Only a few days back the Municipal Committee Chadoora in Budgam district created one more roadside garbage collection point, just outside the local power receiving station. Anguished citizens posted pictures and videos of the trash on social media and people kept lambasting the civic body for several days. Chadoora town is growing rapidly, but there is no scientific landfill site in the town. The waste is either thrown on roadside or dumped near banks of Doodh Ganga river which flows through the town. The water from the same river is lifted at Kralpora, 5 kms downstream, and supplied to more than 5 lakh souls in Srinagar city.
The road side garbage collection points can be seen in every town and city of J&K especially in Srinagar city. This is an open violation of the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Rules. Whether it is garbage collection point at Hyderpora near Jamkash motors or outside GD Goenka school in Lalbazar or for that matter near Doodh Ganga river at Bagh e Mehtab, the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) has declared all these sites as their official garbage dumps. These roadside trash collection points look so repelling but where shall people lodge their protest as nobody is ready to address this problem ?
According to a 2015 survey conducted by London-based City Mayors Foundation, Srinagar was figuring at 92nd place in the global ranking of fastest growing cities. Srinagar is considered to be one of the 100 fastest-urbanizing cities in the world with an annual growth rate of 2.5 per cent. So, not only is finding land for garbage dump-sites extremely difficult, the municipal waste generation is also increasing rapidly in Srinagar along with other adjoining towns like Budgam , Chadoora and Ganderbal.
Due to massive urbanization and population growth, during the last 10-15 years the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) has failed to even acquire 10 to 15 hectares of land for creating an alternate landfill site as the existing site at Achan is already overflowing. In 2017, the then deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh announced the formation of a committee, headed by Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, to find a suitable space for an alternate landfill site, but the land was not at all found around the Srinagar district. It was officially announced that land for a new landfill site is not available at all in Srinagar. In such a situation what is the solution to reduce the waste in Srinagar city & to address this problem ? Isn't the situation very alarming ?
Kashmir valley has limited usable land due to its mountainous terrain. Due to very small land holdings the 95 % of the farmers here are officially recognized as marginal farmers. The size of small agricultural landholdings in Jammu & Kashmir was estimated at 0.55 hectares during the agriculture census 2015-16. Sources say that this land holding is much smaller (around 0.45 hectares ) unofficially. In Kashmir Valley, the size is even smaller. During the 2010-2011 agriculture census, the average size of operational land holdings in India was 1.15 hectares. This figure was lower, at 0.62 hectares in J&K. Districts in Kashmir valley had even lower landholding sizes than the state as a whole. Kulgam 0.39 hectares Anantnag 0.39 , Shopian 0.56, Pulwama 0.48, Srinagar 0.31, Budgam 0.43, Baramulla 0.51, Ganderbal 0.37, Kupwara 0.51, Bandipora 0.48. This figure again came down during the 2015-16 census as discussed above. When we have dearth of land in almost every district of Kashmir valley , where shall Government create new landfill sites? During the last 10 years it is estimated that 15 % rural areas have been urbanized across Kashmir valley but there is no service available to lift the mounds of solid waste lying scattered in these semi urbanized villages ? The waste is thrown near the banks of rivers , streams , ponds or open agricultural fields. Rural waste management programme under Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) Gramin has also miserably failed in J&K.
Why In-house composting
For the last 6 years I have been stressing on in-house composting of organic waste (kitchen waste). I along with some friends gave a presentation to the Chief Secretary in December 2018 stressing upon him and his administrative secretaries to make in-house composting of MSW mandatory in Srinagar and Jammu cities at least. I wrote a lot on the issue in past. I don't know how many people have taken tips from my previous articles, but during last year's COVID 19 lockdown many people were managing organic waste (kitchen waste) within the boundary walls of the house. I had written a few articles on the issue last summer as well to guide the people. In-house composting of kitchen waste may be a bit challenging for those families living in multistoried apartments and flats but for a place like Kashmir , Jammu and many other towns and cities where people have some space in front of their house, processing waste won't be a challenge at all. I would appeal to newly appointed Commissioner SMC Athar Aamir Khan who seems to be very much passionate about managing municipal solid waste to start making in-house composting of organic waste compulsory in some selected colonies of Srinagar city on pilot basis.
Food waste or organic waste or biodegradable waste consists of 70 % of the total waste generated in Srinagar city or any other town of Kashmir valley. Kitchen waste management is not rocket science. We need to ensure to collect all the food waste in a separate bin that can be kept in the kitchen. Food waste like egg shells, bones, tea waste, fruit and vegetable waste, leftover rice, and bread crumbs should not at all be mixed with plastic waste like chips packets, biscuit packets, milk pouches or diapers. This is the only challenge and within one or two weeks we can learn the art of waste segregation. The segregated kitchen waste is to be put into a small pit outside around our house or to be thrown into a 70 to 80 litres plastic drum. Within a month or two the waste will get decomposed into compost and we can use the same in our kitchen garden. If there is enough water in the pit , one can use saw dust to reduce the same. As the days will be warmer now for another 6 to 8 months, managing kitchen waste will be easier. We also need to keep turning the waste after every week. Adding Jaggery (Gudd) with some hot water can stimulate the process of composting. Lastly don't forget to put a lid on the compost pit or bin in order to protect it from rain water.
At a time when land is shrinking and population is on rise, the Government seems to have no concrete plans for scientific waste management for J&K. I appeal Commissioner SMC to involve the Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) partners who are already working with the corporation for the last several years to hand-hold Srinagar residents on in-house composting of kitchen waste. If this becomes a public movement, we can reduce 50 % of the city's waste within 12 -18 months. In-house composting will bring down the load on landfill sites as well. The model can be replicated in towns and villages once it is successful in Srinagar city…
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is Founder & Chairman of JK RTI Movement. He is also Anant Fellow for Climate Action.