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62 Million Tonnes Of Waste Is Generated Annually In The Country: Rohini Bhatia, InterGlobe Foundation

Gurugram, at current rates of population and waste generation, is racing towards 1000 Metric Tonnes of waste per day by 2020

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As the festivity season is set to swing in full motion, InterGlobe Foundation in association with MCG and Feedback Foundation are ensuring a litter free celebration by extending their ongoing solid waste management initiative called No Open Waste to manage the menace created around Sheetla Mata Temple, the biggest and most visited temple in the Gurgaon especially during Navratras. Given the large footfall, there is consequently a lot of waste and littering in and around the temple. In a span of nine days, About 3 lakhs people are expected to visit Sheetla, the temple with 300 shops in vicinity of the temple selling prasad, toys and other general items and eateries. Keeping in view the menace created every year around this time, 15 volunteers of NOW are continuously monitoring the area in 3 shifts every day to keep the premises clean and take initiatives such as safely disposing the bio-degradable waste like flowers and offerings in four compositing pits built nearby, encouraging and mobilizing replacement of plastic / polythene bags with cloth bags and providing mobile washrooms at the premise. The joint initiative between IGF and MCG aims to trigger behavioural change in the society by inculcating more responsible waste disposing habits. Launched in the month of September 2015, the “No Open Waste” is composting 12 tonnes of bio waste and has collected 10 tonnes of recyclable waste every day. To imbibe a sense of responsibility amongst residents, the initiative goes beyond door to door cleaning and also conducts supervision and training programs for residents. Mass rallies with the help of school students are also conducted to spread awareness and make it a collective long term initiative. In an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld, Rohini Bhatia, Chairperson, Interglobe Foundation discusses the No Open Waste initiative and the importance of responsible waste management and disposal. Edited excerpts: 

 

How is the NOW initiative aiming to trigger behavioural changes around waste disposal?

NOW, is an acronym for ‘No Open Waste’. The initiative is a collaborative effort of InterGlobe Foundation, Feedback Foundation and Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon. It aims to make citizens aware of the importance and urgency to reduce, reuse and recycle waste, which is essential for a safe and sustainable environment. By appropriately segregating waste and ensuring proper disposal, even waste can be turned into a resource. At the start, citizens are encouraged to separate wet waste (bio-degradable, kitchen waste) and dry waste (paper, plastic). This is done through door-to-door awareness, workshops involving colonies and RWA members, training the teams of cleaners and waste-collectors. The key is to change the mindset and attitude of citizens towards waste, to see it as their responsibility and also to treat it as a resource. Starting with Ward Number 6 in Gurugram covering 9,600 households, the initiative currently covers a total of seven wards with 80,000 households.

What are some of the recycling and composting initiatives undertaken under the NOW initiative?

The wet waste and dry waste are collected separately through door-to-door collections. Specially partitioned vehicles are used for the purpose. The wet waste is taken to a composting site in the local area, or in an area designated by the MCG. This is composted through suitable methods. The dry waste is segregated by intermediaries to retrieve paper, plastic, glass, metal. which can be recycled. The remainder which goes to the landfill is only about 20-30% of the total household waste.

Why is it integral to address the waste management issue in society?

Waste in a growing menace across India, and increasingly so in urban areas. 62 million tonnes of waste is generated annually in the country at present. Of this 43 million tonnes per annum is collected, 11.9 million is treated and 31 million is dumped in landfill sites. The shortcomings of dumping waste landfills are coming into sharp focus, given the shortage of space and the problems of air and water toxicity caused by them. Gurugram, at current rates of population and waste generation, is racing towards 1000 Metric Tonnes of waste per day by 2020.

The only way to address this is to make citizens aware of the responsibility of reducing waste and options of reuse and recycling waste. At the same time, it is important to put in place stringent laws which penalise waste generators.

How is the NOW initiative aiming to mobilize the community for responsible waste disposal and management? 

NOW is a citizen-centric approach to solid waste management. On the one hand, it spreads awareness among citizens on segregating and recycling waste, bringing about a change in mindset. On the other hand, it supports the municipal corporation in streamlining waste collection mechanisms. It works to catalyse behaviour change as well as bring citizens and the government to work together in tackling the problem of waste and creating a sustainable green future for all of us.

In addition to households, and residential colonies NOW engages with institutional waste producers including hotels and restaurants, shops in marketplaces, offices, etc. Schools are actively engaged in these processes to keep its surroundings clean, as well as to take the practices home. Children become active change agents and ambassadors of the programme in the process.

The success of NOW in seven wards of Gurugram where it is currently operational is visible, and we hope to scale it up across Gurugram in the coming months.

Is the need for a solid waste management initiative around Sheetla Mata Temple? 

Sheetla Mata Temple is the biggest and most visited temple in the Gurgaon, built over 300 years ago. During Navratri, held twice annually, pilgrims flock to the temple for worship. Over a lakh of pilgrims are expected to visit the temple during this period. There are over 300 shops in the vicinity of the temple selling temple offerings (Prasad), toys and other general items and eateries. Given the large footfall, there is consequently a lot of waste and littering in the vicinity of the temple.

How are the volunteers of NOW planning to reduce the waste menace around Sheetla Mata Temple?

InterGlobe Foundation and Feedback Foundation are supporting the MCG under the No Open Waste Project to keep the temple precincts clean. The NOW team engages with citizens to sensitize them to not use plastic bags. The shops in the areas are also encouraged and mobilised to replace plastic/polythene bags with cloth bags and other alternatives. The bio-degradable waste from the temple (flowers, offerings) is being safely disposed of in four compositing pits which have been specially built for this purpose. Designated points are also set up for disposal of plastic and other dry waste. Permanent and temporary toilets (mobile) are cleaned regularly.

There is also a continued process of public awareness on NO OPEN WASTE at the temple, with teams engaging with the visitors to the temple on giving up plastic and using cloth instead, minimising waste and safe disposal of waste. Signature campaigns to stop using polythene and reduce the use of plastics are being carried out over the nine days. This will go a long way in changing mindsets, practices and attitude of citizens towards waste management.