Meghalaya and Waste Management

By H H Mohrmen

In spite of all the hue and cry about the waste problem in Jowai, the state it seems is still in a dilemma not knowing what to do with the waste that it produces. The reason is that despite the Solid Waste Management Rule 2016 mandating that every state should come up with a policy on waste management, Meghalaya is yet to have one. On the other hand it is heartening to know that the waste imbroglio in Jowai has not only reached the august house and the bench of the High Court but educational institutions in the two districts had taken up the issue for discussion in their colleges.

Colleges are not
Ivory towers
Colleges and universities are often blamed to be living in their own comfort zones; of ignoring local issues and spending time on providing education and issuing diplomas and degrees only. But the two colleges in Jañtia hills have made a difference by engaging students, faculty and public in discussing important issues. Recently two colleges, Jaintia Eastern College, Khliehriat and Thomas Jones College, Jowai organized a debate and seminar respectively to discuss the subject of waste. JEC in collaboration with the Jaintia Tourism and Environment Society, Jowai organized a debate to discuss the feasibility of dumping waste to reclaim the abandoned or exhausted coal mines in the region. TJC organized a one day regional seminar to discuss on the issue of waste in Jañtia hills where heads and faculty members from different colleges in the two districts, the waheh chnong, public and the students took part in the program.

Lack of awareness amongst the public
When this scribe who gave a keynote address at the seminar at TJC asked the audience in the hall who among them is aware of the Solid Waste Management Rule 2016 to raise their hands, less than the numbers of finger in one hand raised their hands. Treemi Lamare and PhD scholar at NEHU found that although people in and around Jowai have started talking about segregation of waste, but very few have even heard about the SWMR 2016. Here are some of the salient features of the SWM rule 2016.

Solid Waste Management Rule 2016
The Government revamped the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules 2000 and notified the new Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 on April 8, 2016. The SWM Rules, 2016 shall apply to every urban local body, outgrowths in urban agglomerations, census towns as declared by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India etc. Central government organisations, places of pilgrims, religious and historical importance as may be notified by respective State government from time to time

Duties of domestic
waste generators
The rule says that every waste generator shall segregate and store the waste generated by them in three separate streams namely bio-degradable, non biodegradable and domestic hazardous wastes in suitable bins and handover segregated wastes to authorized waste pickers or waste collectors as per the directions or notification by the local authorities from time to time. The generator should securely wrap the used sanitary waste like diapers, sanitary pads etc., in the pouches provided by the manufacturers or brand owners of these products or in a suitable wrapping material as instructed by the local authorities.

Pay for service and prohibition against
burning of waste
All waste generators shall pay user fees for solid waste management, as specified in the bye-laws of the local bodies. Every street vendor shall keep suitable containers for storage of waste generated during the course of their activity and shall deposit such waste at waste storage depot or container or vehicle as notified by the local body. All resident welfare and market associations shall, in partnership with the local body, ensure segregation of waste at source. No waste generator shall throw, burn or bury the solid waste generated, on streets, open public spaces outside his premises or in the drain or water bodies.

Responsibility of
Events Organisers
No person shall organise an event or gathering of more than one hundred persons at any unlicensed place without intimating the local body. The organisers of such events shall ensure segregation of waste at source and handing over of segregated waste to waste collectors or agencies as specified by the local body. Therefore fete, church conferences or faith group gatherings or any gathering with more than one hundred people also are to follow the rules.
Construction materials and demolition waste
There is a separate rule with regard to construction and demolition material. It stated that the generator should store separately construction and demolition waste, as and when generated, in his own premises and shall dispose off as per the Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules, 2016.

Duties of the industrial units located in the area
The rule says that all industrial units using fuel and located within one hundred km from a solid waste based refuse derived fuel (RDF) plant shall make arrangements to replace at least five percent of their fuel requirement by refuse derived fuel produced from the area. Non recyclable waste having calorific value of 1500 K/cal/kg or more shall not be disposed of on landfills and shall only be utilised for generating energy either or through refuse derived fuel or by giving away as feed stock for preparing refuse derived fuel. It is also mandated that high calorific wastes shall be used for co-processing in cement or thermal power plants. We have many cement plants in the state and the government should direct the industries to use the waste as RDF in their units.

State leadership is not aware of SWM rule
The rule has specified that it is the duty of the Secretary–in-charge, Urban Development in the States to prepare a state policy and solid waste management strategy for the state. The same should be done in consultation with stakeholders including representatives of waste pickers, self help groups and similar groups working in the field of waste management. It should also acknowledge the primary role played by the informal sector of waste pickers, waste collectors and recycling industry in reducing waste and provide broad guidelines regarding integration of waste pickers or informal waste collectors in the waste management system.
The State policy and strategy on solid waste management, should lay emphasis on waste reduction, reuse, recycling, recovery and optimum utilisation of various components of solid waste. This is to ensure minimisation of waste going to the landfill and minimise impact of solid waste on human health and environment. Sadly the state is yet to have its own waste management policy.

Solid waste management in hilly areas
The SWM rule 2016 has special regulations with regards to states in the hilly areas. Even if the duties and responsibilities of the local authorities shall be the same as mentioned in rule 15, it however had an additional clause which says that construction of landfill on the hill shall be avoided. It also says that suitable land shall be identified in the plain areas down the hill within 25 kilometers for setting up a sanitary landfill. In a discussion over a cup of tea during the seminar break one of the senior citizens asked ‘if the political leaders in the state are aware of the rules with regards to landfill in the hilly region because they would have to be careful with suggesting locations for such landfills.

Take- aways from
the seminar
The two take-aways from the seminar are to pressure the government to have its own State Waste Management rules and to make people aware of the 2016 rules. The Jowai impasse has drawn attention to the fact that the state is in urgent need of a waste management policy. The second take-away is that all the waste generators should start segregating their waste as it is the only option to manage our waste.