Jorhat-The cleanest city of North-East India?

Introduction

With an increase in urban population in the Tier II and Tier III cities in India, waste produced has also amplified many folds. Management of the municipal solid waste in Indian cities is in a precarious state due to lack of infrastructure as well as planning. Jorhat, a major city in Assam has been declared as the cleanest city in North-east region in the category of population of 50K-1L by Swachh Bharat Abhiyan campaign, 2020. It was ranked 158 in the previous year among the other North-Eastern cities. Though the city has improved significantly in terms of household collection of waste yet calling it the cleanest city doesn’t do justice due to its lack of proper public collection points, recycling of the waste collected as well as its unscientific and unsanitary disposal. 

Municipal waste is referred to anything which includes household wastes, arises from commercial activities, construction debris, sewage treatment residues etc. In Jorhat, it is estimated to be 35MT/day1) and is expected to increase up to 39TPD and 58TPD by 2025 and 2035 respectively. So, a comprehensive plan for solid waste management as well as its execution should start at the earliest hour.

Waste disposal in Jorhat

Jorhat city is situated at geographic location 26.7509° N Longitude, 94.2037° E latitude and is the headquarters of the district. It is one of the major commercial hubs of Assam and is also known as the cultural capital. With rapid urbanisation, the population is expected to increase at a rate of 41% by 2025. With such increased future population projection, without any focus on waste management, the city will face acute problems leading to health and sanitary issues. The waste disposal site of Jorhat is in Garamur dumping ground beside the bhogdoi river. It is an open dumping site without any facility for recycling or infrastructure for a scientific sanitary landfill at the site. Bhogdoi river is one of the major sources of drinking water after treatment for the entire city as well as its nearby areas. 

The environmental impacts if solid municipal waste is disposed in open dumpsites3 are:

  • Ground water contamination due to runoff of the leachate
  • Greenhouse gases emitted from the wastes will not only affect the neighbouring places but also have a potential to catch fire at the disposal site to excessive methane emissions
  • Surface water contamination due to runoff of wastes
  • Bad odour, pests as well as serious health issues of nearby residents

Due to close proximity of the open dumpsite to Bhogdoi river as well as the city (2km), it poses all the above mentioned risks to the citizens of Jorhat. Recently due to increase in rainfall, there were incidents of increasing water level near the dumpsite which led to runoff of the wastes into the river thus degrading the surface water quality of Bhogdoi. There is also a direct correlation between improper disposal of solid wastes and vector borne diseases and the local residents are very apprehensive of the disposal at that site. A comprehensive plan has been prepared with an estimation of INR 33 crore4 for solid waste management starting from collection to scientific disposal including composting. Waste collection in Jorhat has improved significantly since last few years. According to the 2016-17 data, there were 2 trucks, 1 tractor, 4 trailers, 4 hand-carts and 65 dust bins5. However, since then, dustbins have increased across the streets. Since last year,  household collection has also started in the majority of the wards. 

Due to lack of awareness among the citizens there is no segregation process wastes altogether, both by the residents as well as at the dumping site. In certain parts of the city such as Marwaripatty and Old Circuit Road (major commercial centres), there is open dumping of wastes even after the presence of dustbins. Citizens should also be held accountable in disposing wastes in a proper manner at these sites. According to a survey by conducted for the Neer Nirmal Pariyojana Project, it is estimated that 38.3% of families burnt their wastes6. This also releases huge amount of harmful pollutants (PM2.5, PM10, SOx, VOCs etc.) as well as Greenhouse gases7. Efficient collection of waste definitely helps in keeping the city clean as well as maintain good sanitisation quality. Yet, without its management at the disposal site, will not only be harmful for the locals but also acutely harm the environment. 

Waste collection point in Marwaripatty (left) and near Old Circuit Road (right) Dated: 16th November 2020

Figure 1: Schematic diagram of various phases of solid waste management

Alternatives to open dumping

Reducing the waste produced should be the first and foremost measure for decreasing the load on landfills and open dumping sites. Apart from reducing, segregation is another important aspect of waste management with respect to its contents; be it dry or wet and biodegradable or nonbiodegradable. Dry wastes with high calorific could be further treated or directly used for energy generation. Wet biodegradable  waste can be used for manufacturing bio-fertilisers, compost as well as biogas. 

