Delhi waste management problem

Delhi waste management problem


Why in the news?

The recent scrutiny by the Supreme Court regarding solid waste management (SWM) in New Delhi brings to light a pressing concern. The national capital grapples with over 3,800 tonnes of untreated solid waste, posing a significant risk to both public health and the environment as it accumulates in landfills.


More about the news?

In 2011, New Delhi’s population stood at approximately 1.7 crore. Fast forward to 2024, it’s estimated to have surged to around 2.32 crore. This population boom has led to a substantial increase in waste generation. Calculations suggest the city now produces a staggering 13,000 tonnes per day (TPD) of waste, equivalent to roughly 1,400 truckloads, totaling about 42 lakh tonnes annually.

Looking ahead to 2031, with the population projected to reach 2.85 crore, waste generation could soar to 17,000 TPD. The lion’s share of this waste, around 90%, is managed by the three main municipal bodies: the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), Delhi Cantonment Board, and the New Delhi Municipal Corporation.

Typically, waste in Indian cities comprises 50-55% biodegradable wet waste, 35% non-biodegradable wet waste, and 10% inert materials. Translated to New Delhi’s context, this breakdown means approximately 7,000 TPD of wet waste, 4,800 TPD of dry waste, and 2,000 TPD of inert waste.


Solid waste management in Delhi


New Delhi boasts waste-processing facilities at multiple locations, including Okhla, Bhalswa, Narela, Bawana, Tehkhand, SMA Industrial Area, Nilothi, and Ghazipur. These facilities collectively have a designed capacity of approximately 9,200 TPD. Among them, composting units handle around 900-1,000 TPD, while waste-to-energy projects manage the bulk, processing 8,200 TPD.

Despite these resources, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) is still grappling with disposing of 3,800 TPD of untreated waste in designated landfills like Gazipur, Bhalswa, and Okhla. The unchecked accumulation of both wet and dry waste in these landfills not only generates methane gasses and leachates but also poses a constant risk of landfill fires, severely impacting the nearby environment.

The situation is dire, with an alarming 2.58 crore tonnes of legacy waste sprawled across 200 acres of land in these landfills. While the MCD initiated biomining efforts in 2019 to mitigate this issue, the progress was impeded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally slated for completion by 2024, the task is now expected to take an additional two to three years.

Until fresh waste is systematically processed, the environmental repercussions will persist. With the current influx of 3,800 TPD of untreated waste, the landfills are destined to grow both in size and height, exacerbating the existing challenges.

Effects of Bad waste management 

The waste management problem in Delhi is concerning for several reasons:

  1. Public Health Risks: Accumulated untreated waste poses significant health hazards. Landfills become breeding grounds for disease vectors such as mosquitoes and rodents, increasing the risk of vector-borne diseases like dengue and malaria. The decomposition of organic waste also releases harmful gases and leachates, contaminating groundwater and soil.
  2. Environmental Degradation: Landfills emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Additionally, the leachates produced can seep into water bodies, polluting them and disrupting ecosystems. Landfill fires, which are common due to the buildup of combustible materials, release toxic fumes and pose a threat to air quality.
  3. Aesthetic and Social Impact: Large, unsightly landfills are not only an eyesore but also negatively impact the quality of life for nearby residents. The foul odor and presence of scavengers can make living conditions intolerable, leading to social unrest and community dissatisfaction.
  4. Waste of Resources: Inefficient waste management represents a loss of valuable resources. Organic waste, for example, could be composted and used to enrich soil, while recyclable materials could be repurposed, reducing the demand for virgin resources and cutting down on energy consumption.
  5. Legal and Regulatory Concerns: The inability to effectively manage waste violates environmental regulations and exposes municipal authorities to legal liabilities. Continued negligence may lead to punitive actions by regulatory bodies, tarnishing the city’s reputation and leading to financial penalties.

How this problem can be solved 

Addressing the waste management problem in Delhi requires a multi-faceted approach involving various stakeholders and strategies:

  1. Waste Reduction and Segregation: Encourage waste reduction at the source through awareness campaigns and incentives for businesses and households to minimize waste generation. Implement effective waste segregation practices to separate recyclable, organic, and inert waste at the point of generation.
  2. Investment in Infrastructure: Increase investment in waste management infrastructure, including waste processing plants, composting facilities, recycling centers, and waste-to-energy plants. Upgrade existing facilities and build new ones to meet the growing demand for waste management services.
  3. Promotion of Circular Economy: Foster a circular economy approach by promoting the reuse, recycling, and recovery of materials from waste streams. Support initiatives that encourage the development of markets for recycled materials and products to create economic incentives for waste diversion.
  4. Public Awareness and Participation: Educate the public about the importance of proper waste management practices and the benefits of recycling and composting. Engage communities through outreach programs, workshops, and educational campaigns to encourage active participation in waste reduction and segregation efforts.
  5. Policy and Regulation: Strengthen waste management policies and regulations to enforce compliance with waste segregation and disposal standards. Implement stringent penalties for illegal dumping and non-compliance with waste management regulations to deter offenders and ensure accountability.
  6. Technological Innovation: Embrace innovative technologies for waste management, such as advanced sorting and recycling technologies, bioremediation techniques, and waste-to-energy processes. Invest in research and development to identify and deploy cutting-edge solutions for sustainable waste management.
  7. Collaboration and Partnerships: Foster collaboration between government agencies, private sector organizations, non-profit organizations, and community groups to leverage expertise, resources, and networks for effective waste management initiatives. Form public-private partnerships to finance, operate, and maintain waste management infrastructure and services.
  8. Monitoring and Evaluation: Establish robust monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to track progress, measure performance, and identify areas for improvement in waste management efforts. Use data-driven insights to inform decision-making, allocate resources effectively, and optimize waste management strategies over time.


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