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A Western model of solid waste management is turning into a nightmare for citizens of Dehradun, Uttarakhand
In January this year, the Municipal Corporation of Dehradun installed around 80 underground bins in residential and commercial locations at Rs 3.75 crore. An underground is a sleek bin chute which collects trash into a large underground chamber that has sensors to notify authorities when they should be emptied.
Mostly popular in Europe, especially UK and Sweden, the underground bins are seen as a replacement of the steel wheelie bins, which have to be regularly emptied by lorries. The underground bins, on the other hand, have bigger capacities than wheelie bins and can lower carbon emissions by reducing frequency of lorry collections. Besides, they also beautify and conserve space.
In Dehradun, lack of planning has forced residents to throw waste outside the bins as as they do not meet the capacity of waste generated in the area. Residents are also throwing waste wrapped in polythene bags inside the bins as there is no labelling to convey the type of waste to be thrown. In fact, mixed waste collected by municipal corporation staff through the door-to-door collection is also being dumped in these bins.
Installing these bins in a place like Dehradun, where segregation at source is still minimal like in most Indian cities, is an ill-thought of move.
Residents are in the blue about the bins
Awareness programmes are key to effectively implement any waste management system. In north-western Cambridge, where UK's first largest underground bin system was installed in September 2017, cearly labelled bins were provided in kitchens which match the signage on the steel bin chutes outside. Leaflets were also provided in new resident packs, and online residents' portals were also updated with relevant information. In Dehradun, on the other hand, residents are not even aware of the availability of the bins.
In fact, the bins are not even equipped with any segregation demarcations. Naveen Sadana, Operational Manager for Waste Warriors, a Dehradun-based waste management NGO says, “The system of the underground bin in Dehradun is a huge scam in itself. These bins were installed only to hide the reality of garbage crisis existing in the city by burying it underground. No awareness programme was organised by the municipal corporation of Dehradun for these bins; many residents today are absolutely clueless about them. Most importantly, there is no proper plan or system for leaching and the maintenance of these bins is not easy.”
Dehradun is not the only city to install the underground bins
According to a Bengaluru-based waste management company, Raipur, Dharamshala, Haldwani, Paonta Sahib, Sundernagar and Dehradun have also installed these fully underground bins. The Municipal Corporation of Gurugram, Greater Hyderabad, and Chandigarh have shown interest in installing these bins.
In many of these cities, bins are being used for primary waste collection from households. Most the cities have not had a good experience with iron bins for waste collection due to improper coordination among waste management agencies and non-compliance by the people. Hence, they are shifting towards door-to-door collection of waste. The bins used under this initiative are just an upgradation of the old waste collection system.
L R Verma, sanitary inspector with Shimla Municipal Corporation says, “These bins have been proposed but since we have an effective door-to-door collection, we may not go for them”.
In June 2017, Dharamshala spent Rs 12 crore for 225 dustbins, of which, currently, only 70 have been installed. These dustbins were installed without any waste management system in place. The corporation has no processing site and only one disposal site where the waste of entire town is being dumped.
Barring few commercial areas, these bins have been installed primarily in residential area such as Nehru Colony, Kargi Chowk, Indira Nagar, Haridwar bypass and Patel Nagar.
Although the waste does not come in contact with the soil, there is always the fear of damage to the bins and leaching. “We cannot make waste disappear by burying it in the soil or throwing into water bodies. Mixed municipal solid waste is a huge burden on society and coming generations. Source segregation will yield multiple layers of economic and ecological benefits. According to the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016, the Municipal Corporation is legally bound to implement source segregation,” says Soumya Prasad, a researcher with Nature Science Initiative and Founder of Do No Trash, a local citizen action group.
When the Swachh Bharat Mission is priortising segregation at source, such methods will only prove unsustainable and create further complications. Urban local bodies looking to adopt these bins should first ensure that segregation and a strong solid waste management systems are in place.
(Inputs from Rishabh Shrivastava, policy analyst, Gati Foundation, Dehradun)