Flagging the issue of waste management as a critical public health and environmental concern, organisations, experts and professionals from across India have urged that the issue of waste management should not be reduced to projection of waste as an economic resource at the cost of the basic principal of waste reduction and its safe management.
This was the theme that emerged from a two-day national workshop on medical, municipal waste held in Delhi in December 2007. The agenda for the day one was biomedical waste and was followed by discussion on municipal waste on the day two.
Delivering the opening remarks, Ravi Agarwal, Director, Toxics Link, highlighted the three cardinal aspects that have to be focused vis-a-vis waste management in the country, namely: Availability of best practices and technology, community participation and transparency in governance.
He also underlined that attempting to pitch waste as material or resource is not a positive trend as through propagation of such ideas, the issue of waste collection, reduction and segregation will not be resolved.
"The draft amendment Hazardous Waste Management Law, is an attempt to dub waste as material to allow the recycling industry to import hazardous waste for economic gains. The health and environmental costs of which are being brutally ignored," Agarwal asserted.
The opening session also saw a detailed presentation by the Delhi Government on the current status and plans for management of hazardous and biomedical waste.
In presentation made on behalf of Delhi's Environment Secretary, J K Dadoo, Dr. Dwarka Nath, stated that the State Government is scouting for utilising hazardous waste treatment facilities in other cities in the neighboring states as the quantum of waste cannot be handled in the National Capital alone.
He stated that authorization has been given to three new plants for conversion of solid waste into power and compost. These are Okhla Plant (1350 Ton per day, 225 Ton Sludge from STP + 450 Ton RDF at Okhla Plant + 650 Ton RDF from Timarpur), 16 MW power generation; Timarpur (650 Ton per day RDF production); Ghazipur (1300 Ton per day RDF production and 10 MW power generation).
It was also stated in the presentation that the Delhi Government is in the process of authorising a private developer for starting a treatment, storage, disposal facility for Hazardous Waste at Guman Hera in Delhi.
"EIA and public hearing for the Guman Hera site has been already been completed," Dr Nath added.
On the emerging challenge of electronic waste, he said: "Delhi will be the second state after Karnataka to take a lead in this regard and will issue an expression of interest for private developers for collection, dismantling, extraction, recycling and final disposal of E-Waste."
The National Workshop marks the culmination of a two-year process, whereby over 10 regional workshops were held across the country to get a pan-India perspective and facilitate a unified understanding on municipal and bio-medical waste issues.
The workshop had good participation from both civil society groups, including the World Bank, and healthcare professionals.