Municipal solid waste (MSW) management is one of the most serious challenges to environment protection and although the Solid Waste Management Rules have been framed in 2016, their implementation remains a problem, a National Green Tribunal (NGT) bench headed by chairperson justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said, expressing its anguish over the issue. The tribunal formed three committees – apex monitoring committee, regional monitoring committees and state-level committees – to oversee the steps to be taken, to give effect to the directions of the tribunal, including proper implementation of the Rules.
The green panel said that deficiencies in the proper management of solid waste, have resulted in an outbreak of serious diseases in the past and are likely to do so in the future. “It is observed that even as per some of the proposed plans, only 50 to 75 per cent of the waste produced will be managed by the waste-to-energy plants or waste-to-compost plants or through integrated waste management plants. The rest 25-50 per cent of the current waste, will continue to be dumped in the existing dumping grounds or in the new dumping sites. Most of the states have not taken into account the incremental growth in the waste generation in the future, in the cities, which are growing exponentially. This will only add to the waste dumps, which have already assumed alarming proportions. Moreover, most of the states have no plans to deal with the legacy waste, which have already become virtual mountains in some of the cities, causing environmental disasters,” the bench, also comprising justice Jawad Rahim, said.
Observing that most of the states have no plans to deal with solid wastes in rural areas and hilly terrains effectively, the NGT said that many rural centres are rapidly turning into urban conglomerates and if their solid wastes are not managed urgently, we would be inviting several diseases with disastrous consequences. “In these areas, the most convenient method adopted is to burn or dump the waste haphazardly and throw them on the hill slopes. What is required to be done, is to come out with integrated plans on scientific lines, to manage the solid waste which may vary from place to place,” the bench said. It is absolutely mandatory that every state follows the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, in letter and spirit, it said.
“The role of the apex monitoring committee will be to interact with the concerned ministries and the regional monitoring committees. The apex monitoring committee may formulate guidelines/directions, which may be useful to the regional monitoring committees and the states/union territories. The apex monitoring committee may meet, preferably every month, to take stock of the situation,” the tribunal said. The apex monitoring committee will be headed by former Supreme Court judge justice DK Jain and also comprise the chairman of the Central Pollution Control Board, joint secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the joint secretary and mission director of the Swachh Bharat Mission of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
“Outstation members/invitees may participate by video conferencing, unless their presence is considered necessary. The apex monitoring committee may have meetings with all the regional monitoring committees at least once in a month for two days, to take stock of the progress and fix new targets. The report may be given to the tribunal by e-mail, once in a quarter. The apex monitoring committee may have its website, for dissemination of such information as may be necessary and also to enable public participation. The committee may function for a period of one year, subject to any further order,” the bench said.
The tribunal directed that the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs will provide all logistic and secretarial support to the apex monitoring committee, which may operate from Delhi. “The regional monitoring committees shall ensure effective implementation of the 2016 Rules. The regional monitoring committees shall also ensure that mixing of bio-medical waste with municipal solid waste does not take place and bio-medical waste is processed in accordance with the Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016,” it said.
There will also be state-level committees headed by the secretary of the Urban Development Department, with the secretary of the Environment Department as members. “The representatives from the Central Pollution Control Board and State Pollution Control Boards, would assist the state-level committees. The state-level committees may have interactions with the local bodies, preferably, once in two weeks. The local bodies may furnish report to the state committees twice a month,” the tribunal said.