DEC 2017  

Solid waste management is vital for protecting human health and the environment as its uncontrolled disposal leads both to disease as well as to unlivable human settlements. Municipal solid waste (MSW) management refers to a systematic process for the minimization of solid waste production, its segregation and storage at source, its collection, subsequent storage, transportation, and segregation, and then its processing and treatment so that resources can be recovered (which can become primary products for other processes), and finally the disposal of the wastes that cannot be recovered or treated. Today, the management of MSW is the biggest challenge faced by municipal authorities throughout the country. India is among the top countries in the world in the generation of MSW—but approximately three-fourths of this waste remains untreated, and is dumped into landfills.

This month, our cover story, titled, 'The Solid Waste Management Conundrum' highlights that for effective solid waste management, India needs to take some major steps urgently to make Swachh Bharat Mission successful. Most importantly, real-time satellite mapping of garbage data is needed and it is necessary that garbage data is continuously tracked, and not just collected once in a decade during the national census. The availability of this data makes collection, treatment, and waste recovery possible; as is said, "what gets measured gets managed."

Our cover story discusses that effective municipal reforms are the need of the hour. It is essential that municipal bodies are restructured so as to address the lack of authority and scarcity of financial resources. They also need to reflect on processes that help them move away from outdated and rigid master plans and the restrictive zoning regulations. Also, alternative methods have to be tried out to create infrastructure quickly to meet the growing urban need. The story also highlights that planning the objectives of the Swachh Bharat Mission must be realistic and feasible. All plans should be thoroughly number crunched to ensure that deliverables are met.

The special report this month points out that rampant sand mining in Haridwar results in significant loss of aquatic life, both floral and faunal, as well as in depletion in groundwater as aquifers dry and water levels go down, and in the river changing its course. Alarmingly, massive amount of sand mining in River Ganga and its tributaries, using heavy machinery, has added to the massive disaster the state faced in June 2013 as the sand mining process increases the flow velocity and erosion of river banks with negative effects on the river ecosystem. Therefore, it is a matter of immediate concern that the Uttarakhand people, the state government, and the judiciary act immediately to save state's rivers.