Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat
In order to address the nationwide challenge posed by Municipal Solid Waste, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) last year directed for constitution of State Level Monitoring Committees (SLMC) in all the states which would ensure better implementation of Solid Waste Management (SWM) Rules 2016. In this connection only a few days back Chairman of the State Level Monitoring Committee for Jammu & Kashmir Justice (retired) Janak Raj Kotwal sought report from all the 22 Deputy Commissioners on the status of implementation of the these Rules. The rule 12 of SWM Rules imposes a responsibility on the Deputy Commissioners / District Magistrates to periodically review the performance of local bodies in his or her district. National Green Tribunal (NGT) in its Order date 16. 01. 2019, while constituting State Level Monitoring Committees had directed the Deputy Commissioners to hold monthly meetings and submit a report to the State Urban Development Department with regard to implementation of the SWM Rules 2016.
Role of DCs
Under Rule No 12 of Solid Waste Management Rules 2016 Deputy Commissioners / District Magistrates have an important role to play, but in view of their other priorities, most of the DCs don’t take issue of solid waste management seriously. The Deputy Commissioners are supposed to work in close coordination with Administrative Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Department (HUDD) vis a vis identification of land for creating scientific landfill sites, setting up solid waste processing and disposal units. This was to be done within one year from the date of notification of SWM Rules 2016. More than 3 years have passed most the DCs in J&K are yet to identify the suitable land for creating landfill sites for the municipal committees or councils in their respective districts. There is not even a single municipal committee or council under Urban Local Bodies Directorate where the solid waste is being treated on scientific lines except one municipal committee ie MC Budgam where a successful pilot work was taken up in 2016-2017 but due to non-cooperation from the administrative department that project was stopped after one year. In-spite of allotment of work for another one year through a proper tender process the work could not be executed as Government said they don’t have any budget for carrying the work forward. When there was no budget for the same why did the authorities tender out the work ? Pertinently the financial implication for this door to door collection and treatment plus segregation project was mere 15 to 17 lakhs a year which could have been generated back by the local municipality through sanitation fees collected from local households.
Enforcers turning violators
I have written a lot about unscientific disposal of solid waste with practical instances from different districts of the State. Irony is that municipal bodies who are supposed to implement and enforce the SWM Rules 2016 are themselves grossly violating it. The disturbing situation is that the municipal solid waste is being dumped either inside or near the water bodies by most of the municipal bodies in Jammu & Kashmir. I have already highlighted some instances of this illegal garbage dumping in by Municipal Council Udhampur , Municipal Committee Magam (Budgam) , Municipal Committee Kulgam , Municipal Committee Bandipora, Municipal Committee Ramban etc. In Udhampur the municipal waste in dumped inside a forest area on Jammu -Srinagar highway (NH 44). In Magam town the garbage is dumped by local municipality on the banks of Ferozpurnallah ,Kulgam Municipality dumps the solid waste on the banks of Vishaw river, Municipal Committee Bandipora dumps it near the banks of famous Wullar lake at Zalwan village and Municipal Committee Ramban dumps all the trash including dead animals near the Chenab river. Last year while on my visit to Poonch, I found Municipal Council Poonch dumping all its solid waste including biomedical waste on the banks of Poonch river. I can’t blame only municipal officers as they don’t get cooperation from higher authorities or local Deputy Commissioners. The Deputy Commissioners are themselves unable to address this menace as the situation is very complex plus land availability is very meager in J&K as our mountainous state has very less landholding. Monthly meetings on implementation of SWM Rules are hardly held and even if the meetings are held it ends with no positive outcome because the issue is very complex in nature. To address these complexities authorities need to take various stakeholders on board and hold roundtables with technical organizations and individuals involved in waste management work.
The NGT’s State Level Monitoring Committee (SLMC)in Jammu & Kashmir headed by Justice (retired) Janak Raj Kotwal has to be very much proactive on the issue of implementation of SWM Rules 2016. The committee has to make sure DC’s identify the land for creating scientific landfill sites within 2 to 3 months as the deadline is already over. Justice Kotwal must seek regular feedback from DCs about segregation, collection and disposal of municipal waste. He must also seek feedback from civil society and media as well. Municipal authorities involved in unscientific waste dumping must be sensitized and reprimanded. DCs must utilize services of organizations and individuals working in waste management sector so that they handhold municipal staff and citizens. Lastly citizens have to be conscious about waste management and they must also follow guidelines of SWM Rules. What citizens can do to reduce and treat the waste will be explained in my next column.
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat