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Comments on Draft Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2013

Written By Unknown on Friday, October 25, 2013 | 5:04 AM

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)


Union Ministry of Environment and Forests,
Government of India
New Delhi

Date: October 25, 2013

Subject-Comments on Draft Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2013


I am attaching my comments on Draft Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2013. This letter and the attached comments merit your consideration. 

I submit that a Ministry of Environment and Forests ‘s white paper had gone into the originally failed waste incineration plant at Timarpur, a project initiated in the mid-80s.  The paper is available on your website. The MoEF paper said that the failure supported the fact that thermal treatment of municipal solid waste is not feasible in situations where the waste has a low calorific value.  It added: "A critical analysis of biological treatment as an option was undertaken for processing of municipal solid waste in Delhi and it has been recommended that composting will be a viable option."

My comments are on the Draft Rules available at http://envfor.nic.in/sites/default/files/so-1978-e.pdf underline the need for adoption of Zero Waste approach.

On behalf ToxicsWattch Alliancwe (TWA), I wish to submit that huge amount of money is being wasted in aggregate and centralised technocentric solutions for municipal waste management. The Draft MSW Rules, 2013 promotes the status quo.

I submit that the Draft Rules seems to encourage waste generation and waste maximization for energy generation instead of promoting waste minimization and adoption of Zero Waste approach in dealing with the waste crisis.
I submit that municipal waste management is being distorted beyond repair due to the misplaced and uncalled intervention of the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), which is promoting waste to energy policy based on incineration technologies despite the experience of failure in Andhra Pradesh and Timarpur, Delhi. Unmindful of the fact that waste incinerator technologies are net energy losers when the embodied energy of the materials burned is accounted for, MNRE continues to promote it without any success. It is providing subsidy to such projects through its policy. It has written to all state governments to follow this policy as part of an executive order.

I submit that the Hazardous Substances Management Division, Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has failed to examine the performance of the MSW Rules, 2000. Had it done so Draft Rules would not have provided for waste to energy. Had it done so it would have looked deeper into the non-compliance with MSW Rules, 2000.
I wish to submit that in June 2005, Shri Gurudas Kamat, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy wrote to the MNRE seeking review of its WTE programme, citing similar reasons.  Referring to two burn projects in Andhra Pradesh as well to problems of incineration in general, Shri Kamat supported a ban on economic incentives for such projects, writing this: "We therefore direct that land filling of unsegregated wastes, incineration and recovery of energy from municipal waste shall henceforth not receive any Govt. sponsorship, encouragement or aid in any manner, except for completion of any projects that have already invested 30% of their capital cost on site."

I submit that the Draft Rules is contrary to the Stockholm Convention on POPs to which India is a signatory because it calls for improvements in waste management with the aim of the cessation of open and other uncontrolled burning of wastes. It violates Dhaka Declaration on Waste Management adopted by South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in October 2004. As per this declaration, SAARC countries cannot opt for incineration and other unproven technologies.

It is not that better methods of handling municipal waste in Indian cities are unknown. Researchers of waste suggest that composting and recycling materials is a better alternative because it saves the amount of energy that incinerating these same materials would generate. When properly applied, compost prepared from segregated waste is an excellent organic fertilizer. Burning organic waste litter eliminates this valuable resource. Where volumes are too high for local land application, composting is a more sustainable alternative. Organic fertilizer can be analysed and managed before application; but smokestack emissions are dispersed by the wind.

I submit that on one occasion, Dr Abdul Kalam, as President rightly summed up the need for integrated zero waste management. He illustrated this by referring to Gandhi Nagar, a town panchayat of around 2,400 families in Vellore district, Tamil Nadu. Gandhi Nagar generates garbage of over 48 tonnes per year. This garbage is converted into manure and recyclable waste generating over Rs.3 lakh in revenue, and the scheme provides employment to local people. Such measures promote sustainable development as against the current trend of introducing failed polluting technologies, which turn citizens into guinea pigs for experiments.

