Wet waste composting at source – need of the hour to tackle climate change

rajkot map

Rajkot is the 4th largest city in Gujarat with an area of over 170 sq. km and a population of over 1.5 million. With a proactive municipality and 115 registered smart societies in 23 wards, no substantial work has been showcased by them to manage their own waste. Rajkot generates over 550 tonnes waste / day  while the extent of segregation is only about 15.7% (ICLEI, 2016) with per capita waste of over 300 grams / day, out of which 40 % is wet waste (RMC, 2018). Though door to door collection has been started since 2015, the un-segregated waste lands up in two official landfills of Rajkot viz  1) Nakrawadi ( 30 acres | 80000MT) which is already filled and overflowing since several years (NGT 2013 ) for which the municipal corporation has already been fined by Gujarat Pollution Conrol Board (GPCB) and 2) Manda Dungar ( 2.5 acres)  (RMC, 2018). In-spite of wet and dry waste segregation campaign started in 2017 the collection vans still get mixed waste  due to careless attitude of waste generators towards waste management. What has been found as failure of waste segregation at source is also lack of handholding, awareness of what and why of waste segregation and how to treat wet waste at source and planning for better execution. Moreover there has been no strict penalty to impose the changes and thus the laxity in attitude of people towards segregating and treating waste.  ICLEIs GHG inventory of Rajkot city suggests that emission from residential and waste itself contributes to about 25% of total GHG emissions (ICLEI, 2016). So if there is yearly increase of 5% annually (Chary, 2013) and with no scientifically made landfill to store the waste there are chances of not only air, water and land pollution but also avoidable carbon emissions from the anaerobic digestion of wet waste leading to methane (CH4) emissions while unwanted health epidemic waiting to be unfolded. CH4 emissions are (56 times for 20 lifetime years and 21 for 100 yrs) lethal that CO2 emissions. (UNFCCC 2018).

Moreover every ton of waste disposed of at a landfill costs the Municipal Corporation 1000s of Rupees per day for collection, transportation, segregation and its treatment (For Delhi Municipal Corporation it costs as high as Rs14200/ton/day). With all these gaps observed it makes all the more sense of imbibing through way of sensitization and demonstration the potential benefits of waste segregation and treatment not only for better environment but as climate change mitigation as well. The demo drives will serve the purpose.

 

While Rajkot won the accolades of being chosen 9th in Swatchta Sarvekshan Abhiyan ( clean city campaign by Government of India) 2019, more of it appear as green wash. Recent visit to Nakrawadi landfill depicts a different story. A story more aghast that what we polluting urbanites may imagine.

From far we can see the polluted lands filled with flying plastic bags and other rags. The once productive agricultural land has been degraded now and almost become a filth ground.

As we approach the landfill the stench fills the air.  We were there to capture the cases of diarrhea and vomiting in the neighbouring villages. There has been ever increasing health related cases of villagers living in the near by villages of landfill.

6 villages viz Nakrawadi, Khijadiya, Nagalpur, Pipaliya, Rajgadh, Sokhda, Hadmatiya are suffering not only from poor environment but emotionally apart from unwarranted injustice  but their cries fall on deaf ears.

Apart from the rampant air, water and soil pollution that is observed as we reach landfill site, the sight unfolds of poor villagers handling waste lacking all tools which take care of their hygiene like gloves, mask, apron etc working long hours to treat the waste we urbanites generate.

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Woman in above picture is sorting the waste being thrown out by waste processor which directly sorts waste as well as converts to compost. (Not sure how can this pass as compost! )  This processor machine was smartly brought in just before the Swatchta Sarvekshan  team was coming for rating.  While the rank of the city came the apathy still remains.

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Villagers from mostly Nakrawadi village have now turned from producers ( farmers ) to scavengers. searching for waste which is recoverable. And they might at end of day earn barely Rs 300. This seems to be the only option that they have got to have some living as their lands have turned into unwanted dumpyards with presence of landfill site and  with leached water from ground unfit for agriculture. While monsoon is worse for Nakrawadi village as the leached water from landfill fills villagers agricultural lands, the unbearable stench carried along the winds through landfill to Pipaliya village in winters.

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As the mixed waste keeps reaching the landfill sites, constant fires keep burning all throughout  at the landfill sites but the villagers have got used to it.

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On questioning where do they go and sell the waste  they segregated , they said that they come to Rajkot city itself to sell the accumulated waste to the Waste aggregators and wholesalers. Such is the circle of life of waste. What a waste the waste business is! Apart from air pollution caused to collect waste from each residence / colony / bulk waste generators and then sending it to landfill , the segregated waste collected by villagers come back to city for further selling.

However they also do lament that the quantity of waste which is recovered at landfill has reduced over years leading to their reduced income flow as the waste gets segregated at city level better before reaching landfill site. While some were serious about their poor situation and were looking for some external help, others it seems had accepted it as their fate.  The site of grazing animals not on pastoral land but on landfill scavenging and grazing from landfill was also pitiful but the villagers laugh out loud and pun it away that they also come and go like office time from 10 am  to 3 pm!!

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Children are also happy! following their parents to help them earning! Livelihood skills could be better but where is the option?

While the scene has left aghast and overwhelmed with the harsh reality of over-consuming world – what is the least we could do is the most pertinent question that we must ask as responsible citizens.

Wet waste consists of 40-50% of entire waste that a household generates thus it is the easiest to subvert the wet waste from reaching landfill to converting it to manure at the source which could be further used in one’s own premises to green their spaces. That is a SMART move for a SMART city.

To facilitate such a move, we are going to conduct citizen awareness and demonstration drives for aerobic composting facilitating hand-holding upto  2 compost cycles. Aerobic composting is simplest and easiest way to mimic nature to convert elements / objects from one form output ( organic waste here) as input for other to create other output ( compost here – used as manure for the plants). Nothing is waste in nature!  Nature always reinvents!

Citizens of Rajkot who would be interested to be part of this campaign and be change makers can register their interest here (in English) or here (in Gujarati)

Keep looking up  this space for more updates!

Lets be more responsible – sensible –  justified – Ecofied. From being mere consumers to creators!

 

 

 

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3 Responses to Wet waste composting at source – need of the hour to tackle climate change

  1. mana apoorva says:

    Hi Chinmai. This initiative is the need of hour. So was response of people? I recently read interview of Mr Vijay Nehra, who is the municipal commissioner of Ahmedabad and earlier Rajkot. He has promised that Pirana mountain (dumping site) will ‘disappear’ by next year.

    Have a look at this video and let me know your suggestion. https://youtu.be/rJ76yHVIPug

    • Hi, The demo drive is yet not conducted, its under process. will keep you posted. Also I wanted a view in context of Jainism – process of decomposition is done by microorganism and other organism – where we are inviting them by treating organic food waste and make them thrive to convert food waste to manure.. so philosophically it may not support Jain principles.. ( of jeev utpati ) .. know any one who can shed more light into this.. and whether we need to see it that way )

      • mana apoorva says:

        The best way I think is to consult a geetarth guru. (any learned maharaj saheb). Personally I believe that steps taken in the direction of sustainability is a contemporary way of practicing jainism. Also there is this theory of committing least violence. So if by thriving organisms for decomposition, you are stopping more ‘hinsa’; then this is allowed just like we are killing organisms in boiling water to stop them thriving throughout the period while the water remains ‘achitta’.

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