 22000 ragpickers who have been have been enrolled for plastic waste collection across Madhya Pradesh. In Bhopal city alone around 2500 ragpickers are enrolled for this work.

All these twenty-two thousand (22000) ragpickers have been issued identity cards jointly by local Municipal Corporations ,ULB’s and Imteyaz Ali’s NGO Sarthak. The ragpickers get all the benefits including health insurance.

BMC has provided huge space to Sarthak that is used as Plastic Collection center where machines are installed to process the plastic waste. As all the plastic waste cannot be used to construct roads , majority of it is being utilized by cement manufacturers as an alternate fuel for combustion as well. I will write about that separately.

Conclusion

The average land holding in Jammu & Kashmir is very meager and I have been writing about this quite often. As per 2015 agriculture census J&K’s land holding is mere 0.45 hectares. Shrinking farmlands will not only create food insecurity in Jammu & Kashmir but this has a direct impact on management of solid waste as well especially the plastic waste management.

There are no open spaces to create scientific landfill sites across Kashmir. Plastic waste is scattered on roads, open plots and water bodies.  For the last 15 years the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) has not able to acquire even 20 acres of land for creating an alternate landfill site as the existing site at Achan is already choked. In Magam town the plastic waste is scattered on Srinagar- Gulmarg road and Ferozpur nallah. Kulgam Municipal Committee dumps the solid waste near banks of Vishav river and Bandipora Municipal Committee is using Wullar lake as a landfill site.

I have moved to National Green Tribunal (NGT) last year to register my protest. I don’t blame the municipal institutions for this mess as they have not even few acres of land available to create new landfills. In such a scenario there is an urgent need to replicate Bhopal model in Jammu & Kashmir.

I appeal authorities to take UNDP on board so that Jammu & Kashmir’s roads are made of plastic which will give us relief from plastic menace. I believe roads made of plastic would be stronger and climate resistant.

If Government can take people associated with Tourism trade to cities like Mumbai and Ahmadabad why not take local hot-mix plant owners to Bhopal and other cities so that they have a first hand experience about the use of plastic in road construction….. 

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is Founder / Chairman J&K RTI Movement. He is also an Acumen fellow..