Whose waste is it anyway? Pirana Garbage Dump

If you have ever driven down from Vishala circle in Juhapura to access the expressway to Baroda, you would have encountered a rather interesting hill. It is surprising to find a hill so close to the city in Ahmedabad and so obviously it would get your attention. When you get closer to the hill, your nose and not your eyes will let you know what it is really.

Pirana has been Ahmedabad’s garbage dumping ground since 1982. It is spread over 84 acres. It comprises of three massive mounds of stinking waste, each approximately 75 feet high and weighing some 69 lakh metric tonnes. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) collects a total of 4700 metric tonnes of solid waste every day and dumps it here. Out of this, 1700 metric tonnes come from the door-to-door collection of household refuse, 500 tonnes from medical waste and 2500 tonnes from construction debris. A little over one lakh people live near it. Most of them are people who were displaced during the riots. [1]

Just passing by the dump would make anyone non-resident nauseous. It is difficult to imagine how people live near it. Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 state that garbage dump and residential societies must be atleast 500 meters away. In Pirana, you can see residences which are less than 50 meters away from the dump. It is easy to understand why so many residents in Pirana suffer from respiratory and kidney related diseases. The short term and long term effects of the gases released from the garbage dump are lethal.

The AMC had in 2012, decided to turn Pirana into a garden. The project never took off. There are one or two companies currently working in the area to recycle dry waste. Looking at the growing size of the dump, we clearly aren’t doing enough.

With the growing size of Ahmedabad’s population and the consumption rate, it is not too far fetched to assume that the situation will only get worse if we don’t do anything quickly.

 

Proposed solutions:

  • Waste Segregation

This seems very obvious but it has not been implemented properly. It is very important we consciously and consistently segregate our waste. It increases the speed at which we can recycle and also makes it easier to use certain kind of waste for other purposes.

We can start by mandating waste segregation at all government buildings, railway stations, airports, big corporate offices, hospitals, hotels and restaurants, and school. They contribute a lot to the waste we send to the dump everyday. We can have a separate dumping ground for construction site garbage. It can be repurposed at that site. Slowly and gradually, segregation will become a habit for people and then government can move to mandating segregation in residential societies just like it mandates fire safety.

  • Increase number of recycling units

It is surprising how recycling units have not come up left, right and center near the garbage dump. There is so much raw material for that kind of a business, all available at one spot. An assumption can be made that maybe it is not economically viable enough to run recycling units in the area. Government can remedy that through tax waivers. It is by far the most effective thing the government can do to incentivize the process.

It would increase number of recycling units thereby giving employment to people of that area and because there will be more recycling units, the garbage dump will slowly decrease in size. There are a lot of countries which are very good at managing their solid waste. Government can learn from them. For example Sweden, which has literally run out of garbage. [2]

  • Turn garbage into fuel

AMC already knows how to do it. There is a plan in Gyaspur which is run by the AMC, which first segregates solid waste and then processes it to produce refuse derived fuel (RDF) fluff, which is then processed by densification to generate pellets and briquettes which can replace conventional fuel in local industrial units. [3]

The pellets can be used in process heating in chemical plants, generation of electricity in thermal power plants and boiler application in cement industries. The Gyaspur plant can current process 250 metric tons of waste but its capacity is going to be increased to 500 metric tons. If it reduces the garbage dump, increases employment and provides a slightly more environmentally friendly option to industries and in power generation then why are we not making more of these?

  • A new dumping site further away from the city

The solutions given below are slightly long term and the citizens of Pirana deserve a more short term solution as well. AMC should find another dump site which is further away from the main city. The new location should be situated in an area which has very little density of population. It would be ideal to find a location like that and then rehabilitate the people who are currently living near the new location. Government can have health clinics and other safety measures in place before it is moved to the new location. All the waste from the city can then go to the new dumping ground and hence efforts put to clean up Pirana would bear fruits faster. This is just a stop gap solution i.e. until we figure out what to do with all the waste we generate.

Lastly, the best way to reduce solid waste management issue is to find ways to decrease the amount of waste we generate. It requires support from each and every citizen of the city. Pirana is suffering because the rest of the city sends its garbage to them. It is our moral, social and environmental responsibility to make sure we do everything we can do fix this problem.

How can we, as citizens, consciously reduce the amount of waste we generate?

What can the government do?

Whatever we do, we have to do it fast.

 

Optional Additional Reading

Research paper : Solid Waste Management : A case study of Ahmedabad

Update:

Rs 100 crore for Pirana Bio-mining project [21st Feb 2018]

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