We are finding it difficult to manage our waste.

Who is responsible for clearing Capital's garbage mountains ...
A garbage mound in New Delhi

Mountains of waste being generated as a by-product of economic development is taking a serious toll on the environment. Because of rapid urbanization, the country is looking at massive waste management challenge. Nearly 400 million urban residents in living in 8000 towns and cities produce 62 million tons (MT) of solid waste annualy. Out of 62MT, only 42 MT is collected and even out of 43 MT, only 11.9MT is recycled or treated and rest goes to landfill sites or garbage mounds.

Uncontrolled dumping, is the major waste disposal method in India, and is also a major source of disease. In Mumbai, 12% of total solid waste is burned either openly on the streets or in landfills, a practice that releases black carbon, dioxins and carcinogenic furans.

A CSE survey data shows that 70-80 percent of India’s wastewater ends up in water bodies. No proper sanitation facilities, frequent, uncontrolled discharge of wastewater and industrial discharges are the major causes of water-borne diseases, especially in India’s densely populated slum areas and ghettoes. Findings show that out of 816 municipal sewage treatment plants (STPs) listed across India only 522 work. So out of 62000 million liters of Sewage generated, only 18,883 gets treated and the rest is discharged into the water bodies.

Sewage water pollution - refused directly into water basins
Sewage being discharged into water bodies

According to State of India’s Environment 2019 data, the country also recorded a 56 % increase in hazardous-waste generating industries between 2009 and 2017. These industries are also not complying with rules and regulation set by the authorities. A recent joint study by The Associated Chambers of Commerce of India (ASSOCHAM) says that that nearly 74.6 lakh tons of hazardous waste is generated in India.

The lack of infrastructure for scientific disposal and recycling of hazardous waste has caused severe environmental damage. There are only 17 disposal facilities in India with both secured landfills and modern scientific incinerators. States like Karnataka, Kerala, Punjab and Orissa do not have safety regulations and infrastructure to safely recycle and dispose hazardous waste. Workers who collect hazardous waste are exposed to its dangerous chemical nature, resulting in them contracting severe diseases. They do not have modern equipment, are poorly trained and not paid well.

‘True Cost of Sanitation’, a report of economic cost of sanitation released in 2015, stated that India lost near 106.7 Billion from its GDP. Poor sanitation has impacts on the society and the economy. It causes fatal diseases and also gives rise to related losses in productivity due to sickness and increased healthcare costs from caring for the sick.