In a related development in favour of this approach, the Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Integrated Plant Nutrient Management has recommended setting up of 1000 compost plants all over the country and has allocated Rs.800 crore for the same in the year 2005. This report has been submitted in the Supreme Court in the Almitra Patel vs Union of India (writ (civil) no. 888/1996) case. Notably, this report recommends composting as a measure for waste management instead of energy recovery because Indian soil is carbon deficit.

I submit that the ideal resource management strategy for municipal solid waste is to avoid its generation in the first place. This implies changing production and consumption patterns to eliminate the use of disposable, non-reusable, non-returnable products and packaging. The alternative waste disposal methods include waste reduction, waste segregation at source, extended use and refuse, recycling, biomethanation technology and composting. 

In sum, the WTE projects are technologically incompatible with reducing dioxins emissions and at the same time relies on minimum guaranteed waste flows. It indirectly promotes continued waste generation while hindering waste prevention, reuse, composting, recycling, and recycling-based community economic development. It costs cities and municipalities more and provides fewer jobs than comprehensive recycling and composting. It prohibits the development of local recycling-based businesses. 

In keeping with the characteristics of Indian municipal solid waste -- low calorific value, high moisture content, high proportion of organic matter, and considerable inerts like earth, sand and grit – that the Supreme Court Committee on Solid Waste Management headed by Shri Asim Barman suggested simple technologies and easily achievable standards with liberal time frame knowing the limitations of urban local bodies and their institutional capabilities. It made recommendations to improve the finances of urban local bodies and to boost the composting of waste and recycling industry in this field. Recycling can eliminate a large chunk of the problem. Wet biodegradable wastes (e.g. cooked and uncooked foods and flowers) make excellent for composting. Indian soil is deficient in carbon and that is also the need of the hour to enrich the soil. However, the reality is that in Indian cities and towns on an average, only 60 per cent of solid wastes is collected leaving the balance 40 per cent unattended to. This gives rise to the insanitary conditions and diseases, especially among the urban poor who constitute 40 per cent of urban population.

I submit that in the US alone, recycling conserves an equivalent of approximately 11.9 billion gallons of gasoline, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking one-fifth (40 million) of all US cars off the roads every year.

I submit that the fact is that burning or incineration or combustion is unambiguously polluting. As noted in my earlier article, mother's milk in areas where waste burning takes place has already been tested and found to contain high amount of dioxins. Dioxins, are well known carcinogenic chemicals. Incinerators also emit greenhouse gases, especially from plastics. Incineration drives a negative spiral of increased energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Also, restrictive policies in typical incinerator contracts require a set amount of garbage. These contracts impose fees that that are a disincentive for a city to improve waste prevention strategies (i.e. reduction), recycling and composting collections.

I submit that suggestions of there being good and bad incinerators are not well-founded. India does not have even one laboratory to test for dioxins. Indeed, sophisticated technologies are available, in theory, which can control, not stop any pollutant, including dioxin, from being emitted. This is because dioxins are emitted when waste is burnt at a low temperature. It is also argued that if a plant runs for 24 hours at a high temperature it will destroy the dioxins anyway. First, it isn't clear there are waste to energy plants in India as of today or proposed in future that will run for 24 hours. Second at the starting and closing times, the temperature of the incinerators are low, and it takes time for the system to reach high temperature.

Under such circumstances, and given that India does not have even one dioxin testing facility in place, is it fair to argue for burn technologies? Those suggesting that 'sophisticated technologies' are available to stop any pollutant, including dioxins, seem to be going contrary to all cannons of the precautionary principle.  Despite all this, numerous such projects are proposed in cities all over the world. As a consequence, toxins are building up in the environment especially the aquatic ecosystem of villages and cities and drinking water bodies in their vicinity. The emission of these notorious pollutants is linked to cancer, immune and reproductive system disorders, birth defects, and other health threats. Besides environmental groups, the villagers and city folks themselves are resisting such waste burning techniques because of the stark evidence they themselves experience. This is further corroborated by scientific and medical findings that indicate that chemicals are leaching in the ground and air pollution because of waste burning is entering the food chain.

