Clean India

“A clean India would be the best tribute India could pay to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150 birth anniversary in 2019” by these words our honourable Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Mission at Rajpath in New Delhi on 2nd October 2014.

The campaign, inaugurated to coincide with Gandhi Jayanti, aims to realise its vision of ‘Clean India’ by October 2, 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

In the months after it was launched, the campaign gained momentum with many celebrities, politicians and academic institutions organising cleanliness drives across the country.

The International Monetary Fund in its Country  report clearly indicates that PM Modi is the only politician who has really cared about women’s rights and issues like sanitation. According to the IMF research report “Since the launch of the Swachh Bharat program, close to 31 million toilets have been built in rural areas, resulting in a 17.5 percent increase in the number of Indian rural households with a latrine facility”.

The IMF report also stated that “improved access to sanitation facilities, by reducing the unpaid home and care burdens of women and by improving public safety of women, increases their labor force participation, leading to a positive impact on India’s real output and real per-capita incomes. Specifically, an improvement in public sanitation provisions which reduces womens’ time spent in home and care work by close to 10 percent leads to a 1.5 percent increase in female labor participation and a 1.4 percent gain in real GDP.”

Main objectives:

The national campaign, which will run till October 2, 2019, aims to :

  1. Eliminate open defecation by constructing toilets for households, communities
  2. Eradicate manual scavenging
  3. Introduce modern and scientific municipal solid waste management practices
  4. Enable private sector participation in the sanitation sector
  5. Change people’s attitudes to sanitation and create awareness.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is expected to cost over ₹620 billion (US$9.2 billion). The government provides an incentive of ₹15,000 (US$220) for each toilet constructed by a Below Poverty Line (BPL) family. Total fund mobilised under Swachh Bharat Kosh (SBK) as of 31 January 2016 stood at ₹3.69 billion (US$55 million). An amount of ₹90 billion (US$1.3 billion) was allocated for the mission in the 2016 Union budget of India.

Success or Failure?

Will construction of toilets alone clean India? and even if it is the first step towards cleanliness (as the tag line calls), is it implemented successfully? It is evident that the number of toilet constructions increased drastically between 2015 – 2016. But it was again reduced significantly during 2016 – 2017.

Source: Parliament Questions

The situation of Solid Waste Management (SWM):

India has 18% of the world’s population, but only 1.9% of land area. The population is estimated to increase from 1.25 billion currently to 1.45 billion in 2028 and to 1.65 billion in 2060, according to the United Nations. Hence, the pressure on land for accommodating new houses, offices, factories, warehouses, infrastructure and farms is only going to increase, not counting land to be set aside for wild flora and fauna.

According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM) predictions, by 2020 India is expected to generate 5.2 trillion tonnes of e-waste”.

Alongside, the consumption of plastic is increasing. Per-capita consumption was 4kg in 2006, 8kg in 2010 and 11kg 2016. According to a statement by the minister for petroleum and natural gas, the government plans to increase that figure to 20kg by 2022.

Waste Type Quantity per annum
Total 62 million tonnes
Plastic waste 5.6 million tonnes
Biomedical waste 01.7 million tonnes
Hazardous waste 7.90 million tonnes
E-waste 15 lakh tonnes

*Data as of 2016.

The per capita waste generation in Indian cities ranges from 200 grams to 600 grams per day. Out of the 62 million Tonnes Per Annum (TPA) of SWM generated, 43 million TPA is collected, 11.9 million is treated and 31 million is dumped in landfill sites, which means that only about 75-80% of the municipal waste gets collected and only 22-28 % of this waste is processed and treated. “Waste generation will increase from 62 million tonnes to about 165 million tonnes in 2030”, Shri Javadekar the HRD minister said. Compare that to Sweden, where less than 1% of MSW generated by homes goes to landfills, and the balance 99% is either converted to power or is recycled or composted.

After 2 years and 6 months of the plan, a simple pexels-photo-128421
example of the situation that resides is, in Chennai about 4,800 million tonnes of MSW is generated and only about 300 million tonnes or around 6% of waste is treated to generate compost and even today open dumping and open fire of waste is the method carried out to dispose or treat waste.

Possible solutions:

Pay as you throw:

One of the solutions is a waste generator charge at the time of disposal. It is called ‘pay as you throw’ (PAYT). The charge is levied on the magnitude of waste disposed of, measured either in terms of the number of bins of standard size or the actual weight of the waste. It is implemented in all municipalities of Ireland, Finland and Austria. In South Korea,
a system for disposal of food waste by residents exists since 2013—some flats require residents to pay for garbage bags, while others have a centralised bin that uses Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to weigh how much waste each household dumps and bills it accordingly. Even Abu Dhabi had implemented it last year.

Power from waste:

I had previously discussed about India’s energy consumption, which clearly states that India mostly depends upon Coal and Crude oil which is highly dangerous to the environment. And other projects like nuclear reactors, and other hydrocarbons like methane and shale gases cause high level of pollution.

Knowing the importance of Methane, it is believed that around 80% of methane can be extracted from garbage and human waste alone.

Known as Landfill gas utilization is a process of gathering, processing, and treating the methane gas emitted from decomposing garbage to produce electricity, heat, fuels, and various chemical compounds.

Of the three typical ways of removing methane from landfills — venting, burning, and extraction — only the latter properly disposes of the potentially hazardous gas and offers the option of selling it as fuel. Over the last two decades, 594 U.S. gas-to-energy sites have taken advantage of this benefit, generating 1,813 megawatts of electricity and 312 million standard cubic feet a day of gas, and lowering greenhouse gas emissions 30%.

Getting rid of Garbage disposal bins:

Getting rid of garbage disposal bins installed in housing units can be a better initiative to promote Segregation at Source i.e., for recycling to be successful, components such as plastic, paper, glass and metal should be kept separate while disposing of garbage. As per Schedule II of MSW Rules (2000), every municipal authority shall undertake phased programmes to ensure community participation in waste segregation. However, this has been weak. For example, in March 2014—and this is 14 years after the implementation of the law—the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation issued notices to a whopping 1,200 housing societies in the eastern suburbs for not segregating waste into wet (biodegradable) and dry.

Garbage Disposal Systems:


These are very efficient devices that can be fit in the sinks of households which will push all “wet” wastes or biodegradable wastes like vegetable and food wastes into a common waste bin. This will ease Segregation at Source.

Other solutions like increasing number of waste disposal bins in streets or public places, increasing number of municipal laborers, and moving rag pickers from informal sector laborers to formal sector laborers can help.

At the end of the day, a government can only bring laws, but its the responsibility of the citizens to practice new and improved methods for a cleaner India.

Do you have any ideas regarding the steps towards a cleaner India? Tell us in the comments.


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