As Kashmir Shrinks, Land filling becomes a Daunting Challenge. Here’s a Potential Solution

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By Raja Muzaffar Bhat

Management of municipal solid waste is a global challenge. In a place like Kashmir, managing solid and liquid waste is an arduous task. This is because of the non-availability of scientific landfill sites. Developing these scientific landfill sites is not a big challenge for the administration provided they allocate enough financial support to municipalities and other urban local bodies. The biggest problem for valley of Kashmir is dearth of land to create scientific landfills. Early this year, the Regional Director (K) J&K State Pollution Control Board (SPCB), while talking to a news reporter in Srinagar, said that in-spite of identifying several dumping sites (landfills) in Kashmir valley, the proposal was facing the issue of land acquisition. He added “when there are no dumping sites, what can PCB do ?
I have been very critical about the activities of Pollution Control Board,vis a vis solid waste management but I do agree with the said department , over the issue of non-availability of land for developing new landfill sites. I have been trying to raise this issue at various forums but authorities seem to be non-serious and management of solid and liquid waste is becoming a challenging task day by day.

Scientific Landfill site
Landfill site seem to be an alien word for the administration here. Even our municipal officers and bureaucrats hardly use the word itself. They instead call it “Dumping Site“. We need to stop calling it a dumping site. The landfill sites which are set up on scientific lines are now called Resource Recovery Sites because the waste is no more waste but a resource provided by municipal authorities and citizens follow the best practices in waste management.
A scientific landfill site is a place that is developed for controlled disposal and scientific treatment of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW). These sites should abide by the guidelines of Municipal Solid Waste rules (MSW Rules 2016). Scientific landfill site is an ideal waste management solution. There is complete control of landfill gas, leachate, and limited access of vectors (e.g., rodents, flies and so on) to the waste.
As per MSW Rules 2016, only 20 % of the waste generated in residential and commercial areas has to be transported to a landfill site. Rest of the waste (resource) is to be treated by in-house composting of bio degradable waste or by creating decentralized waste processing units in residential colonies itself. In case of Srinagar city, all the waste generated in city gets finally unloaded at Achan where a lot of leachate is produced from the accumulated garbage.
Ironically 90 % of this waste is mixed waste (plastic waste, organic waste) which is very difficult to process. From last six months, some segregated waste also comes to Achan landfill site as the SMC has involved some private agencies, NGO’s to help people in segregation of waste, at the household level. These NGO’s also undertake Information Education & Communication (IEC) programmes. Due to lack of vehicular support from SMC, this process is yet to reach out to 100 % population of Srinagar city. The administration needs to purchase at least 300 small waste carrying vehicles that can carry segregated waste for individual households.

No land to landfill
Given the present condition of managing waste in Kashmir valley, I am of the firm belief that the administration will not be able to acquire land for developing a new landfill site in Srinagar city. The reason is not that land acquisition would be a very costly affair ( the reality is that there is not enough land available around Srinagar city for creating new landfill site). Even the districts located in Srinagar outskirts (Budgam and Ganderbal) also can’t afford to provide 100 to 150 acres of land to the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) for setting up of a new landfill site. As per the MSW Rules of 2016, the specifications for creating a new landfill site are:
The area has to be 100 meter away from river, 200 meter from a pond, 200 meter from Highways, Habitations, Public Parks and water supply wells and 20 km away from Airports or Airbase. However in a special case, a landfill site may be set up within a distance of 10 and 20 km away from the Airport/Airbase after obtaining a no objection certificate from the civil aviation authority/ Air force, as the case may be. These rules make it clear that Budgam is not a feasible place for setting up of a landfill site as both the airport and air-force base are located in the same area.
Ganderbal has a lot of wetland on its western side and, towards the east, it has mountains where it is impossible to create a landfill site. We can’t transport waste to Kupwara , Kargil or Leh. So, we have to no other alternative other than to clear a space at Achan the landfill site which can be used for next 10 to 20 years and to initiate in-house composting of organic / kitchen waste in areas where people have some land available around their house.

Personal experience
I have personal experience of in-house composting. From the last 2 years, my family processes all the kitchen / organic waste. We collect all the organic waste (like egg shells, leftover food, rice, vegetable trash, fruit waste and so on) in one trash-bin that is kept in our kitchen. We never put any plastic waste in that bin. This has become our habit.
Even kids don’t throw plastic or polythene in the kitchen trash-bin. Instead we have kept a bin in our lobby that is used exclusively to collect plastic waste. After every 2nd day we take out kitchen bin and throw the waste in the pit. This way my family reduces at least 50 to 60 kgs of organic waste every month as we generate 1 ½ to 2 kgs of organic waste daily. This waste gets decomposed in a pit (5 x 4 feet). We turn the waste after every 15 days so that new waste thrown in the pit gets settled down. The plastic waste on the other-hand is carried away by a professional waste collector who comes to pick up the same twice a week. The waste collector (rag picker) also feels happy and contented because the trash he carries from my house never stinks as there is no organic or food waste mixed with it. Imagine if ½ Million (5 lakh) households in Srinagar city start processing organic waste in their kitchen gardens, we can reduce 8 to 10 lakh kgs of waste every month. This will curb not only pungent smells emitting from garbage collection points but will also help us to reduce the volume of waste going to the Achan landfill site. Above all, we can create an organic manure “ Compost “ which is a great resource for our flower and vegetable gardens.

Solution
The only solution then is to ensure reduction of waste and learn the art of waste management. Waste management revolves round three R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. We have to start reducing the waste. Stop getting more and more plastic. Always carry a bag while during shopping. We should stop using disposable food items and disposable packing material. Instead we need to reuse the material like using steel plates, glassware, or bio degradable packing material.

Recycle kitchen waste (in the least), if we have some land available around our house. For this, we have to dig a pit of 5 feet x 4 feet with wooden fencing and start putting all our kitchen and organic waste into it. We must not at all put any plastic material in this pit. The organic waste that will go into the pit will get converted into compost after 5 to 6 months. In summer, this process can take only 3 months. We need to turn the waste upside down after every 15 days. If we can’t dig a pit we can get a big drum and start composing the organic waste in it. We can also put earthworms into these pits that will accelerate the compositing process. Mohalla committees, Masjid Committees, Welfare Committees, Municipal authorities, the Rural Sanitation Department, the Pollution Control Board and NGO’s have a special role to play in this direction. The Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) and other municipal bodies in North to South Kashmir must ensure that residential houses that have enough land (1/2 kanal or more) should be directed to undertake in-house composting of organic waste. Let the administration issue a circular in this direction and make in-house composting a mandatory process. The Organic waste consists of 70-80 % of the total waste generated in Srinagar and other towns of Kashmir valley. After proper training and awareness of individual households, the sanitation staff should not lift organic waste from the houses that do not have enough space. Rural Sanitation Department through NGOs and private agencies can undertake similar activities in rural areas. I have come to this conclusion that waste management needs a behavioral change. We have to change our behavior and learn the art of managing waste within the four walls of our houses. All this will ensure our own survival and to keep our valley clean and green across generations

The author is Founder & Chairman of the Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement . He can be reached at: bhatrajamuzaffar@gmail.com