I submit that the move by the incineration industry to term waste incinerators as 'renewable energy' projects is not only fraudulent but also dangerous. Municipal solid waste is not considered to be a renewable energy source since it tends to be a mixture of fuels that can be traced back to renewable and non-renewable sources. The advocates of incinerators prefer to pre-empt segregation and recycling efforts being made by municipalities and communities around the world.

I wish to inform you that the Division Bench of the Hon'ble High Court of Karnataka ordered status quo on the controversial proposal to comprehensively amend the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000 (MSW Rules, 2000) by its order dated October 11, 2013. It has rightly been noted that the proposed amendments to the MSW Rules are contrary to measures to ensure segregation of waste at source, maximal recovery of recyclable material and composting and bio-methanation of bio-degradable components.

I wish to urge you to ponder over the question as to what is holding better waste management back in our country. The lack of a resource management plan which embraces zero waste as a vision for the future is holding back progress. Such a plan would need to call for waste prevention, reuse, repair, recycling, and composting. The plan will target a wide range of materials for reuse, recycling, and composting and will keep these materials segregated at the source to maintain quality and enhance diversion levels. It will treat composting as the key to achieving 50% and higher diversion levels and aim for doing so cost-effectively. Keeping organics out of landfills will make landfills less of a nuisance and source of pollution. Instituting economic incentives that reward waste reduction and recovery over disposal, such as reduced tipping fees for delivering recyclable and compostable materials to drop-off sites, tax incentives to encourage businesses and haulers to recycle, and pay-as-you-throw fees for trash collection will ensure management in true sense.

This plan also involves enacting policies and regulations to improve the environment for recycling and recycling-based businesses by banning products that cannot be reused, repaired, recycled, or composted, banning recyclable and reusable materials and products from landfills and incinerators and banning single-use disposable products from public events and festivals and as many other places as possible.  Such a plan also seeks to establish recycling market with incentives to create industrial parks for reuse, recycling, and composting firms. It will include policies that require reuse and recovery of building materials in new construction and in building deconstruction projects.

The plan will also include educational and technical assistance programs that provide residents and businesses with information about 'how' and 'why' to reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost. It will showcase the environmental and economic benefits of preventing, reusing, and recycling discards. It will manifest the role these activities play in moving toward an environmental health sensitive sustainable economy.  

In view of the above, I seek your intervention to take cognisance of the fact that despite the inherent wisdom in such measures, the combustion or incineration of garbage is often suggested as a solution. The framing of new Rules provides an opportunity to set things right. 

Kindly allow me to reiterate that this letter and the attached comments merit your consideration. 

Thanking You
Yours Sincerely
Gopal Krishna
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Mb: 09818089660

Shri Ajay Taygi, Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board, MoEF    

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Comments on Draft Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2013

Gopal Krishna
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Mb: 09818089660

MSW-Municipal Solid Waste
HSMD- Hazardous Substances Management Division
MoEF-Union Ministry of Environment & Forests
CPCB -Central Pollution Control Board
NIP-National Implementation Plan
POPs-Persistent Organic Pollutants
MNRE -Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy
UNEP-United Nations Environment Programme
WTE- Waste to Energy
NUSP-National Urban Sanitation Policy
MoUD-Union Ministry of Urban Development
HUPA-Union Ministry of Housing and Poverty Alleviation
ILCS-Integrated Low Cost Sanitation
Comments on Draft Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2013

As has been the case with regard to the pre-existing Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 200, case Draft Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2013 has been Union Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF). But unlike on the previous occasion, clause 4 of the Draft Rules provides a “List of Authorities and corresponding duties” under the title “Prescribed Authority” and states that the Union Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) will “Coordinate and review implementation of these rules.” It also states that MoEF will “undertake periodic review of these rules.” This seems to show that there is duplication of work. There is a structural reason for transferring the task in its entirety to the MoUD but the Draft Rules stops short of doing that.

