World Environment Day 2020: Odisha processes only 25% of its waste

We all know what unsafe waste disposal can do to the environment, but still we think very little about it. The so-called ‘waste’ is the by-product of a wide range of human activities – manufacturing, consuming, mining, farming, and so on. From waking up to going to bed, each of our activities is likely to generate some waste, toxic or non-toxic.

Toxic waste can harm us and our environment after it ends up on land, in water, as well as the air. Some wastes – such as lead, polythene, and mercury – remain in the environment for a long time and get absorbed into animal and plant life, causing major health hazards. Non-toxic waste ends up as landfills and poses dangers to the environment.

With rising population and increasing consumption, reduction of waste may not be possible. However, effective, and efficient processing of waste is. It will not only protect the environment, but also the health of the population.

Why is waste management critical?

In the traditional linear economy – which focuses on make, use, and dispose – everything we use is eventually discarded. However, the present model of production and marketing that promotes short-term consumption is polluting the environment. To prevent an enormous crisis, we need to effectively dispose of the waste and think of an alternative sustainable way of life and economy.

The world is looking at the concept of circular economy with a renewed interest. This economy is a model of production and consumption, where resources are shared, leased, reused, repaired, refurbished, and recycled.

The economy supports the use of optimum number of biodegradable materials in the manufacturing process. When the products are optimally used and discarded, they get back to nature without causing environmental damage. In case the use of eco-friendly materials is not possible in some products – such as electronics, batteries, hardware, etc – the aim is to give them a new life by reintroducing them into the production cycle and creating a new piece. If that is not possible, it will be recycled with the environment.

The idea of circular economy is in line with the SDG 11, which is to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

Where does Odisha stand in waste processing?

A recent report released by NITI Aayog, the central government’s think tank, Odisha remains in the bottom six states and union territories in terms of processing its waste.

However, it has shown an improvement of 23% in a year. The eastern Indian state processed just 2% of total waste in 2018, which went up to 25% in 2019. The double-digit growth helped it move a notch above from 26th in the 2018 rank to 25th in the 2019 rank.

Some positive steps taken by the state to manage its waste:

The eastern Indian state has taken some positive steps to efficiently manage its waste. Some of them are listed below:

Plastic Ban: On October 2, 2018, Odisha government imposed a complete ban on single-use plastics and polythene carry bags in six cities. A year later, it extended the ban to all urban areas in the state. The state government aims to extend the blanket-ban to all the rural areas from October 2, 2020.

Door-to-door collection of household waste: In a news report of November 2019, 24 out of the 30 major urban local bodies (ULBs) have attained 100 per cent success in door-to-door collection of household waste. The average achievement of the remaining six ULBs was 83 per cent.

The ‘Meal for Plastic’ initiative: The state government launched a ‘Meal for Plastic’ program, under its ‘Aahar’ scheme, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The program involves a meal for anyone who brings one kilogram of used plastic waste.

Paradip Municipality’s ‘Mo Khata’ programme: The port town municipal body’s programme – ‘Mo Khata’ – becomes a model for the state. Officials of 114 urban bodies visited learnt the technique to simplify waste management system and use the organic waste to produce compost.

What Odisha needs to do to process more of its waste?

Even though the state has registered over 12 times increase in waste management in a year’s time, it still has a lot more to do in terms of processing its waste. Here are some ways it can effectively manage its waste.

Segregation of waste at the source: The segregation of waste at the source is dismal and the entire population of the state needs to take it more seriously. As per several studies, only about 20 per cent of total households segregate waste at the source.

Increase the number of recycling plants: The state government needs to allocate more funds to increase the number of recycling plants in the state. The recyclable waste generated in the state is far greater compared to the recycling capacity of the existing plants. To recycle maximum of its waste, the state administration needs to set up a greater number of recycling units.

Use of more recyclable materials: The state population and businesses need to use more recyclable materials as possible. The non-recyclable waste materials end up in the dump yards across various parts and act as toxic pollutants. Out of the total hazardous waste generated in the state, only 22.9% are recyclable.

Improve the drainage connectivity: More than half of the households in the state do not have drainage connectivity and many have open drains. This often leads to clogging of drains, flooding, and unhygienic conditions.

Ramp up its sewage treatment: The state generates 739.15 million litres of sewage every day. However, its sewage treatment capacity stands at 53 million litres per day.

Implementation of the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016: The Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 mandates that no one should throw, burn, or bury the solid waste generated by them on streets in public places, or in water bodies and drains. Violators will have to pay ‘user fee’ to waste collectors and ‘spot fine’ for non-segregation and littering.

Finally, the state needs to judiciously utilize the funds under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA).

In August last year, the state received Rs 5933.98 crore as the central government released Rs 47,436 crore under the fund. The state government had used Rs 860 crore out of the available funds by December, in activities other than plantation in the financial year 2018-19.

Although the fund was created for compensatory afforestation in over-exploited mining areas, the norms were relaxed to expand the area of activities to enhance the living condition of people affected by intensive mining. The state had taken up 678 projects worth Rs 1,550 crore such as piped water, housing, afforestation activities, and skill development.

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