Focus on long-term plans along with immediate ones for sustainable waste management system
Waste is not waste until we let it become it. Studies have shown that each Nepali produces average of 330-gm of waste in every 24 hours; in Kathmandu City alone, each person generates around 500-gm of waste each day. Among the total trash generated by a person, 60 per cent is biodegradable and compostable. About 20 per cent of the total is plastic waste which is recyclable which means that garbage that makes it to the dumping grounds or landfills is of negligible amount. However, that is not the case mainly because of people’s inability to treat waste not as waste but as something reusable. The waste management’s inability to overcome traditional practice of waste treatment also plays a major role in the wastage of waste. The collection and dumping method used in Kathmandu is, to say the least, unsystematic and of unsustainable nature. Moreover, the influx of population in the City has risen at an alarming rate which inadvertently has led to a stark rise in waste generation making waste management a challenging task.
Lack of proper planning
As per laws, local bodies are responsible for managing waste in the local levels. Solid Waste Management Act, 2011 says that the local body should separate solid waste into organic and inorganic at its source itself. But the effective implementation of this process is yet to be seen. Dhundi Raj Pathak, waste management specialist, claims, “Everybody from the central government to the local bodies to the public is to be blamed for the failure of proper management of solid waste.”
Collection of garbage starts from early morning; collectors from the municipalities and private companies are mobilised across the Valley to collect waste. Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) mobilises 1,100 collectors and 150 vehicles to collect waste every day. Currently, the Valley generates 1,000 metric tonnes of waste each day. The collected trash — both degradable and non-degradable — is dumped at Sisdol landfill, Okarpauwa of Nuwakot, 26-km away from Kathmandu. According to KMC authorities, around 700 metric tonnes of waste is dumped at Sisdol every day in which around 500 metric tonnes of waste are generated from KMC alone. The landfill site was initially used as a short-term (two years) landfill site to dump waste from the Valley but it has been more than 12 years since its operation. At the rate with which garbage dumping is currently done Sisdol landfill site will max out on its capacity within the next six months but there is no alternative plan devised by the concerned authority. Hari Bahadur Kunwar, Chief Officer at the Environment Management Division of KMC, states, “We have to extend our deadline after six month until we find other alternatives.”
Long-term landfill plan
The construction project of Banchare Danda landfill site (permanent site), about 2-km away from Sisdol landfill site was started more than two decades ago, but is yet to see completion. Authorities say that though spearheaded by Solid Waste Management Technical Support Centre, the construction of the landfill site remains sluggish due to the lack of budget and lack of promptness of the stakeholders. Kunwar says, “The construction of the landfill site should be taken as a national issue and the government should look after the project as it needs huge budget and resources.” He adds, “Now the matter is under discussion and it is hard to say when the project will complete. It might see completion within its stipulated time if the government allocates proper budget for the project.” The government acquired 1,700 ropani of land in Banchare Danda with an estimated budget of around Rs 3-4 billion to construct the long-term landfill site but its completion is a far cry; what you see today is a little excavated track and a bridge
Not truly prioritised
According to KMC officials, waste management has always been on the priority list of the metropolis. However, Pathak claims that waste management is prioritised only when it comes to discussions and not in budget allocation. He says, “The budget allocated for the sector falls short of the requirement. It is nowhere close to the cost involved.” He admits that the technique and technology used in solid waste management should have scaled up with time and the waste management sector should also be taken as an integral part of infrastructural development like road and water.
Plan of action
For the proper management of waste in a sustainable way, Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM) Project was initiated in 2009 but due to various reasons the project is yet to commence. Maha Prasad Adhikari, CEO at Investment Board of Nepal says that the Project Development Agreement (PDA) of the first package — Nepal-Finnish venture of ISWM Project is in its final stage. He informs, “Among the eight municipalities in Kathmandu and KMC, six of them have agreed with the proposal, and we are now waiting for the remaining three municipalities to agree for the project to start.”
The project aims to privatise the management of waste in the Valley from waste collection to waste treatment. Adhikari informs, “After the PDA agreement, there will be a three-month transition period post which handover and takeover responsibilities will begin; a year will be set aside to manage finance and two years to complete the construction.” Though the privatisation of waste management through the project has raised issues regarding retainment of government staff involved in the waste sector, Adhikari concedes that it is of little problem as the project will retain as much waste collectors and current employees as possible. Once the project takes off 800 metric tonnes of waste is expected to generate 5-7 MWs of electricity, organic fertiliser, and Refuse-Derive Fuel and Solid Recovered Fuel.
Waste to resource
Management and disposal of waste wouldn’t have amounted to grave problems if waste was/is taken as resource with profit making opportunities. But the three basic principles of waste management— Reduce, Reuse and Recycle (3R) has also remained just that — principles. Gyanendra Karki, Spokesperson of KMC, says, “We are also looking for three-four transfer stations in the City to segregate waste where we will be able to recover biodegradable garbage as compost and other recyclable materials from which the metropolis could generate income.”
Pathak shares, “People do know that waste can be turned productive but they are unaware of the methods of doing so.” Of late, few start-ups and private companies have realised the potential waste has in terms of business. However, Pathak is of the opinion that to manage massive amounts of solid waste in a sustainable manner need of bigger investors with big commercial vision. He says, “This is where the private sector and investors should step in. The role of waste management should be given to the private sector and the local government should play the role of a strong regulatory and monitoring body.”
A version of this article appears in print on December 17, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.