The challenge that the 20 page English text of Draft Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2013 with 12 clauses, 2 schedules and 6 forms faces include its ability to deal with what Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)’s report reveals as to how around 1, 27, 486 tonne of municipal garbage generated every day in 59 major cities of India with only 12.54% of it being treated. Even this treatment is questionable. The Draft Rules which is to replace the pre-existing Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000 leaves a lot to be desired.  Generation of waste in the whole country is 362716.098 tons per day according to a 2008, study done by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Union Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF).

The 22 pages of Hindi text of the Draft Rules also form part of notification issued by the Gazette of India. The Draft Rules are supposed to replace the pre-existing Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000.

It is quite appropriate that Hazardous Substances Management Division (HSMD) of the Ministry has framed the Draft Rules for Municipal Solid Waste’ because it does have hazardous waste characteristics.

As per clause 3 (xvii) of the Draft Rules, “ ‘Municipal Solid Waste’ means the commercial and residential waste generated in a municipal or notified areas in either solid or semi-solid form excluding industrial hazardous waste, e-waste and including treated bio-medical waste.” This definition is exactly the same as is given in the pre-existing clause 3 (xv) of the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000.

But the definition of “treated bio-medical waste” was not there in the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, which has been given in clause 3 (xxx). It means “the waste generated in hospitals and health care institutions which have been prescribed as treated under Bio-medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rule 1998, as amended time to time.” This provision with regard to “treated bio-medical waste” needs to be revisited and an Experts Committee may be asked to examine its implications for environmental health. 

The definition in particular and the Draft Rules in general do not disclose that Indian ‘Municipal Solid Waste’ has hazardous waste characteristics. This is a very serious omission which should be rectified. This fact is admitted by implication when this definition is read with clause 4 of Schedule II of the Draft Rules which provides for standards and ‘specification for compost quality’ for heavy metal content for Cadmium, Chromium, Mercury, Lead, Zinc, Arsenic etc to ensure ‘safe application of compost’. It provides that ‘Compost (final product) exceeding the above stated concentration limits shall not be used for food crops. However, it may be utilized for purposes other than growing food crops.”

In a bizarre act of continued patronage to tried, tested and failed thermal technologies for waste processing and disposal facilities the very sentence under the heading “Standards for Composting” given in Schedule II of the Draft Rules reads: “Waste processing or disposal facilities shall include composting, controlled bioremediation, incineration, pelletisation, energy recovery or any other facility using suitable technology.” The drafters of the Draft Rules in the have misled Shri Ajay Tyagi, Joint Secretary, Hazardous Substances Management Division (HSMD),  Union Ministry of Environment & Forests under whose signature the Draft Rules have been made public for comments.

Clause 9 (3) reads:” The municipal authority shall encourage the use of municipal solid waste by adopting suitable technology which may include composting, vermicompsoting, anaerobic digestion with or without energy recovery, co-incineration or combination of such technologies as appropriate, to make use of municipal solid waste so as to minimize burden on landfill.”
The Draft Rules provides for segregation of biodegradable and non-biodegradable components of the solid waste. It also says that the local bodies would collect horticulture, construction and dairy wastes separately and will not mix it with the solid waste. Clause 3 (xxvi) defines segregation as a “means to separate the municipal solid waste into groups of organic, inorganic, recyclables, industrial hazardous wastes and e-waste”.

The Draft Rules fails to answer the question as to when waste segregation is indeed done what is there to be burn by incinerator technologies which the Draft Rules unabashedly promotes. 

