Moving towards the goal of a Swachch Bharat, the environment ministry announced a three-fold expansion of the country’s solid waste management programme, aiming to cover 17,000 inhabited areas to benefit 45 crore people directly.
Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar announced the revised rules for solid waste management with an aim to start more solid waste treatment plants across the country and setting agendas for central ministries, state governments and local bodies.
The rules were revised after 16 long years.
“As of today the solid waste management programme benefits only 15 crore people. The revised rules will benefit 45 crore. The new rules will be imposed beyond municipal areas, which would benefit 17,000 census towns, villages and pilgrim spots. Earlier, the waste management covered only 4,041 areas, which were under municipal control,” Javadekar said.
“By revamping the waste management programme we have tried to make Swachh Bharat a reality.”
The new rules, to come into effect from Wednesday, prohibit dumping waste on slopes in hilly areas and the creation of landfills. Open burning of waste has been criminalised, while closure and rehabilitation of old dumps would be worked upon.
“To handle waste in hilly areas, a transfer station at an enclosed location would be set up to collect residual waste from where it would be sent to sanitary landfills,” he said. The sanitary landfill, or special areas, would be constructed at a site 25 km away.
The new rules have fixed a deadline of two years for setting up solid waste processing facilities in census towns with population over one million; three years for towns with population less than one million; and five years for towns with population less than two lakh. The Ministry of Environment would implement and monitor the rules, the minister said.
Speaking of the finances, the minister said that municipal bodies would be asked to levy fee on various institutions.
Recognising the ragpickers’ vital role in solid waste management, the government has also decided to register and regularise them. The minister said the government would also provide better healthcare facilities to the ragpickers.
“Our aim is to bring ragpickers from informal to formal sector. We have to take care of their health and education. They are doing a wonderful job, we need to realise that they are not the encroachers but part of the system,” said the minister.
Javadekar last year in July announced the national award, with a cash prize of Rs.1.5 lakh, for three best rag pickers and three associations involved in innovation of best practices,
Under the new rules, sanitary napkins and diapers would not be allowed to be dumped in the open. Instead, the manufacturers would be asked to provide dumping pouches for them.
He said that ministry would incorporate hotels, event managers, townships, markets and institutions to educate the public and hold workshops for proper implementation of the rules. The Ministry of Urban Development, agriculture, power, chemicals and others will be asked to form policies in accordance to the new rules for solid waste management.
“This is in conformation with the ‘extended producer responsibility’ concept where the producer would also be responsible for managing the end waste of the product,” Javadekar explained. Citing an example, he said that companies like Coca-Cola would be responsible for proper disposal of their bottles too.
On criminalising open burning of waste, Javadekar said: “To curb open burning of solid waste strict action would be taken like considering it a crime under EP Act (Environment Protection Act), though it would also depend upon local governance.”
Every year 62 million tons solid waste is produced in India of which 43 million tons is collected and only 12 million tons is treated and the rest dumped.
“We have to care, because by 2030 the solid waste would increase to 165 million tons and by 2050 it would be 436 million tons,” said Javadekar.
At present there are 553 solid waste treatment, processing plants in India, of which only 13 plants use wastes with high calorific value to produce energy.
The solid waste management rules were first laid down in 2000, during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Since then the rules have remained static.