Strategy for Solid Waste Management in Srinagar

Municipal Solid Waste Management (MSWM) is a major challenge in urban areas throughout the world. Most of the cities and health resorts in the world are experiencing unplanned urban sprawl and heavy pressure of population. The net result is an enormous generation of waste. The quantity of generated waste mainly depends on population, economic growth and the efficiency of the reuse and recycling system. Rapid population and expanding urbanization have caused a drastic increase of the municipal solid waste generation and the variety of the waste composition. Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), generally used to describe most of the non-hazardous solid waste from a city, town or village requires routine collection and transport to a processing or disposal site. It may include domestic waste, commercial waste, Industrial waste, debris or construction waste, dead animals etc. Municipalities, generally responsible for management of waste in the cities, have the challenge to afford an efficient and effective system for the inhabitants.

Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, sits among a vast network of lakes and wetlands. Unfortunately, despite its water wealth the growing population and the mismanagement of waste has resulted in grave environmental challenges, underlining the need for an urgent and comprehensive waste management strategy for this beautiful city. Srinagar city is a commercial hub of Kashmir valley and occupies highest position as far as basic and other facilities are concerned. The basic requirements for sustaining living standard are easily available in Srinagar city which is responsible for enhancing the waste generation in this particular district. Human activities create waste, and the ways this is handled, stored, collected, and disposed off can pose risk to the environment and to the public health. Srinagar is the first metropolis and fastest growing city of western Himalayas and here the management of municipal solid waste (MSW) is a big challenge for local authorities. More than 13,000 metric tons of solid waste that is produced in Srinagar every month may become one of the main challenges for the successful implementation of the Smart City project in the summer capital. For the past many years, the government has failed to address the menace of solid waste as nearly 450 metric tons of solid waste is produced in the city every day and is dumped in the heart of Srinagar, at Achan, the only dumping site in the city. Waste is not just dumped at the land filling site, but one can find it everywhere. The waste is directly dumped around a residential area, a government-owned land filling site at Achan without being treated. With a population of 12.36 lakh, spread over an area of 294 sq km on both sides of the Jhelum River, not even in a single residential area or commercial establishment in Srinagar has the facility of segregation of waste; and much of the waste is dumped into water bodies like the Dal Lake.

Srinagar city has witnessed an increased population growth rate in the last three decades. This increase in urban growth is a threat to sustainable urbanization and has given rise to many problems. Increase in municipal waste is one among them that needs to be prioritized. There is only one sanitary landfill in Kashmir at Saidapora, Achan where Municipal solid waste is dumped in a scientific manner. Every day around 350 tons of garbage is unloaded by vehicles of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) at Achan site and the waste generation in 2035 is expected to be 1723 tons per day. Thus, there is a dire need to assess the available land in Srinagar city and identify the potential landfill sites before it is too late.

One of the basic environmental problems in Srinagar city is the Transport and Disposal of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW). A big problem is that there is no proper system to collect and sort waste in the city. Official records of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) show that a total of 450 metric tonnes of waste is generated per day in Srinagar, 62% of which is organic waste, while the rest is inorganic including 7% of plastic waste. There are more than 520 open dumping points across the city according to official documents. The most important function of the Corporation is to provide better and efficient sanitation.  At present 60% of total waste generated is being collected and this is as per national standards comparing the infrastructure and manpower available with SMC for this purpose. For collection and lifting of the city waste from interiors at ward level, hand carts etc. are being used to collect the waste and take it to specific collection points.

The Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) has the mandate for waste management system in Srinagar city. The SMC has provided the small waste bins to every household. The collected waste is transported to the landfill site near Achan. Waste segregations into different categories viz., composting, recycling etc. is yet not practiced in Srinagar, though the authority is collecting and dumping the waste since 1984. The other districts are lacking this facility as collection of waste is done around the main towns and dumped into the nearby water bodies, open fields or sometimes dumped directly into fresh water bodies.

The unwanted practices like dumping in fresh water bodies, agriculture lands, forests, road sides and burning of waste leads to environmental pollution. These practices may indirectly alter the physicochemical characteristics of fresh water bodies and soils. The improper waste management has changed the structure and quality parameters of water bodies.  MSW disposal has been a chronic problem and are being continuously added to water bodies hence affect the physiochemical quality of water making it unfit for use of livestock and other organisms. The water holding capacity has been reduced due to accumulation of waste. If an adequate MSWM strategy is not in place, human and environmental health would be jeopardized. It has been generally observed that less attention is being given towards the increasing soil pollution due to improper management of waste in Jammu and Kashmir.

Srinagars waste problem had got so big that the National Green Tribunal, India’s top environmental court, had to intervene. The court issued several orders to J&K government since 2013 asking it to convert the waste into energy. This rubbish poses a serious health hazard for the nearly 80,000 people who lived around the site and an environmental threat for the entire area. To implement the system of cleaning the whole city on regular basis, the residential as well as commercial waste collection method has to be implemented. After the implementation of daily Door to Door garbage, the collection timings of the segregated waste have to be morning hours; and it will become the practice of every citizen to store the household waste temporarily in twin dustbin as segregated (Dry and Waste) till Door to Door garbage collection vehicle arrives. This will make a good improvement in the overall scenario. Sense of hygiene and awareness towards environment will be visible. For the shopkeepers, waste collection system can be made operative in second shift from 5 pm to 11 pm to facilitate commercial units as bulk generators. Door to Door collection system needs to be implemented as a pilot project. Considering the nature and components of waste generated by households and business places, the waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting processes would be more suitable in managing the challenge. These management options should be integrated in a sustainable framework.

MARIYA BATOOL is pursuing Integrated PG in Environmental Science, Department of Environmental Science at SP college, Cluster University, Srinagar