The drafters of the Draft Rules have kept Shri Tyagi under dark about the White Paper on Pollution in Delhi with an Action Plan' prepared by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. The relevant part of the paper reads:"The experience of the incineration plant at Timarpur, Delhi and the briquette plant at Bombay support the fact that thermal treatment of municipal solid waste is not feasible, in situations where the waste has a low calorific value.” At present, Shri Tyagi is officiating as the Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Union Ministry of Environment & Forests.

Besides the approved reference to “any other facility using suitable technology” and hazardous and inappropriate technologies of “incineration, pelletisation” reveals that although the Rules being farmed is purportedly for Municipal Solid Waste ‘Management’, apparently under the influence of questionable waste technology companies, it has adopted thermal technology route as a bad and toxic legacy of the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000 despite the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests wisdom in terms of the above mentioned White Paper.
The drafters of the Draft Rules appear oblivious of the 254 page National Implementation Plan (NIP) prepared by Government of India in order to meet its obligation under Article 7 of the UNs Stockholm Convention on POPs dated April 2011. On page 16 the NIP reads: “The major contribution of PCDD/DF emission is from waste incineration and ferrous and non-ferrous metal production categories followed by heat and power generation sector. Waste incineration has 66.75% share of the total annual releases.” It further states, “The highest amount of PCDD/DF is released into residues 63.12%, followed by air emission which accounts for 32.66% of the total releases” The main source categories include waste incineration.” On page 96 of the NIP, it is stated, “There is no municipal solid waste incinerator operating in India.” It means the municipal waste plant at Okhla is the first of its kind. The NIP admits, “India has limited experience in the environmentally sound disposal of POPs.” The Draft Rules have failed to recommend “necessary measures to ensure that waste is recovered or disposed of without endangering human health and without harming the environment” as has been done in the EU Directive on Incineration of Waste. It is noteworthy that CPCB, currently headed by Shri Tyagi was one of the institutions involved in the preparation of the NIP.

The fact is that European Parliament has passed an unanimous resolution to eliminate use of thermal technology for MSW has been ignored. The Council of the European Union “reiterated its conviction that waste prevention should be the first priority of any rational waste policy in relation to minimising waste production and the hazardous properties of waste”. This finds mention in the EU Directive on the incineration of waste. The Draft Rules do not provide for waste prevention mechanism. EU Directive further states, “The distinction between hazardous and non-hazardous waste is based principally on the properties of waste prior to incineration or co-incineration but not on differences in emissions. The same emission limit values should apply to the incineration or co-incineration of hazardous and non-hazardous waste but different techniques and conditions of incineration or co-incineration and different monitoring measures upon reception of waste should be retained.” The Definition of ‘Municipal Solid Waste’ should have taken this into account.

Article 3 (4) of EU Directive on Incineration of Waste defines incineration: “incineration plant means any stationary or mobile technical unit and equipment dedicated to the thermal treatment of wastes with or without recovery of the combustion heat generated. This includes the incineration by oxidation of waste as well as other thermal treatment processes such as pyrolysis, gasification or plasma processes in so far as the substances resulting from the treatment are subsequently incinerated. This definition covers the site and the entire incineration plant including all incineration lines, waste reception, storage, on site pretreatment facilities, waste-fuel and air supply systems, boiler, facilities for the treatment of exhaust gases, on-site facilities for treatment or storage of residues and waste water, stack, devices and systems for controlling incineration operations, recording and monitoring incineration conditions”.

This definition includes illegal Chinese boilers which are being used without any approval in Delhi’s Okhla Waste to Energy project. Although Technical Experts Evaluation Committee, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the Timarpur-Okhla Waste to Energy Incinerator Plant in its 31 page report of that was communicated on March 22, 2012 brought to light the illegalities committed by Shri Prithivraj Jindals JITF Urban Infrastructure Limited (Jindal Ecopolis), the Draft Rules appears to endorse the environmental lawlessness in the national capital and sets a very bad precedent. This CPCB report is based on three meetings of the Technical Experts Evaluation Committee held on April 26, 2011, August 11, 2011 and September 22, 2011 under the chairmanship Chairman, CPCB. This appears to be an exercise to accommodate the admittedly unapproved technology under the “any other facility using suitable technology” referred to in Schedule II of the Draft Rules.

