The Bold Voice of J&K

From Garbage to Gold

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Dr. Banarsi Lal

Sanitation is directly associated with the human health and if it is ignored then it may cause inverse consequences. India is one of the fastest developing economies in the world but when comes to cleanness, it lags behind. With a population of over 1.3 billion country needs to focus on sanitation. Every year India produces a whopping 62 million tonnes of waste out of 45 million tonnes of waste is not treated. In order to meet the goal of clean India, it is urgent to tackle the waste issue. The quantity of solid and liquid wastes is increasing annually and if the waste is disposed off in an uncontrolled manner then it may cause adverse impact on public health and environment. So, there is urgent need to manage the wastes in an efficient and effective way. The major objective of Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) is to bring about improvement in the cleanliness, hygiene and the general quality of life in rural areas. Solid and Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) is one of the key components of the programme.
Waste is a severe threat to public health and cleanliness in rural areas and despite the waste generated being pre-dominantly organic, mismanagement in disposal can lead to serious problems including the increase in the water borne diseases such as Diarrhoea, Malaria, Dengue, Cholera, Typhoid etc. It is estimated that people in rural India are generating 0.3 to 0.4 million metric tons of organic solid waste per day and that 88 per cent of the total disease burden is due to a lack of clean water, sanitation and improper solid waste management. One of the important challenges in both rural and urban areas is that of faecal sludge management. Solid and Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) in rural areas is much easier than urban areas, as the chances of industrial contamination are less in the rural areas. The wastes can be recycled safely and space is not as big a constraint in rural areas as it is in urban areas. Solid and Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) is an important determinant for the improvement in sanitation in any community. The goals of sanitation will not be achieved unless this waste is safely disposed off. In rural areas, this aspect is often ignored due to lack of proper infrastructure and non-availability of sustainable and affordable technologies. The diversity of India extends to its waste generation. The diversity of climate, topography, resource availability, livelihood and culture play a major role in the waste generation. Traditionally, rural communities have been known to use and reuse most resources, leading to zero waste generation but with the passage of time, the situation is changing by growing consumerism, changing food habits, easy availability of plastic bags and non-degradable packaging.
Reduction, reuse, recycle and recover are the four basic principles for waste management. There should be proper planning for the waste collection and its treatment. There is need to segregate household waste into organic and inorganic components at the source. Although lot of efforts are made for the waste management but still there is lot to cover. Waste management should also be taught in the schools and colleges.
Decentralized systems like household composting and biogas plants are needed for Solid and Liquid Waste Management (SLWM). Activities related to maximum reuse of organic solid wastes as manure should be adopted. Such technologies may include vermi-composting, NADEP composting or any other composting method, individual and community biogas plants.
Women’s community sanitary complexes, Primary Health Centres or in any other suitable place in the village where collection mechanisms can be taken up. Socially acceptable and environmentally safe technologies should be adopted for Solid and Liquid Waste Management (SLWM). Methods adopted for management of liquid wastes may focus on maximum reuse of such waste for agriculture purposes with least operation and maintenance costs.
For collection of wastewater, low cost drainage/small bore system can be adopted. For treatment of wastewater (a) Waste Stabilization Pond (WSP) Technology (b) Duckweed based wastewater treatment and (c)Phytoroid Technologies can be adopted.(iv) Anaerobic Decentralized Wastewater Treatment can also be followed.
In rural areas, solid waste from most of the households is largely organic with little amount of inorganic waste. Composting is the most suitable, sustainable and environmentally friendly method of recycling and reuse of solid waste. Composting is an organised method of decomposing organic material which can then be used as manure. Various options for composting are available which include the NADEP method, Bangalore method, Indore method, Vermi composting, rotary drum composting and Biogas technology. Liquid waste poses its own set of challenges. Stagnant water is a perfect breeding ground for diseases causing vectors such as mosquitoes, flies etc. Absence of water drains exacerbates the problem. Waste water also is a threat to groundwater especially in high groundwater table areas.
In rural areas and urban slums, toilets are constructed with little after thought about their care, upkeep and maintenance. Over flowing toilets become a source of stink and a breeding ground for mosquitoes and flies and water leaching, which is a source of serious contamination.
It causes different kinds of ailments to the human beings. In such cases, one of the main purposes for which toilets are constructed and used should be properly known to the people. Peri -urban areas, towns, slums and rural areas can share the same set of solutions as the challenges are common.
In the urban areas, the challenges are of space shortage for defecating and even if the toilets are constructed but where does the waste go? In rural areas, toilets are not fully used by the rural people because (a) People remain unconvinced about the benefits of toilets (b) The construction is faulty (c) Sometimes water is unavailable for cleaning purposes of toilets and (d) Options for pit cleaning are limited. Although septic tanks are provided but these are not regularly cleaned. There is a need to frame guidelines and bye laws for the individual household to use septic tanks both in urban and rural areas. The importance and function of the septic tanks is generally neglected by the people. Septic tanks collect and treat wastewater; separate sewage into three different zones: sludge, scum (floaters) and clear zone in the middle. It allows options for waste water management in rural areas. Rural areas have huge wealth in terms of crop residues, animal excretion and domestic refuge commonly called as waste. A scientific and systematic approach for rural waste management can help to clean the rural areas and also produce sufficient amount of organic manure.
(The writer is Sr. Scientist & Head of KVK, Reasi (Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and
Technology-Jammu).

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