KATHMANDU: Though the government is running ‘trash is cash’ programme to create awareness about recycling and reusing waste at the household level, the implementation leaves much to be desired.
According to Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), the valley generates 600 tonnes of solid waste daily, out of which KMC alone produces 475 tonnes.
Sordid scenarioAccording to Solid Waste Management Act (SWMA) 2011, local bodies are responsible for reducing, reusing and recycling solid waste. However, KMC admits to lack of any remarkable change in the society regarding the process.
KMC claims to collect 90 per cent of the solid waste with the help of 80 assigned waste transportation vehicles, of which 50 small
vehicles collect the waste from wards on daily basis while big vehicles transfer and dispose it at Sisdole Landfill Site. Rabin Man Shrestha, chief and senior divisional engineer of environment management division at KMC, says, “We don’t have a system in place to segregate waste into recyclables and non-recyclables, so all of it is collected and disposed at the landfill site. But we are in the process of establishing recycling and compost plants to reuse and recycle solid waste.” Stating that Nepalis have not yet
developed a habit of segregating waste, he adds, “Dumping all kinds of garbage in one heap nullifies chances of recycle or reuse.”
According to Prakash Amatya, former technical advisor of Poverty Reduction of Informal Workers in Solid Waste Management (PRISM) project, if the government and general public join hands for proper waste management, it could prove to be a good source of income and also reduce pollution. “KMC is only focused on collecting and dumping garbage, which is not a sustainable method,” he says, adding, “The government should encourage people to manage waste at household level by providing incentives and buying recyclable materials. This will dramatically minimise waste production.”
Plans in progress
According to Shrestha, KMC has initiated steps to segregate waste into organic and non-organic, and turning the former into compost
manure. However, he admits that it is being done on a very small scale and needs to be massively promoted. He also informs that KMC is
planning to distribute two separate buckets for household and communal purposes to isolate organic and non-organic waste from this
fiscal year. The project sounds very similar to the campaign carried out some 15 years ago, when buckets were distributed to encourage households to separate their garbage.
Unfortunately the previous programme had witnessed little, if any, success.
When queried about weaknesses in solid waste management, Shrestha denies limit-ations in enforcing rules and regulation. He says, “I agree that KMC hasn’t gone big yet, but the idea is gradually working and concern about solid waste management is increasing. We have scheduled a routine for collecting organic and non-organic waste since mid-April.”
According to him, they have penalised up to 150 people Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 in a single day for throwing waste haphazardly. Stating that only official efforts are not enough to create a change, he calls for public support.
The country also has technologies for dealing with waste —there are two compost plants that could recycle organic waste into compost, one in KMC and another in Bhaktapur. However, Shrestha informs, “These plants are outdated and not in working condition. Also, they’re in the middle of the city and are incapable of managing hundreds of tonnes of waste.” Besides, Thimi municipality has a waste energy generation plant with a capacity of 200 kgs, which is also defunct. “We have demanded new plants, but the Ministry pays no heed to us,” says Shrestha.
Meanwhile, Dr Sumitra Amatya, executive director at Solid Waste Management Technical Support Centre (SWMTSC), says, “Instable government and lack of resources obstruct us from drafting policies to introduce new equipments.” KMC has been allocated Rs 410 million for managing solid waste.
Although the government lacks initiation for efficient garbage disposal, the private sector is doing an appreciable job to reduce at least 15 per cent of the valley’s total waste. Mahesh Shah Kalwar, president of Scrap Dealers Association (SDA), says, “About 90 per cent of the
produced waste can be recycled and reused, but we are unable to manage more than 25 per cent at present,
contributing 30 per cent to national economy. We also export raw materials to Malaysia and China. Lack of security, collection centre, professional identity and safety measures are preventing us from exploiting the full potential.” According to him, 30 per cent of non-organic waste like polythene bags, metal, plastic, glassware, textile, et cetera are also sellable and recyclable, though people often dump them.
There are reportedly 350,000 waste workers directly involved in solid waste management, including rag pickers, cycle collectors, storekeepers and suppliers of raw materials. They earn anything from Rs 15,000 to Rs 50,000 per month. Kalwar says, “Our profession has
numerous problems like societal ostracisation, insecurity, health hazards, demands for donation and police harassment.” According to him, they could work much better if provided with security, recognition, appropriate working environment and alternative place for management.
Though the government is conversant with the role of waste workers, it has not made any special provisions for them. Shrestha says,
“We are positive in terms of providing identification and job recognition, but are still deliberating on the possible consequences.”
Ragged resolutionsAccording to SWMTSC, there are 9,000 rag pickers involved in waste material collection in the valley, for whom the government has come up with the project, ‘Practical Action’. Dr Sumitra says, “Along with SWMTSC, five municipalities of the valley are engaged in this project. We’re researching all possibilities.” Stating that the government is positive in drafting policy to manage, organise and identify rag pickers and waste workers, she says, “By recognising their environmental activism, we are planning to term them as environment volunteers. We’re considering providing them gloves and masks.” According to SWMTSC, they also tried to introduce ‘Facilitating Treatment Plant’, which can produce enough waste energy for valley, but it is stuck in the pipelines. Stating that private public participation (PPP) model is reliable in solid waste management, Shrestha says, “The council has sanctioned the PPP
model, so we will go for it after the Ministry’s approval.”
To manage solid waste , Dr Sumitra stresses on the need for immediate change in behaviour and attitude, for which information should be propagated through TVCs, print media and community awareness programmes. As kitchens are the main source of organic waste, she says, “Just imparting awareness to women could reduce waste by up to 60 per cent.”
Accusing the executive body of the valley municipalities of being unwilling to manage solid waste, she says, “They are following the easy way out, though there are many sustainable ways of managing waste. We’ve made necessary regulations, but enforcement is weak.”
Dr Sumitra feels that the executive body should enforce laws strictly, and the general public should follow them as part of their citizen duties. She says, “Our research shows that 59 per cent of capital’s pollution is a result of solid waste. Hence, managing it will automatically correct the pollution.”
According to experts, lack of behavioural and attitudinal change, sustainable techno-logy identification, resources and political instability are major challenges to management of solid waste.