The Draft Rules fails to underline that post incineration the distinction between hazardous waste and non-hazardous waste like municipal waste is lost with adverse environmental health consequences. The fly-ash collected from waste incineration and co-incineration technologies should attract the provisions of Rules for hazardous waste management.

The Union Ministry of Environment & Forests appears to be blindly following the Waste to Energy Policy Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy without taking recourse to its own White Paper. It fails to underline that energy generated from waste incineration cannot be deemed renewable energy. It is does not reveal that waste incineration is a green house gas emitter as per Kyoto Protocol. 'Municipal solid waste is not considered to be a renewable energy source since it tends to be a mixture of fuels that can be traced back to renewable and non-renewable sources,' said Mark Radka, currently Chief of the Energy Branch, Division Technology, Industry and Economics for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Waste to Energy is non-Renewable Energy. The Draft Rules do not situate the issue in its right context.

Eighteen years after the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) shut down its waste-to-energy power incinerator plant at Timarpur, the Draft Rules chooses to ignore the lessons from the Timarpur blunder for which the Delhi High Court and Controller Auditor General rebuked the Government. The drafters of the Draft Rules should have recalled the order of Delhi High Court in April 2001 on the plant's failure. The court had taken issue with the procurement of the incineration plant at a cost of Rs 20 crores from a Danish firm Volund Milijotecknik in 1985 and said, "No order should have been placed for procurement of the plant unless its utilities were completely known." The drafters seemed to have feigned ignorance about it although the recommendation against thermal technologies in the White Paper of Union Ministry of Environment & Forests was based on this failure.

Draft Rules is inadequate in addressing the pollutants which are detrimental to health and the environment that are emitted from waste incineration -- including waste pelletisation or RDF, pyrolysis, gasification systems and ‘other suitable technologies like boilers. Incineration is expensive and it does not eliminate or adequately control the toxic emissions from chemically complex municipal discards. The latest incinerators too release toxic heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants like dioxins. In fact the US Environment Protection Agency (USEPA) has in its Dioxin reassessment stated that "dioxin is carcinogenic to humans" and the "risk of getting cancer from dioxin is ten times higher than reported in 1994." Dioxins and furans means all polychlorinated dibenzo-pdioxins and dibenzofurans. Draft Rules should have factored in how “Flue-gas from MSW incinerator may contain trace quantities of halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons, polycyclic aromatic carbons, benzene, toluene and xylene and PCDDs/F. These are formed from precursor compounds generated in the furnace during incineration of wastes containing chlorinated hydro carbons already present in the waste or formed in the furnace. These compounds are formed through de-novo synthesis in the low-temperature range (400-250 degrees C) during cooling phase in the presence of particulate matter.

Draft Rules appear myopic in its silence on how waste incineration transfers the hazard characteristics of waste from the solid form to air, water and ash. It also releases new toxins through the process of breakdown of existing compounds and the formation of new ones which were previously not present in the original waste stream, besides making others like heavy metals mobile and more leachable. Far from eliminating the need for a landfill, waste incinerator systems produce toxic ash and other residues. On page 13, it is stated that “concentrate residue is proposed to be incinerated along with MSW”. Draft Rules ignore how incinerator ash gets dispersed throughout the environment and subsequently enter the food chain.

In clause 3 (vii) and (xxxii) of the Draft Rules “composting” and “vermicomposting” is defined. The former is “a controlled process involving microbial decomposition of organic matter.” The latter is “a process of using earth worms for conversion of bio-degradable waste into compost.” This definition pre-exists in the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000.

