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The Goa garbage scene: A lot left to be done

Urbanization and changing lifestyles are steadily increasing the quantities and composition of solid waste being generated in the state. Today, with changing lifestyles, there is a staggering demand for packaged products. The production and consumption of such products is having a significant impact on the environment with increasing amounts of plastic, paper, cardboard etc. being generated and disposed of irresponsibly.

As per a Goa state pollution control board report on MSW, the total waste generated across the municipal areas in the state is approximately 190 tonnes per day. There is no authentic data available on the waste generation and its disposal in the 189 village panchayats of Goa. Estimates suggest that across the whole state, including the villages, the figure could be in the range of 400 tonnes per day. Considering an average 50% of this waste is non-biodegradable, we are looking at almost 200 tonnes of non-biodegradable waste with enormous recycling potential. Unfortunately, the current composting and recycling rates are extremely poor in the state rendering waste to remain largely as - waste i.e. a discard, rather than a resource.

With respect to the legislation governing municipal solid waste management, in addition to the national Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, the Goa Non-Biodegradable Garbage (Control) Act, 1996, and Rules of 1997 also provides a framework to collect, manage, treat and dispose of biodegradable as well as non-biodegradable waste in a scientific and eco-friendly manner in the state of Goa. Despite this legal framework, the situation on the ground (barring a couple of municipal bodies) is appalling and the problem of waste still remains a massive challenge to be addressed.

Poor civic sense coupled with the haphazard manner in which agencies in charge are currently functioning has led to indiscriminate burning and dumping of waste across the state. The situation is more pronounced in the rural areas, which in reality are peri-urban areas with lifestyle, consumption and waste generation patterns on par with the average urban resident. Growing solid waste generation in tourist regions along with poor waste collection efficiency rates and inefficient transportation and disposal facilities is compounding this problem further, especially in Goa's coastal villages. A handful of villages have been able to start some waste management initiatives in a few wards. But, by and large, most municipal bodies and villages in Goa are struggling to manage their waste effectively and have a lot to do in this regard.

Sadly, these problems will only continue to grow with the rising population - both residential and floating - pushing up the waste generation figures in the years to come. This calls for effective waste management systems and mechanisms to be put into place urgently. For any waste management system to be effective, proper segregation of waste needs to be undertaken at source after exercising the option of reduction of waste at source. Reduction of waste goes a long way in decreasing the burden on the waste management chain and cuts down the amount of resources and infrastructure needed in the whole management process. Thus, it is important to prioritize reduction at source as the first best practice available. Door-to-door collection systems should be put into place so as to collect segregated waste and avoid any waste especially mixed waste going into common bins/open spaces. The next best option in the waste management hierarchy is 'segregation at source'. This is strongly encouraged as it retains waste in its best form possible and thus helps in achieving optimum composting and recycling rates. Decentralized (and centralized, where not possible) composting should be undertaken to recycle the biodegradable component into manure. This will divert at least 50% of the total waste generated going to a landfill/dumpsite. This further effectively translates into shrinking running and operational costs related to waste collection, handling, and transportation.

To enable and facilitate proper waste handling and processing, the supporting infrastructure needs to be put into place. Technologies such as aerobic composting, vermi-composting, and anaerobic digestion, treat and process the waste scientifically, while simultaneously providing economic returns. Further, all residual waste should be disposed in a sanitary landfill and not merely dumped.

Besides this, there is a need to transform the institutional structure of local bodies in charge of waste management so as to enable them to achieve an optimum level of operational efficiency.

The system of fines/rewards should be institutionalized so as to penalize and encourage good/bad behavior. Businesses should be made responsible for the waste they generate, by introducing regulations that will make the seller of consumer goods to compulsorily take back all the package waste produced.

To conclude, although there are a couple of encouraging case studies such as the waste management system followed by the CCP and the Bicholim municipal council - a lot is left to be done to save our beautiful state, and the faster we all take action as responsible citizens - the better it will be.

Tags: goa garbage, solid waste, Goa State Pollution control, Goa Non-Biodegradable Garbage (Control) Act, National Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Han

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