What is the status of dumpsite remediation across India

Total of 13 states and three UTs are lagging behind the target

By Richa Singh, Surabhi Pal
Published: Friday 29 September 2023
Photo: iStock__

Dumpsite remediation in India is of paramount importance due to its far-reaching implications for the environment, public health and overall quality of life. These dumpsites, often characterised by uncontrolled waste disposal, emit harmful gases like methane, contribute to air and water pollution and pose serious health risks to nearby communities. 

The government of India has recognised the importance of dumpsite remediation and has set a target of remediating all dumpsites in India by 2025 under the Swacch Bharat Mission (SBM) 2.0. In order to achieve the vision of “garbage-free” cities with SBM 2.0 guidelines, many urban local bodies across the country have accelerated the remediation process. 

More than 82.7 million tonnes, constituting 36 per cent of the total legacy waste, have been remediated all over the country, reclaiming 3,477 acres of area as per the SBM urban dashboard, accessed on August 30, 2023. 

Mizoram has completely remediated its legacy waste, reclaiming three acres of area, according to the SBM dashboard data. 

Meanwhile, Chandigarh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat have addressed approximately 50 to 60 per cent of the total legacy waste present in their dumpsites, the data from the dashboard showed.

Source: SBM Urban dashboard as on August 30, 2023

However, in some states, the process of managing dumpsites has not caught up. A total of 13 states and three Union Territories are lagging behind the target, showed the dashboard data, having less than 10 per cent of remediation. 

Some of these regions haven’t even started the remediation and are densified with 71 million tonnes of legacy waste. This showcases the uneven trends of remediation across different Indian states. 

Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Sikkim, Meghalaya and UTs of Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir are on mountainous terrains, making it difficult to transport and utilise the fractions after bio-mining. Other states include Karnataka, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Odisha and Goa. 

The states are  struggling to find economically viable options for disposal of excavated segregated combustible fractions and fine soil-like material, considering the unavailability and proximity of the legacy waste processing units. 

About  eight per cent of the total legacy waste comprises segregated combustible fractions (SCF) like plastics, paper, textiles, leather, wood, etc.

India is estimated to produce 19.6 million tonnes of SCF by remediating legacy waste that can be diverted to the co-processing cement plants. 

Availability of co-processing plants

There are limited 54 co-processing units in India, where only 13 states have operational units, ranging from 1 to 10 units per state, making remediation of combustibles difficult for urban local bodies. The proximity of cement co-processing plants is further adding to the cost of transportation.

Source: CPCB'S Guidelines for Co-processing of Plastic Waste in Cement Kilns 

With 10 units, Rajasthan has the maximum number of co-processing plants, followed by Chhattisgarh. However, Rajasthan hasn’t yielded much from its capacity of handling refuse-derived fuels (RDF). On the other hand, seven units at Chhattisgarh have supported much of its good remediation statistics.

The ability to utilise alternative combustibles to replace fossil fuels is as low as three per cent in India with a mean utilisation of 0.6 per cent alternative fuel from SCF and RDF. Meanwhile, the European Union and the United States has thermal substitution rate of 44 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively, so the task is achievable. 

Uses for fine soil-like material 

The use of fine soil-like material recovered from legacy waste dumpsites in road construction and as filler material for low-lying areas provides a long-term and cost-effective solution to two pressing issues. By repurposing this recovered material, not only are the environmental risks associated with waste dumps reduced, but urgent infrastructure needs are addressed as well.

The use of recovered fine soil in road construction can improve the engineering properties of the roadbed while reducing the demand for virgin soil resources.

Similarly, as a filler material for low-lying areas, the fine fraction aids in the elevation and stabilisation of flood-prone land, effectively transforming previously unusable spaces into valuable assets for development and flood prevention. 

Thus, the practice of using fine soil-like material from waste dumpsites not only promotes sustainable construction but also contributes to a greener and more resilient urban environment.

However, it's important to note that the suitability of recovered material from dumpsites for construction and filling purposes depends on several factors, including its composition, contamination levels and treatment.

Thorough testing and assessment of the recovered material are necessary to ensure it meets the required engineering and environmental standards for its intended use. Additionally, regulatory and permitting requirements may apply to the use of waste materials in construction, so compliance with local regulations is essential.

Surabhi Pal is pursuing BTech in environmental engineering from Delhi Technological University (DTU) and was an intern with Centre for Science and Environment’s Municipal Solid Waste team

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