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Prashant Jha | TNN | Dehradun | Aug 7, 2019:: Two star-studded weddings in the family of South Africa-based Gupta brothers held in the alpine meadows of Auli in June reduced the popular ski resort to a mountain of trash. Hundreds of quintals of waste, including non-degradable plastic, was then transported nearly 300km to Dehradun for final disposal. The reason: Auli doesn’t have a solid waste treatment plant. And neither do several other destinations in the once-pristine Himalayan belt.
Rs 200 crore wedding leaves behind garbage nightmare in Uttarakhand
In fact, more than two-thirds of the total waste produced in 10 Himalayan states of the country is not processed and ends up in landfills and pits, according to data presented recently in the Parliament by the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEF). While the country processed less than half of the waste it generated in 2018 — over 5 crore metric tonnes — Himalayan states fared even worse and collectively treated only 31% of the total waste generated.
By November last year, the 10 states had produced 17.5 lakh metric tonnes (MT) of waste but processed merely 5.4 lakh MT. Jammu & Kashmir which generates the most waste among the 10 states — a whopping five lakh metric tonnes — has been processing just 8% of its garbage while Mizoram processes only 4%. Sikkim emerged as the best state in this respect as it processed two-thirds of its waste but Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand managed about 40%.
This means that major chunk of garbage produced in these states is either dumped in landfills or can be found strewn across mountains. Just ask local residents, who now wake up to snow-capped peaks, the wind rustling through pine and deodar trees — and garbage dumps.
Pramod, a resident of Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district who works as a trek guide to the Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib, said that tourism has fueled the waste problem in Himalayas. “Only a handful of hotels existed in Ghangharia — base camp to both Hemkund Sahib and Valley of Flowers — a decade ago. With increased tourist flow, there has been a rapid rise in the number of such establishments. But absence of waste management infrastructure means that trash generated by them is dumped in nearby gorges or hilltops,” he told TOI.
Waste Warriors, an NGO that works in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, said that loads of waste, including plastic, can be found on famous trekking routes in hilly states. “Recently, we conducted several drives to clean famous trekking routes near Dharamshala in Himachal,” said Chirag Mahajan, a member.
Tourism is just part of the problem. The urban local bodies tasked with waste management often lack funds, waste is hardly segregated at source and modern and scientific waste treatment plants are lacking. Uttarakhand, for instance, has 13 districts but only one waste treatment plant which is in Dehradun and started functioning
only in 2017.
Another issue is that waste audit to collect data on monthly waste generation, types of waste and waste processed — all of which can be useful in policy making — isn’t conducted periodically. In fact, when it comes to e-waste, there is no monitoring system in any of the states to assess how much of it is being produced, according to Anoop Nautiyal, founder of Gati Foundation, a think-tank.
Meanwhile, the ban on plastic in states like Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Tripura has also remained mostly on paper. There is no checking in many places to stop tourists from carrying plastic bottles or polythene bags inside ecologically fragile regions.
Another reason that the waste problem has persisted is because non-compliance to norms do not carry strict penalties, said experts. In the Central Pollution Control Board’s last review held in 2015-16, Himachal, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim did not bother to submit compliance reports on solid waste management.
But timely action can help India overcome its garbage problem, experts said. First, waste has to be segregated at source, which means that households need to segregate waste before giving it for collection. “Community engagement through mobilisation and creating awareness will be key,” said Swati Singh Sambyal, programme manager (municipal solid waste) at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
Lesser generation of waste at source by recycling products and employing strategies like using alternative packaging can be another way. Processing plants should be built at sites where they can handle waste from multiple municipalities, said experts. Next, states have to build scientific waste treatment plants and look for ways to extract value by converting garbage into compost or biogas.
“Waste plants only segregate and dispose waste. But scientific waste plants like the one in Dehradun compost, recycle and also produce refuse-derived-fuel (fuel produced from waste),” said Dehradun Municipal Corporation’s chief health officer Kailash Joshi.
Practices undertaken in Europe that India could adopt
Looking into how money meant for waste budget is being spent is another crucial factor. A United Nations Environment Programme report in 2011 highlighted that developing countries typically spend more than half of their waste budget in collection alone (mainly on labour and fuel), although the collection rate remains low and the
transport of waste inefficient. Spending on other segments of the waste management chain, such as technologies and facilities for treatment, recovery and disposal, is generally rather low.
Since the past few years, however, states have been spending on setting up waste management plants. In 2017, Himachal had sanctioned at least six new treatment plants.
Uttarakhand has plans for the same. Madan Kaushik, Uttarakhand’s urban development minister and spokesperson for the government, admitted that waste generated in eco-sensitive areas needs to be managed well. “We are aware that we are lagging in waste management. At present, we process around 40% of waste, but we aim to process 90% within a few years by expanding the capacity of the current treatment plant and building more.”
But any delay can prove costly to the Himalayan ecology, experts warned. A study conducted in the Himalayas and published in December 2018 in journal Current Science found a diverse range of animals — carnivores, primates, bulbuls, doves, woodpeckers — frequenting garbage dumps in a Himalayan landscape and ingesting plastic.
Researchers concluded that unsegregated garbage near natural habitats as a result of increased tourism posed a huge conservation threat.
Scientists said that easy access to garbage heaps was also changing animal foraging behaviour. S Satyakumar, a scientist and senior professor at Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India, said that waste contains scraps of food and meat which attracts animals, so instead of hunting they start foraging in garbage dumps. “This also increases
man-animal conflict,” he said.
Photos: Sukanta Mukherjee/Amit Sharma
HINDUS ARE POPULATED IN HIMALAYA ZONES. NOT THE MUSLIMS. MUSLIMS ARE NOT POLLUTING HIMALAYAS. THEN WHO ARE POLLUTING THE HIMALAYAS? OBVIOUSLY HINDUS. HINDU SCRIPTURES DESCRIBED HIMALAYAS AS “DEVATATMA HIMALAYA” — THE SOUL OF THE GODS… THE ABODE OF THE GODS. BUT, HINDUS DON’T CARE TO KEEP THE PURITY AND SERENITY OF THE MOST HOLY & MARVELOUS MOUNTAIN RANGES IN THE WORLD. FOR THEIR PLEASURE OF TOUR, TREKKING & PILGRIMAGE HINDUS RUIN HIMALAYAS IN MANY WAYS.
SORRY TO SAY, HINDUS ARE CARELESS TO PRESERVE AND PURIFY THE ENVIRONMENT OF HIMALAYAS AND GANGES BOTH, WHICH ARE CONSIDERED AS THE HOLIEST ENTITY AND THE SIGNATURE OF HINDU FAITH. JEOPARDIZING THE NATURE OF HIMALAYAS AND GANGES, HINDUS ARE JUST RUINING THEIR FUTURE.
~~~ Upananda Brahmachari, Ed. HinduExistence Website.