India generates around 62 million metric tonnes of waste every year. Around 90% of this waste (including recyclable plastics, paper, glass, wood and metal) poses serious challenges to India’s waste management system. The growing urban population and unplanned expansion of urban spaces worsen the situation. Management of e-waste and biomedical is also posing stiff challenges. The governmental agencies have recognised the threat and are formulating various policies to control the escalating threats posed by pollution in India. However, the situation cannot be expected to be tackled by the government only. The ‘Namami Gange’, which is the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) can be cited as a pertinent example. According to a report in the Hindu on this scheme states, “A financial audit in March, 2018 suggested that while Rs. 20,601 crore had been sanctioned for 193 projects, only Rs. 4,254 crore had actually been spent on their implementation.” Civil society and private players have a definite role to play. Various technology and solution driven organisations and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) are taking part in the process to ensure waste management and control pollution.
Waste generated in urban areas indicate an opportunity for private sector investment. The waste management market in India is expected to grow to around $13.62 billion by 2025, obtaining an annual growth rate of 7.17%. Aiming to use this market, Kabadiwalla Connect, a technology oriented for-profit social enterprise based in Chennai is making its presence felt in the waste management sector. The organisation is aiming to recycle urban biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste to new usable items. Sonaal Bangera, Co-Founder and CTO, Kabadiwalla Connect, told BE, “We provide smart waste collection and processing solutions for cities in the developing world powered by the informal sector. We also have a consumer facing app called ‘Recykle’. It is an app that helps people to get the information they need to manage their waste responsibly at home.” The company’s commercial pilots in Indonesia and the Ivory Coast, provide strong evidence to the commercial, environmental and social benefits of forming mutual partnerships with stakeholders in the informal waste supply-chain. Referring to the other organisations in similar business, Sonaal Bangera added, “Majority of the players, entering into the waste management space are focusing on consumer apps and a few directly interacting with businesses. At Kabadiwalla Connect our core focus is to build and provide a great end to end experience using design and technology across multiple stakeholders in this system.” Siddharth Hande, Founder and CEO of Kabadiwalla Connect recently informed the media, “About 68% of the waste generated in Chennai, for example, is post-consumer waste from households. In cities in Europe and North America, household waste is segregated at the source and recovered through curb side collection so that only the stuff that has zero value goes into the landfill. Such a system doesn’t exist in Indian cities.”
Saviours and Friend of Environment (SAFE) is a NGO working in the area of pollution control in eastern India since 2002. SAFE is currently functional in sectors like environmental monitoring, environmental awareness, and environmental education and in community based and school awareness. Sudipta Bhattacharjee, Director and Founder, SAFE, told BE, “In West Bengal, groundwater of around 84 blocks is arsenic contaminated. We work to control the level of arsenic in water. To increase the use of surface water and minimise the level of arsenic in water, SAFE is working for a rainwater harvesting project in Hooghly in collaboration with the government of West Bengal.”
SAFE also carries out numerous programmes aimed at awareness building regarding pollution control and waste management. They also provide community filters, laterite filters, activated alumina filters, medicated aluminium sulfate, and medicated bleaching powder. Rural rainwater harvesting is a very effective way to control arsenic contamination.Other than this, to track air pollution, SAFE monitors the air pollution level and sends regular reports to the government. According to Bhattacharjee, “The permissible limit of PM 2.5 in air is 80. During Diwali, in Kolkata, the level of PM 2.5 was recorded minimum at 147 and maximum at 426.”
The organisation is also supplying distinguished green and blue waste bin for biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. Talking about this, Bhattacharjee added, “We are working for a waste management project at Rajarhat in collaboration with the West Bengal government. We also have an independent waste management project in Baduria for expired food waste management.”
The space for waste management and pollution control is witnessing increasing participation from private players and civil society participants. The government should be in a position to twine policies that will ensure significant participation of these players in implementing governmental policies. They should also increase grants to important projects that are being implemented by non-state actors.