For efficient utilisation of the waste disposed a digital marketplace could play a pivotal role where discarded products/wastes can be exchanged, recycled or utilised, thus creating a circularity and closing the material loop. These platforms can act as business-to-business marketplaces where customers including the general public as well as companies interact to exchange these materials for application such as reuse, recycling, obtaining goods for remanufacturing or purchase of recyclates to use in production. Here analytical capabilities of data science through “Fast data” or “Big Data” can be utilized could be taken into account which will help the authorities to monitor, evaluate and understand the emerging resources and value stream8. Data collected and provided by the users should include information on the status/quality of the material, the composition of the materials such as presence of any potential additives or hazardous ingredients, the amount of supply or demand and also clarify the time of supply as well as demand. 

Through such platforms both the suppliers as well consumers can benefit, The suppliers can realize the current price in conformity of the quality of the products listed, thus stop suffering from consumer externalities. In the same way, the consumers achieve clarity and certainty regarding materials and the goods they obtain for reuse or recycle9 . The use of digital platforms for such a purpose can help Jorhat to transform from a linear to circular economy. 

Figure 2: Schematic diagram of various phases of solid waste management

Deplorable condition of the Toklai river (Dated: 16Nov 2020)

Moreover, the platform will segregate types of wastes on the basis of the cause of loss10. and their Degree of Recoverability (DoR)11. This segregation will help in understanding the variability of wastes produced and requirement of consumers from different sectors. Starting from metal and paper recyclers to decompose manufacturers, mapping of these stakeholders will enable to create an ecosystem which will help to reduce the waste that will be disposed of in the open dumpsites. 

Disposal of waste should be the last option for managing the waste and be restricted to non-biodegradable, inert as well as waste which cannot be further recycled or reused. This will reduce the load on these dumpsites. Further, planning of a scientific landfill site is the need of the hour for Jorhat city. Though a few projects have been planned for better management of waste, its implementation on-ground is non-existent. Due to the open disposal of waste, in the long term it will impact the health of the residents as well as the riverine ecosystem of Bhogdoi and the entire city. 

References

  1. Choudhury, M. and Dutta, J., 2017. A comparative study of municipal solid waste management status for three major towns of Upper Assam-India. Int J Waste Resour, 7(291), p.2.
  2. https://advantageassam.com/assets/front/pdf/shelf-of-projects/Urban-Infrastructure/Solid-Waste-Management-Jorhat.pdf
  3. Manual on Municipal Solid Waste Management by Ministry of Urban Development Government of India.
  4. https://advantageassam.com/assets/front/pdf/shelf-of-projects/Urban-Infrastructure/Solid-Waste-Management-Jorhat.pdf
  5. Choudhury, M. and Dutta, J., 2017. A comparative study of municipal solid waste management status for three major towns of Upper Assam-India. Int J Waste Resour, 7(291), p.2.
  6. https://phennp.assam.gov.in/sites/default/files/swf_utility_folder/departments/nnp_medhassu_in_oid_7/do_u_want_2_know/Jorhat_Profile.pdf
  7. Friedrich, E. and Trois, C., 2011. Quantification of greenhouse gas emissions from waste management processes for municipalities–A comparative review focusing on Africa. Waste management, 31(7), pp.1585-1596
  8. Berg, H. and Wilts, H., 2018, July. Digital platforms as marketplaces for the circular economy—requirements and challenges. In NachhaltigkeitsManagement Forum| Sustainability Management Forum (pp. 1-9). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
  9. Clark, W., Couldry, N., MacDonald, R. and Stephansen, H.C., 2015. Digital platforms and narrative exchange: Hidden constraints, emerging agency. New Media & Society, 17(6), pp.919-938
  10. Shukla, M., Jharkharia, S., 2013. Agri-fresh produce supply chain management: a state-ofthe-art literature review. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 33 (2), 114 – 158
  11. Garrone, P., Melacini, M. and Perego, A., 2014. Opening the black box of food waste reduction. Food policy, 46, pp.129-139.

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