Durga Puja for Bengalis is both a time of religious and social celebration. A carnival like atmosphere prevails throughout West Bengal. But as businesses flourish during this time, so does the use of plastics. Most sellers provide items in plastic carry bags. For food items, many restaurants use plastic containers. There is a huge increase in plastic waste generation during the festival. The civic bodies in West Bengal need to be extra careful regarding this menace.
Manufacture, storage and use of plastic carry bags of less than 40 microns thickness is banned in West Bengal. So, segregation of non-biodegradable, toxic pollutants, petroleum-based plastics wastes at source is important. Water bottles, PET bottles, carry bags, medicine bottles, foam packing, small plastic toys, tea cups and ice crease cups are major examples of solid wastes that are generated. A section of this waste is recycled to manufacture various items like packaging materials, fibres, auto components, videotapes, X-ray films and other items.
Shafkat Alam, Joint Secretary, Tiljala Society for Human and Educational Development, an organisation that works with Kolkata rag pickers, told BE, “The whole business of rag picking is done by the unorganised sector. They deliver the solid wastes to private waste recyclers. We have been told that they collect a huge volume of plastic waste during the festival season.”
Operations of solid waste management (SWM) are performed under four core areas that include sweeping, collection, transportation and disposal. The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) has allocated Rs. 657.16 crore to its solid waste management department for the 2019-20 fiscal.
According to the budget statement of the KMC, “For effective storage and transportation of municipal wastes, 20 modern scientific waste compactor stations and 60 portable stationary compactors have been added to the existing set-up of 83 compactor stations and 179 portable compactors and these are all functioning satisfactorily. For odourless and spillage-free transportation of wastes, we have added 39 movable compactors of 14 cu. m. capacity and 2 of 8 cu. m. capacity to our existing fleet of 54 movable compactors for rendering services in lanes and by-lanes of the city.” Solid waste management is an important civic task and it takes challenging proportions during Durga Puja.
Debabrata Majumder, Member, Mayor-in-Council (MMIC), KMC, told BE, “During Durga Puja, as commercial sector remains closed, the total volume of solid waste generation declines there. The waste mainly generates in and around puja pandals and stalls. We collect the trash from the pandals twice daily during the festival. Battery operated cars, compactors, mechanical sweeping machines and water sprinklers are deployed by the KMC for garbage handling and disposal. Garbage collection stations are being planned to replace vats. For bio-degradable wastes, the KMC uses composters to make manure.”
Sumanta Roy, who is one of the organisers of Jodhpur Park Puja Committee, spoke to BE regarding waste management. He said, “KMC is playing an appreciable role in managing waste by giving necessary services during the festival days.”
Kolkata is expecting significant rainfall during Durga Puja this year, which will lead to chances of water-logging. Water-logging may take alarming proportions if plastic waste is not managed properly as it clogs the outlets from storm water.
Puja committees are active
Most Durga Puja organisers agree that there is an increase in plastic waste generation during Durga Puja. Combustion of plastic waste emits toxic gases. Many puja committees are trying to restrict burning of plastic waste. They are relying on KMC and unorganised rag pickers to deal with this waste. Roy added, “We have collaborated with an organi-sation to manage some of our Puja waste. The organisation will collect our discarded flowers and decompose them to make bio-fertilisers.”