The president of the residents’ welfare association (RWA) said, “It’s not only the responsibility of the NDMC [New Delhi Municipal Council]. The residents are to be blamed for careless disposal of garbage and open dumping.”
It did not take much time to realise that it takes two hands to clap, while walking down the roads of Ramesh Nagar in New Delhi. Several residents could be seen casually throwing their house waste on the road.
Households not only dispose of food debris, but also plastic waste. I observed many dispose off their waste at community bins or had the waste picked up at their houses by private contractors.
But, there were also people seen throwing garbage in gutters, streets, holes and nearby bushes.
When asked why people resorted to this, it was because they were unsatisfied by the cost and the irregular services provided by their private contractors. I also noticed children transporting the waste from houses to dumping sites.
Though most of the residents are aware that improper waste management contributes to diseases like malaria and diarrhea, they continue with their malpractices. The residents’ awareness towards waste management seemed to be fairly low.
Since these people do not see disposal as an important issue, it is not likely that they will improve their disposal and waste management practices. Other factors that lead to this situation are poor attitudes, lack of concern regarding environmental issues, misguided waste disposal practices and lack of strict regulations.
The best practice is to store domestic waste in covered plastic bins. However, only a small percentage of the residents used covered plastic bins. The covered bins protect the waste from direct exposure to flies, vermin and scavengers, and they also prevent odor nuisances and unsightliness.
One must remember that a high proportion of plastic waste is generated by households. This phenomenon of increasing plastic waste is likely to have an impact on disposal as plastic is not biodegradable.
Unfortunately, indiscriminate open dumping of wastes poses significant threats to public health and the environment, if they are not stored, collected and disposed off properly.
The waste, when burnt in the open: releases toxic, gaseous emissions to the atmosphere—thereby polluting the air and destroying the ozone layer.
It also makes a travesty of solid waste regulations and defeats the national, environmental sanitation policy of maintaining a clean, safe and pleasant physical environment for people.
To ensure adherence to the solid waste policies, the NDMC has developed regulations to strictly enforce them in the community. As per information shared by the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Ministry of Jal Shakti: solid waste management (SWM) is one of the integral components of the Swachh Bharat Mission (gramin, or rural).
Under this initiative, door-to-door collection of garbage has started at 51 places. It’s a partnership approach between the waste pickers, the SSIL (Swayam Swachatta initiative Limited) and the NDMC. Trained waste pickers will educate residents on waste segregation at home.
The NDMC envisages expanding this scheme in its areas. 1,100 pairs of litter bins have been installed at busy places. The IDFC project, the collection and transportation of municipal solid waste, are in their implementation phase.
The garbage will be transported in mechanised, covered vehicles to the disposal site. Also, the government of India is already working on plastic waste management policies.
I believe that proper education of the public, the provision of more communal trash bins, and the regular collection of waste by private contractors, could help prevent exposing the public in municipalities to diseases.
As can be noticed, when the government and municipal department is already putting in efforts and trying to build regulations that help in waste management, isn’t it our individual responsibility to take the required action as well?
Does the “out of sight out of mind” thinking still exist in our waste disposal attitude today? “Keep the surroundings clean” was just a lesson learnt in school?
Let’s take some time and ponder on our own practices. I would like to suggest the locals of Ramesh Nagar to understand the importance of waste management and learn techniques they can inculcate in their lives.