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Issue 8
, 2008
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Wealth from waste

By Clair MacDougall
Source: Indian Express, Date: , 2008

As Delhi grew, pushing its limits to include new colonies and sub-cities, it sat on a huge pile of garbage. The city’s landfills could take no more trash and the government’s waste management strategy was clearly not working. That’s when a few colonies in Delhi decided to act. A few Residents’ Welfare Associations (RWAs) and the environmental group, Toxics Link, have been working towards zero waste management to fill the gaps in the municipality’s system.

Mohammad Tariq, senior programme officer at Toxics Links, said the idea of zero waste management is to ensure that “all organic waste is managed within the community with the proper participation or involvement of the residents”. In zero waste colonies, biodegradable waste, recyclable garbage and inert waste is segregated before it is disposed. Waste collectors and ragpickers then create fertiliser from the organic waste. The waste that cannot be reused is transported from the dhalaos to the landfill. Here are the stories of three of Delhi’s pioneering zero waste colonies.

Defence Colony

Housewife Shammi Talwar cared enough for the environment, her colony and herself to know that the garbage in her colony had to be removed. If the MCD wouldn’t do it, she would, she thought. “The garbage would just lie here for weeks together and there was a terrible stench. The MCD did nothing, so we took the initiative,” said the joint secretary of A-block in Defence Colony. In 2004, Talwar and the RWA approached Toxics Link and they worked together to create a zero-waste colony in the neighbourhood.

The RWA converted a piece of disputed land that was being used as a dumping ground into a park and created spaces for composting and waste segregation. The dump is now a beautiful patch of green and the gardeners here are the colony’s ragpickers. The colony now converts its kitchen waste into compost, which is then sold at Rs 10 a kg.

Since the initiation of this project in A-block in June 2005, other RWAs in the colony of 4,000 houses have followed suit. Now the neighbourhood is considered a model of zero waste management in the city. As a result of the initiative, at least 3 tonnes of wet waste and recyclables are diverted from the landfill every day.

CRPF Colony, Jyoti Kunj, Dwarka

Early last year, Toxics Links worked with Vikas Yadav, a resident of Jyoti Kunj, to establish a zero waste colony in the CRPF colony. The system here is similar to that in Defence Colony, but on a lesser scale, as only 400 households are involved. The colony now diverts 120 kg of recyclable and biodegradable waste from the landfills. It has also been suggested that this zero waste management approach should be extended to other CRPF colonies in Delhi.

Sarita Vihar

In 2003, Toxics Links’ municipal solid waste department approached the RWA in Sarita Vihar proposing to create the first ‘zero waste management’ colony in Delhi. The residents were only too happy: the stench from garbage heaps lying on the streets was getting unbearable. Toxics Links ran a training programme for 230 households in D-block of Sarita Vihar for over six months. Waste collectors, domestic servants, housewives, municipal staff and residents were trained in source segregation and composting techniques. Information pamphlets were also circulated. The programme was officially inaugurated on June 26, 2004, but stopped after a year.