Waste smart cities

A survey by the Centre for Science and Environment shows how Indian cities are turning over a new leaf in solid waste management

By Swati Singh Sambyal
Published: Wednesday 15 June 2016
Illustration: Tarique Aziz

Waste smart cities

Urban India faces an enormous challenge: managing its gigantic load of solid waste. It is not just a public health issue, but also turning out to be a serious law and order problem as people resort to violent methods to protest waste being dumped in their backyard.

But cities simply do not have the space or the wherewithal to dispose of waste. The challenge is going to be tougher. With India's urban population growing at 3-3.5 per cent annually, the waste generated by cities is expected to increase by 5 per cent every year.

How are our cities managing this challenge? A survey by Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) attempts to find this out. In a unique method, CSE first solicited nominations from people and environmentalists on cities they think are managing their wastes well. Once the list of nominations was ready, researchers visited these cities to comprehensively analyse their waste management practices.

The criterion of terming a city clean has not been a superficial assessment of the city's look and feel but the sustainability of its ways to manage waste.

In the final report, it comes out clearly that there are examples worth emulating to make cities clean in a sustainable way. There are also examples that show how not to manage waste.

The survey divides the cities analysed into three categories: those that collect, segregate and process waste, indicating a holistic way to process waste (rank 1 to 4); those that collect, but only have partial segregation and treatment facilities (rank 5 to 8); and those that collect but do not segregate or process waste (rank 9 to 14).

Alappuzha, Panaji, Mysuru and Bobbili, as the survey says, are India's top four clean cities because they give priority to segregation of waste at the household level, and its reuse.

Down To Earth profiles India's cities that have won the challenge of managing waste and highlights the lessons the country should learn from their experience.

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