Municipalities responsible for dirty India, says NITI Aayog CEO

Amitabh Kant says civic bodies are entering various businesses while forgetting that their primary job is to clean their jurisdiction

By Banjot Kaur
Published: Tuesday 19 March 2019
Waste management
Photo: Getty Images Photo: Getty Images

NITI Aayog chief executive officer Amitabh Kant blamed municipalities for the abysmal state of waste management in the country. At a conference on circular economy and waste management organised by non-profits Chintan and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and University of Chicago-India in New Delhi, Kant said municipalities are simply not doing their jobs.

While other experts at the event didn’t second his views, Kant went on to say municipalities have entered the business of construction and others when their primary job was to ensure that areas in their jurisdictions were clean.

“Unless we don’t pin them down, we may not be able to see our premises clean,” he said while adding that municipalities have enough resources to not just ensure cleanliness but also segregate waste at source.  Kant also praised the Indore model of cleanliness and emphasised that it should be replicated by each and every municipality in the country.

However, Malati Gadgil, former CEO, SWaCH, Pune, said there were many ground level reports that the waste is being incinerated in Indore. “This is highly unsustainable. The policymakers must give a serious second thought to making the Indore model scalable for the entire country.”

But what about India’s own solid waste management rules? Manbir Sodhi, professor, University of Rhode Island, told Down To Earth that India’s Extended Producer Responsibility rules remain very poorly implemented. “If tax department sleuths can know how much taxes these companies are paying, why can’t it be traced if these companies are implementing rules or not,” said Sodhi.

He also said while the experts and activists do talk about reducing waste generation, it may not be possible at this juncture in India. “The emphasis has to be on recycling. The key to recycling is segregation at source for which a mass movement is required,” Sodhi added.

He also talked about the fact that India has to frame such policies which promote use of spare parts. “At present, most of the automobile companies see to it that spare parts of vehicles are so costly that it becomes unviable to purchase one produced out of spare parts.  If China can force Mercedes Benz to change its policy, India can do the same with automobile manufacturers,” he asked.

While talking about creating a circular economy, Kant said there’s a need to use waste as a secondary source, collaborate with corporate, rethink business model, and create a digital platform where the entire supply chain can be traced.

On challenges companies indulging in recycling face, Kuldip Singh Sangwan, professor, mechanical engineering department, BITS Pilani, said poor implementation of laws hurts companies the most.

He said his team did a study among German and Indian manufacturers in 2008 and 2011 to study the challenges. All of them were common except poor implementation of related laws.

“Plus there is lot of uncertainty. Today, if a company decided to make a plan for five years for recycling in India, it can’t because of two reasons at least. One, there is variation of laws among different states. Two, it is not sure if it would be able to get the required amount of waste material to achieve its targets,” he told DTE while adding that if a circular economy is created, it will not only help clean the environment but also create a lot of jobs. “If forward supply chain creates one job, the reverse supply chain (recycling) can create 10,” he said.

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