Illegal burning of Municipal solid waste: Union Budget 2021-22 expectations

This year's Budget should focus on improving the waste collection efficiencies of cities as well as rural areas. This will enhance social well-being, reduce environmental disparities, and mitigate air pollution from all sectors.
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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present India’s Union Budget for Fiscal 2021-2022 on February 1. This year's Budget will focus on two crucial environmental aspects: air pollution and municipal solid waste management. In 2020-21 the Union Budget allocated Rs 12,294 crore for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Rs 4,400 crore for the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).

Municipal solid waste management is a key component of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan's focus for India's urban and rural areas. Similarly, NCAP is a crucial programme by the Government of India aiming to mitigate air pollution in urban areas.

At present, both Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and NCAP require more consideration from the government.

Allocating more resources for waste management has multiple benefits; it leads to a better and fresher environment, reduces air pollution and environmental disparities. Poor waste management is often observed in lower-income areas.

In Indian cities, it also indicates environmental and health inequalities. Waste management infrastructures and facilities are often disproportionately located in low-income neighborhoods; as a result, these societies are exposed to more waste accumulation and associated problems.

Poor waste collection efficiency results in burning of municipal solid waste, which is a key contributor to air pollution. Every day, Indian cities burn 2-24 percent of their per day generated waste. In rural areas, it is an astounding 90-100 percent of the per day generated waste. Waste burning is higher in low socio-economic areas in cities.

In cities, waste burning contributes as much as 26 percent of PM2.5 emissions, but varies depending on the efficiency of the waste collection system. A more efficient waste collection system allows for less waste burning and lesser air pollution from the sector.

In smaller cities, waste collection efficiency ranges between 50-90 percent, while in metro cities, it is 70-90 percent. This means that these cities need 10-30 percent extra budget allocation to improve the waste collection efficiencies and reduce air pollution from the sector.

This year's Budget should focus on improving the waste collection efficiencies of cities as well as rural areas. This will enhance social well-being, reduce environmental disparities, and mitigate air pollution from all sectors.

Another important aspect for cities would be necessitating the check on waste management and collection efficiency. Indian cities also need extra financial support on the workforce and advanced technologies required for ensuring a 100 percent implementation of waste management practices and use of allotted finances.

Cities often get sufficient funds for infrastructure support but lack the requisite workforce and technological funding. For the 2021-22 Budget, the hope is that it will factor in this aspect of municipal solid waste management.

The majority of the population considers waste as useless and are unaware of their garbage's life cycle after disposal from the households.

Changing human behaviour, creating awareness about the nature of waste characteristics, and its impacts on health and environment, communities and the waste handlers' participation in waste management is of utmost importance. This year's Budget should consider this aspect as well. There is an urgent need to create robust, efficient, and continuous awareness about waste and its impact in schools, among communities, waste handlers, and city managers.

On an average, only 70 percent of more than 62 million tonnes per year waste is being collected and dumped into landfills. Nearly 19 million tonnes of waste remains continues to accumulate in low-income neighbourhoods, open spaces, and streets, contributing to air pollution, environmental, and health disparities.

The Budget should address the current concerns of waste management, i.e., waste collection efficiency, workforce, technology, community awareness, and participation, and make room for a greener India.

For YourStory's multimedia coverage of Budget 2021, visit YourStory's Budget 2021 page or budget.yourstory.com

Edited by Diya Koshy George

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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