It is noteworthy that Supreme Court’s order dated September 1, 2006 reads, “The Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Integrated Plant Nutrient Management had submitted its report and recommendations in May 2005….Nothing has been placed on record objecting to the recommendations of the report. Under these circumstances, we direct the implementation of the recommendations in the report with immediate effect.” The Task Force recommended setting up of some 1000 compost plants across the country to deal with the municipal solid waste. The Draft Rules fails to take cognizance of the recommendations of the Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Integrated Plant Nutrient Management.        

In clause 8 of the Draft Rules that deals with ‘Responsibilities of the State or Union Territory’ refer to the 40 page National Urban Sanitation Policy (NUSP), Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India that makes sketchy references to solid waste management despite accepting that “it is recognized that integral solutions need to take account of other elements of environmental sanitation, i.e. solid waste management; generation of industrial and other specialized / hazardous wastes; drainage; as also the management of drinking water supply.”
NUSP admits that Ministry of Housing and Poverty Alleviation (HUPA) is administering a Centrally Sponsored Scheme for Integrated Low Cost Sanitation (ILCS) but it “does not cover the problem of inadequate sanitation, including treatment and disposal of sewage and solid waste management, which has considerable environmental and health implications. The scope of urban sanitation is much larger than the issues covered under the Scheme for Integrated Low Cost Sanitation.”

One of the most important recommendations of NUSP is there in its footnotes. It reads, “Investments in proper sanitation facilities (arrangements right up to treatment and safe disposal) must become a compliance requirement for any investments in infrastructure (e.g. urban transport, railways, airlines, etc.), and health and education sectors. For instance, urban transport investments must become 100 percent sanitation compliant by providing investments for public and community sanitation, as also specific plans for transport of solid waste, septage, and appropriate arrangements for sewerage systems.” Neither the Draft Rules nor the NUSP has elaborated on investments in proper and genuinely environmental and occupational health friendly facilities.

Clause 3 (xxxiii) of the Draft Rules defines “waste pickers” as “the individuals or groups of individuals engaged in the collection of municipal solid waste.” This definition is incomplete because the waste pickers are also involved in segregation and recycling. The definition should include both segregation and recycling as work of “waste pickers.” This definition is not there in the pre-existing clause 3 (xv) of the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000.

Clause 5 of the Draft Rules provides for “Responsibility of Municipal Authority” wherein at Clause 5 (1) it is stated that “for necessary infrastructure development for collection, storage, segregation, transportation, processing and disposal of municipal solid waste directly or by engaging agencies or groups working in waste management including waste pickers” At Clause 5 (10), it states that “The municipal authority or an operator of a facility shall provide personal protection equipment namely, hand gloves, high boots made of tough leather, goggles and masks to all workers for handling municipal solid waste.”  

The Draft Rules should have provided for social security measures for waste pickers including their right to livelihood which faces deep threat from incinerator technology companies and corporatization of waste management. The Draft Rules should have provided for a framework to create co-operatives of waste pickers to provide legal status to the waste pickers in line with what is promised in the National Environment Policy, 2006 to save them from exploitation of unscrupulous NGOs and law enforcements agencies.  

Accident reporting is required to done as per clause 12 of the Draft Rules There is a minor error in the clause as it mentions that the accident reporting is to be done in form of Form-V. As per the annexed Forms, Accident Reporting Form is Form –VI at page no. 41. In an instance of a glaring omission while need for “Accident Reporting” is underlined, the compensation regime for occupational and non-occupational accidents, injuries and exposures from waste handling and waste treatment facilities is not mentioned. This must be rectified.    

The Schedule II of the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000 which provides parameters sand compliance criteria of management of solid wastes should be retained in the Draft Rules. It has very good provisions like “waste (garbage, dry leaves) shall not be burnt.”

The ministry which is blindly promoting waste burning technologies does not seem to find this provision palatable as it does not suit the incinerator technology companies who enjoy its patronage unmindful of environmental and human cost.

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