Management of post-disaster debris poses challenge

KATHMANDU, August 12

The Solid Waste Management Technical Support on Wednesday said that at least four million tonnes of debris have been generated from damaged or destroyed houses and buildings in the aftermath of the April 25 earthquake and its subsequent aftershocks.

This volume is 11 times more waste than what Kathmandu Valley produces every year, making waste management a herculean task for the government.

Over 99,331 buildings were either fully or partially destroyed due to the quake in the Valley. The owners of the damaged houses are dismantling buildings themselves and some have taken help from the government.

However, uncertainty looms over the issue of managing the debris generated from the dismantled quake damaged buildings.

The debris basically comprises bricks, stones, concrete blocks, tile, steel bars, corrugated iron sheets, wooden joists, beams, doors and window frames, steel pipes and tanks, UPVC pipes and tanks, electrical wires and cables, furniture and other fixtures, concrete, dust, clay, plant remains, broken glass and chemical pastes, among others.

There may also be hazardous wastes such as gas cylinders, building material containing asbestos, hazardous pesticides, acids, batteries and chemicals from industries in the disaster-stricken areas that would require specific treatment.

Sumitra Amatya, executive director of SWMTSC, said that post-disaster debris should be segregated by employing modern technology and expertise for sustainable disaster waste management.

The authorities must come up with the recycle and reuse mechanism for segregated disaster waste. “The disaster waste should be disposed off with friendly mechanisms to secure the good health of survivors,” she said, adding that debris management guidelines prepared by SWMTSC have been handed over to the government for feedback and implementation.

Currently, Kathmandu Metropolitan City has been disposing the debris in the open space in Chobhar. The Kathmandu Valley Post-earthquake Debris Management Strategic Plan earlier submitted to the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development had suggested parks, Ring Road and corridors as open spaces for debris management of KMC.

Amatya warned, “Precautions must be taken not to hamper the groundwater, soil structure and the environment while disposing debris in open spaces. Reusing, recycling and reducing debris can enhance the national economy and preserve natural resources. ”

Shiva Hari Sharma, deputy director general, Building Division at the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction, said house owners may claim the debris for reuse.