India water news – Water supply: Crisis looms despite rain – Delhi’s waste conflict – A paper in EPW

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Article courtesy of Jisha Surya | October 12, 2012 | The New Indian Express | Shared as educational material only

The onset of the North-East monsoon has brought temporary respite to the officials of Kerala Water Authority (KWA), who were searching for ways to manage the looming drought situation in the district. The water level in Peppara dam, the main source of potable water to the city, has improved.

However, the KWA has nothing much to cheer about. It has become certain that the district is heading for a major water crisis during the summer season.

The reservoir can ensure drinking water supply for 60-65 days, said KWA officials. According to KWA Chief Engineer K P Krishna Kumar, the city will have to face the effects of a weak south-west monsoon during the summer season.

“Even if the Peppara dam overflows during this north-east monsoon season, the reservoir will not be able to support the district during summer,” he said.

The average consumption of water in the city is 200 million litres per day. Krishna Kumar said that KWA was mulling alternative options, including a plan to bring water from Neyyar dam.

However, the plan which was envisaged almost two months ago is yet to take off. The Forest Department has raised stiff opposition to the project, which requires laying of pipes through forest land at Neyyar.

Thiruvananthapuram was the one of worst-hit districts during the south-west monsoon season. However, the north-east monsoon rainfall was excess last year. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) is expecting normal rainfall during this season too. The district has been getting scattered rainfall over the past 3-4 days.

Two months ago, the KWA had submitted a proposal to impose restrictions on water supply. However, the government turned down the proposal.

Delhi’s waste conflict – A paper in EPW

Article courtesy of Amita Bhaduri | October 20, 2012 | | Shared as educational material only

The commentary in Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) begins by discussing the policy shift in solid waste management that involves the privatisation of certain aspects of the system, such as the incineration of waste, but more importantly, it represents a comprehensive and holistic transformation in which the entire system becomes integrated. The authors argue that this systemic transformation and comprehensive integration of solid waste management needs more attention in the city of Delhi, which has been at the forefront in this shift and this has brought out conflicts over collection and disposal.

The narratives related to waste management in Delhi portrays the crisis as a failure of management rather than a public health and urban planning issue. As a result, waste management has become a technical problem to be solved by experts. This article argues that the informal sector should be meaningfully incorporated into an efficient and equitable waste management system that is also environmentally sustainable.

It is in this context the solution that has gained favour is the integration of the stages of waste processing into a single system. This integrated system includes the collection and transfer of waste generated by households and firms, and finally its ultimate processing (e g, incineration).

It remains to be seen whether a truce can be called in Delhi’s waste conflict. This would require segregation at source by the households (recyclable, compostable and disposable materials), and waste collection at doorsteps to be undertaken by waste workers. This would allow them to safely remove recyclable and organic material before transferring the remaining waste to transfer stations.

This is not an unrealistic scenario – in Pune, for example, waste workers are organised in a union, the Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP) (6,000 members), that has promoted a waste management cooperative. Solid Waste Collection and Handling (SWaCHCoop) is authorised by the Pune Municipal Corporation to provide services like door-to-door collection to over 3,00,000 workers. The NGOs Toxics Link and Vatavaran have organised local collection systems in 29 residential colonies in Delhi where waste workers collect, segregate and process (e g, compost) waste locally (Talyan et al 2008).

These arrangements empower waste workers and differ markedly from the waste workers’ metamorphosis in limited numbers to wage workers with firms such as Jindal Ecopolis or Ramky in the private sector. However, the waste workers are insecure, as many municipal governments prefer contract corporations – in Pimpri-Chinchwad the SwaCHCoop was forced to terminate its agreement with the municipal government after the latter contracted the service of a waste management firm on completely different terms in two of the four wards. This preference for private firms is inexplicable given the fact that with legal recognition and minimal investment, the productivity of the informal sector could be boosted dramatically.
[toggle title=” State could compensate waste workers. ” height=”auto”] Indeed, the state could compensate waste workers for their services (both collection and high recycling rates) by providing them with space, equipment (e g, bicycles, pushcarts, masks and gloves), and access to healthcare and a pension scheme. Social benefits could be reaped along with environmental ones while the waste crisis is addressed.

Organic material (around 50% of the total weight) could be composted or processed in biogas plants as close as possible to the generation point and recyclable materials (around 30%) could be segregated and transferred to the recycling industry while inert and non-recyclable material (around 20%) is disposed in landfills.

Such an inclusive model of decentralized waste management under a zero-waste strategy would eliminate the need for incinerators and minimise pressure on landfills (for examples from around the world see GAIA 2012). Policymakers in alliance with waste workers, residents and NGOs could develop labour-intensive (rather than capital-intensive) solutions based on social justice and environmental sustainability along these lines.

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