After being reprimanded by HC, Govt comes out with action plan for solid waste mgmt

Nearly 500 tonnes of waste remains uncollected per day
Admits no improvement in situation despite huge expenditure
Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Sept 24: After being repeatedly reprimanded by the State High Court, the Government has come out with draft action plan for municipal solid waste management in the length and breadth of the State while admitting that there is no significant improvement in the prevailing situation so far despite huge expenditure by the Municipal agencies.
The solid waste management is one of the most essential services for maintaining the quality of life in urban areas and for ensuring better standards of health and hygiene. However, this service falls short of the desired level due to institutional weaknesses, shortage of resources, improper technology and lack of short and long term planning.
Keeping all these aspects in mind, the National Green Tribunal vide order dated January 15, 2015 had directed all the States to prepare an action plan at the State level for solid waste management in accordance with the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016.
However, the directions of the National Green Tribunal were not taken seriously by the J&K Government as a result of which no improvement could be brought in the solid waste management services in any part of the State, official sources told EXCELSIOR.
In the meanwhile, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the State High Court seeking various directions to the State Government for effective handling of the municipal solid waste.
The Division Bench of the State High Court issued several directions to the State from time to time while expressing serious concern over inept handling of the municipal solid waste. Even the Chief Secretary was directed to convene meetings of all the concerned authorities and stakeholders to examine the issues relating to the disposal of solid waste in scientific manner and prepare action plan as directed by the National Green Tribunal over three and half years back.
Now, after being repeatedly reprimanded by the State High Court, the State Government has woken up from the deep slumber and come out with the draft action plan, which has been placed in the public domain for inviting suggestions and comments from the stakeholders.
“The action plan is aimed at strengthening management capability for the solid waste of each Municipality and adopting eco-friendly solid waste management practices for sustainable development of J&K”, the Housing and Urban Development Department said in the draft, adding “the plan lays down specific steps and timelines which will enable early implementation in a time bound manner”.
“All the Municipal authorities are responsible for providing basic civic amenities including solid waste management services. The magnitude and density of urban population is increasing rapidly as a consequence of which the Municipal agencies spend about 5% to 25% of their budget in solid waste management”, the Housing and Urban Development Department said.
The department has, however, admitted in the draft action plan that despite such heavy expenditure the present level of service in many urban areas is so low that there is a threat to the public health in particular and the environment quality in general. “On an average 1792 tonnes of solid waste is generated every day in the State and 1322 tonnes per day is collected by the Municipal authorities thereby leaving 470 tonnes of solid waste uncollected every year”, the department has further mentioned in the draft action plan.
According to the draft action plan, the State Government has decided to adopt cluster approach to improve the efficiency of solid waste management system in the towns and land has been identified for 17 clusters covering 56 towns of the State.
About the strategy for solid waste management for the entire State, the Government has proposed immediate and strict ban on open burning of solid waste. It has also been proposed that by 2025 the State will reduce its waste generation quantity by 25% and this goal will be reached through extensive Information, Education and Communication (IEC) programmes and spreading awareness about the importance of waste minimization.
Moreover, there will be enhanced focus on door to door collection of solid waste as this will make a good improvement in the overall scenario, the Government said, adding “to improve solid waste management in the State in a speedy way it has been decided to introduce color-coded dustbins for segregation of waste at source as 40% of the municipal waste is wet waste, which can be easily composted and used as manure”.
Public participation and involvement of self-help groups and introduction of penalties for polluters are among several other steps proposed by the Government in the draft action plan for municipal solid waste management in the State.