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Waste Management: Where Mumbai Fails

The newly issued plastic ban is supposed to be a step in the right direction for managing the ever increasing waste pile in Mumbai. The financial capital of India, where people fight over every tiny inch of available space, is facing one of the worst waste management crises. It’s dumping grounds are running out of space and yet there is no solid plan to deal with the problem. Wherever you go around in Mumbai, you’d see plastic wrappers and all sorts of garbage lying around, especially around regions that have proximity to the sea. This bustling city is on the verge of having a serious environmental crisis.

According to the environmental status report by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Mumbai generates 9,400 metric tonnes of waste per day, of which only 30% gets treated with a proper procedure, the rest gets dumped at the already overloaded landfills and dumping grounds. As opposed to other cities, there is no provision for proper waste segregation. Here, waste isn’t segregated into wet and dry waste, but rather just mixed together, having given no thought as to where it goes. Even though the plastic ban is a good initiative, it has its limitations. Deep pocketed companies haven’t really been affected by the ban, but rather the small scale industries have.

India doesn’t have a culture of reduce, reuse and recycle. With a country that has depleting environmental resources, it is high time that we adopt an environmentally friendly mindset. The BMC blames the citizens for having no civic sense in segregating dry and wet waste. But segregation of waste done at home becomes ineffectual as there are no proper means for the transportation of dry and wet waste separately. Rather all the collected waste gets dumped at the dumping grounds located at Deonar, Mulund and Kanjurmarg and then segregated with the help of rag pickers working in unlivable circumstances at negligible pay. The inefficiency of this process has had a negative impact on the waste treatment machinery working at these dumping grounds with fires breaking out frequently.

There were many BMC projects kicked off for waste segregation and solid waste management. Yet, none of these have proved to be successful. The BMC hasn’t come up with a plausible solution to tackle this burning issue. People living near the dumping yards, belonging to the lower socio-economic class, bear the brunt of this poor waste disposal program. Since these people cannot afford good treatment, they have to suffer the consequences in silence. The lack of civic responsibility towards these classes of people questions the inherent welfare state policy of the government. It brings in the “survival of the fittest” strategy, giving all the power to the elites and rendering the have-nots powerless, fighting over the most basic resources required for survival.

Mumbai is lucky, its pollution is absorbed by the national park and the Aarey colony in the city, but the sea bears the brunt of sewage disposal from the city. The beaches are filthy, trenched with garbage of all kinds, ranging from plastic to fecal matter. The mangroves are littered with plastic waste that gets stuck in the branches during high tide.

The poor disposal of waste causes the contamination of water, among other things which in turn has huge health ramifications. Open defecation along water bodies is rampant due to the slums that have developed around these water bodies. These water bodies are seen as dumping grounds, without giving any thought to the consequences in the environment. And the slums make it more difficult for the municipal workers in their effort to clean it. The Dahisar and Mithi rivers have long become open gutters. The floods of 2006 didn’t happen just because of the excessive rains, but also because of the improper disposal of plastic that clogged the gutters.

The BMC has initiated and formulated many policies and programs to counter the environmental degradation of Mumbai, yet they haven’t seen the light of the day. The size of the dumping grounds keeps on increasing, putting to risk the lives of thousands who stay in the vicinity. The mismanagement of funds and lack of political will to deal with the rising problem of waste management has reduced the city to a deplorable state. The rivers and beaches of this city are littered with waste, bringing with it a shortage of water, that will endanger the lives of many. It is high time that the city wakes up and sees the dilapidated state of its environment to take corrective measures.

Picture Credits: Free Press Journal



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