Saturday, November 8, 2014

Managing waste - ANAND OBEROI


Gangtok can admittedly be counted among the cleaner towns of the country, but residents here will also accept that garbage disposal has become a vexed problem for most localities. Erratic collection of garbage, incorrect means of disposing household waste [even when deposited to the collection trucks], inefficient garbage recycling practices, composting and treatment plant and the lack of awareness continue to plague waste management efforts in the capital.
But collection and dispatch is only part of the problem. The collective stench of 40 tonnes of garbage deposited untreated to the landfill at 32 No., Majhitar, by 20 trucks from Rangpo, Singtam, Gangtok, Rhenock, Rongli, Pakyong and the Indian Army everyday overwhelms passersby on the highway above and highlights the unscientific disposal method which is only now being corrected; after a long hiatus of 10 years. The Gangtok Municipal Corporation only began repairing the plant machinery at the dump after locals of the area raised a stink about their condition. With the area MLA, Dr. Mechung Bhutia stepping in, residents of the area drove the GMC to expedite corrective measures, following which, after about 8 years of disuse, the plant machinery has now begun to function and the huge mountains of raw garbage are now being “treated”.
The GMC Commissioner, CP Dhakal, informs that the requirements of garbage management for the next 15 years could be met if the existing garbage disposal plant at 32 Number functions to its full capacity with all the machines running. While admitting that there was a lapse by GMC and the UD&HD in allowing the treatment plant to lapse into erratic functioning for the past 8-10 years, he assures that now the situation is different as the GMC has understood the gravity of the situation.
It may be informed that the garbage treatment plant at Majhitar will be fully operational starting Saturday, 08 November, after a series of trail runs and long-pending repairs initiated by the GMC over the past two months. The GMC Commissioner explains here that since the repair works started at the plant, 60 percent of the problems for the residents living in the vicinity have been resolved.
“The machines installed by the UD&HD were lying idle for want of repairs. The repair works were not undertaken and attention to proper waste management was not there. But the situation has completely changed since we have started works on a war-footing and have been at work here for the past two months,” states the GMC Commissioner.
Here, he adds that the GMC has already started carrying out “mud-capping” works at the plant. Mud-capping entails pressing of the dumped garbage and covering it with soil which has resulted in the stench wafting from the yard to decrease to a large extent.
It is also informed that the GMC has also proposed additional composting machines for the site to resolve the problem of waste piling up at the plant.
He adds here that as soon as the existing plant is operational and running to full capacity, a bilateral plan of construction of scientific landfills under ADB-funding will be initiated at the same area and that this would further alleviate many existing problems at the plant.
While stating that managing garbage was not an easy task, he, on behalf of the GMC, underlined that garbage disposal and management required cooperation from every sector. “From the local people who still do not segregate their garbage before disposing the same at the collection trucks, to people who still go and dump garbage directly into the jhoras in the dark of the night, everyone should realize that for better management, we need the people to understand that this is a joint responsibility, we are not equipped to monitor every single jhora or roadside,” the Commissioner points out.
Here he adds that to facilitate the same at the household level, the GMC will distribute garbage bins (two each) to every household to allow for segregation of biodegradable and non-biodegradable household waste at source.
“Even when we have units at the existing plant to segregate waste, it requires labour and is a tedious proposition. Thus if waste come in segregated, it will be a whole lot easier for the staff down at the plant,” states the GMC Commissioner.
He adds here that guidelines will be laid down by the GMC in this regard. “The responsibility is not only of the government but of everyone,” he adds while stating that even the local people should feel a sense of disappointment when they pass through the plant area and cover their noses, remembering it is their waste that was contributing to the stench.
He insists that people visit the garbage disposal site at least once to see in what conditions GMC workers are dealing with the situation and what problems they face. Once aware of the situation, people can also offer suggestions to GMC on how make further improvement, he states.
Meanwhile, he also informs that a new site- near Chamirey Bhir at Rorathang - has been identified for a new plant to ease some pressure on the existing garbage treatment plant at 32 Number. “We have identified the area and submitted all related papers to the Forest Department for clearance and necessary permissions. We would like to learn from the 32 No. experience to make the new plant flawless,” states the Commissioner.

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