Sustainable Solution To Waste Disposal Problem
On an average, 800 tonnes of solid waste is generated in Kathmandu out of which 60 percent is organic waste according to recent estimates. In the absence of waste segregation i.e. bio-degradable and non-biodegradable waste practices, tackling the perennial challenge of solid waste management has become difficult.
Once again, the problem has become severe in Kathmandu. While this issue isn’t new, the problem is burgeoning each passing day in the absence of sustainable solution. On the one hand, haphazard urbanisation fuelled by population growth is complicating the environmental pollution including the solid waste, on the other hand, no strategic interventions have emerged to address the core of the problem.
It is a common sight in Kathmandu these days to pass the streets by the side of the stinking heaps. With the onset of the monsoon, the chances of health hazards due to the foul waste have also multiplied leaving the Kathmanduites in disarray. During the rainy seasons, travelling through the waterlogged roads and inhaling a stinky air have become unavoidable.
In the latest round of events, the walls around the Sisdol landfill site, where the trash of Kathmandu and Lalitpur is dumped, has fallen due to excessive load of solid waste . With the capacity of Sisdol site full, the need for identifying the alternate place for the disposal had already been realised but no significant progress can be observed in this direction so far. In fact, Sisdol was originally considered a makeshift landfill for three years. And limited progress on Bancharedanda- a proposed long term landfill site has been witnessed. This clearly indicates the apathy of the Kathmandu municipality towards finding a long term solution.
Further contributing the solid waste problem is the attitude and behavior of the valley denizens. It is really frustrating to state that the anti-environmental behaviours such as spitting in open places, throwing a chocolate or noodle wrappers randomly in streets have become common among the educated citizens in Kathmandu. Reluctance to internalise the environmental lessons, they have taken things for granted. Yet, they are the ones who keep on pointing the government for creating all the mess. Instead of playing the role of active citizenry, they have further worsened the gravity of the problem by demonstrating unacceptable behaviours pertaining to environment.
It is interesting to note that the responsibility to manage solid waste in Kathmandu exists at multiple levels at present. The joint community includes local government, private companies and a small section of young waste entrepreneurs including informal waste workers. While these institutional efforts are inadequate, there is also a problem of effective coordination among these agencies for better result. Working without sharing and learning from each other has become a deep seated culture in our society and the waste management agencies are not an exception. Underthe leadership of the local government, if a synergetic approach can be adopted, the impact will be more profound.
What is obvious from the above discussion is that waste management isn’t the sole responsibility of the government. There is the need of positive role of every citizen. The contribution can start from an individual household to resolve this issue. For instance, if we make little effort in separating organic and inorganic waste, this will drastically reduce the amount of real waste to be handled by the private waste management companies for whom we pay a regular monthly fee. Second, stepping out in the community, we can collectively formulate strict rules and regulations for waste disposal. Penalising the transgressors and utilising the same amount for community welfare would be useful. Conducting cleanliness campaigns occasionally will help to improve the level of awareness among the community members and motivate them to engage in sanitation practices.
Nevertheless, the government needs to set strategic vision and show a commitment to translate the vision into actions. An integrated approach to solid waste management envisaged by the government needs to bear visible fruit. Although the Investment Board of Nepal has recently signed an agreement with the Finland based Nepwaste for reducing the gaps and resolve the increasing waste issue in Kathmandu, the work progress has been rather sluggish after the signature. A $50 million public-private partnership deal has been forged in an ambitious drive to rid Kathmandu of this problem but significant departure in this direction is still missing.
Improving the trash collection services can be the immediate step on the part of the municipality. Installation of trash bins and a strong monitoring of the waste activities around the collection area will be highly beneficial to minimise the scale of the problem. In addition to this, ensuring the dignity of the garbage collectors is an additional responsibility of the local government to keep them motivated in the traditionally considered demeaning work. Imparting proper training and orientation to the garbage collectors about their health safety and adequate compensation for their livelihood shouldn’t be neglected.