According to technical estimates, an acre of land is required for every 10,000 people every 25 years. Ashwini Bhide says that combining several neighbouring cities for solid waste management can be cost-effective in solving the biggest immediate problem in this area: land availability. MMRDA proposes to develop regional landfill sites on PPP.
Solid waste should be segregated and processed and the remaining inert material should go into a landfill which is developed scientifically. This entails that waste collection is done in a systematic way and in a way that is not hazardous to the environment. Unfortunately, none of our local bodies have either scientific segregation—neither at source, nor at any later stage—or proper processing. Most of the urban local bodies (ULBs) are just dumping their municipal waste on landfills. Both the quality and the quantity of waste thus dumped are way off acceptable standards, leading to land availability problems.
Often, our cities do not have the wherewithal or budgetary support to manage municipal waste scientifically. But the larger reality of land availability should make them prioritise well. ULBs can reduce their space requirements in two ways: segregate the waste or recycle and re-use. This entails adoption of proper systems for segregation, technology for processing and management of landfill site.
The problem with land space is not merely the actual availability. Because of unscientific disposal, municipal waste in open landfills emanates a stench that neighbouring residents find unacceptable, and there is much resistance to the land’s use for this purpose in the first place. So much has the bad reputation of waste management caught up that people resist to even scientific landfills. Cities have run into trouble with many environmental agencies as well.
Regional agencies such as our own can play a better role because though municipal bodies have their regional restrictions we do not. There are spaces between cities that can be utilised, but ULBs do not have jurisdiction over that space. Organisations such as ours can develop such no-man’s-land sites as landfills.
Based on a study we conducted on project waste generation, MMRDA has worked out the land requirements. All the municipal bodies in our region have agreed to join us. There will be regional landfill sites where all the neighbouring municipal bodies will bring their solid waste. We will begin with a modest 2,000 TPCD project and with a land of about 100 hectare that is available with us. There are three to four local bodies that are close to that site. We will set up transfer stations, so the responsibility of municipal local bodies is to bring the waste to the station. These transfer stations will be managed by the concessionaire. The waste then gets transferred to a processing site, where inert material is scientifically developed. Both processing and landfill site will be in one location.
We are seeking to do this through a PPP mode. Our environmental impact assessment (EIA) is complete. KPMG is our transaction advisor. We have issued an Expression of Interest (EOI), and need to complete the RFP/RFQ and bidding process in six months. The regional landfill site will take care of municipal waste till 2015.
Currently, cities have not been collecting all the waste in their jurisdictions. PPP can make our cities see waste as useful material from which you can earn money. Collection efficiency is bound to improve. In a PPP, a certain amount of guaranteed waste becomes the cities’ responsibility to provide. So obviously their main job will be of collecting the waste and bringing it to the transfer station. The responsibilities will be reduced so the work efficiency will go up tremendously. It is a modular kind of project.
Given that it is a commercial project, a certain amount of waste must be assured. As the project becomes viable and it starts running on its own and reaches a break-even point we can immediately go to the next step and the next module can be put in place immediately.
Greater Mumbai allocates Rs 200 cr for SWM
Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), which recently earmarked Rs 200 crore for solid waste management, has acquired 117 hectares of land on the outskirts of the city. The Authority has also begun to provide expertise and loans to other cities. It is estimated that MMR alone generates solid waste of about 10,000-12,000 tonne on a daily basis, of which about 8,000 tonne is generated by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai alone, with 16 urban local bodies (ULBs) in the MMR sharing the remainder. MMRDA has also invited EOI for an integrated e-waste processing facility in MMR to be built on PPP on a site in Taloja. This would be the first such processing plant in the country for scientific disposal and processing of e-waste.
The author is Joint Commissioner, MMRDA, and Joint Managing Director, MUINFRA. As told to Shashidhar Nanjundaiah.