Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Tragedy Called Srinagar - Part 1

Yet another story of an ancient city with citizens who lack both a sense of history and a sense of civics

Srinagar: one big garbage dump

Mutaharra A W Deva (Rising Kashmir)

Environmental pollution has increased alarmingly alongside human population, urbanization, industrialization and changing agricultural practices, largely due to the arbitrary exploitation of natural resources and ignorance of the deleterious side effects. The state of J&K is no exception. It is in fact worst hit from the effects of municipal solid waste management on our cities of Srinagar and Jammu.

Solid waste is a potential nightmare across the State; largely because of growing urban population due to inadequate policy and legislative instruments and also due to the deplorable organizational and financial capacities of our municipalities and urban local bodies. Sketching briefly the waste generation, collection and disposal scenario across the Sate of J&K, there is a need to highlight the issues in institutional arrangements for solid waste management.

The condition at Achen dumping site, situated in a mohalla, is deplorable. The populace is in great distress, as the foul smell has virtually made their life impossible in the area. On one of my recent visits to this site, people complained of social boycott to the extent that their sons are mostly remaining unmarried as no one is ready to marry off his girl in a family of this locality.

What is the solution, and where the fault lies are big questions that have remained unanswered till date. However, it may be conveyed that environment and environmental planning remained a casualty in our state. The clerical hold on administration has never allowed us to develop any of our plans on scientific lines. The technocrats have no role in our planning as is prevalent in the West and in other places of tourist importance whose economy depends on tourist related projects, like in our state of J&K.

The dismal position of municipal solid waste management touches particularly on the impact of municipalities’ financial health, autonomy limitations and potentials of alternative actors, particularly the economically exploited waste collectors and vendors of non formal sector. Direct and indirect financial instruments of cost recovery and generation control are advocated taking into account their operational hurdles in capacity building of local bodies; non-formal sector be organized and that the private sector participates more widely in collection and recycling. NGO begin to train marginal workers and build awareness among the poor as to the techniques and opportunities of solid waste collection.

Solid waste can be defined as the material that no longer has any value to the person who is responsible for it and it cannot be discharged through a pipe. It does not normally include human excreta. It is generated by mainly domestic source in our state, particularly in Srinagar City, apart from commercial, industrial, healthcare, agriculture, mining and mineral extraction activities, and accumulates in streets and public places. The word garbage, trash refuses and rubbish are used to refer to some forms of solid waste.

The municipal details, as conveyed by 2005 statistics, indicate population of Srinagar city as 9.95 lac based on 2000 census. Municipality caters to 6.69 lac people as against 11.16 lac actual population, meaning thereby that only 60% is taken care of by the Municipality. Area under Srinagar Municipality is 202 Sq. Kms (actually it is now 278 sq Kms distributed in 23 Wards). Population as per municipality record is 4.7 lac people.

Population of Srinagar city has been worked out at 11.16 lac, in the year 2005, on the basis of growth rate of preceding year i.e., 2.9% per annum, as per census and population of the year 2001; it includes those areas which have been included within municipal limits in the year 2003. The quantity of solid waste generated per capita per day is calculated at 480 gms based on a NEERI study undertaken for city of Srinagar for 2004-05. Total quantity of Solid Waste generated per day is 477 MT.

Municipal Corporation is collecting solid waste to the tune of 300 MT, and about 235 MT are transported to the Achen dumping site.
At present the Waste disposal methodology is:-
Crude/open dumping : 230 MTS
Open burning by people: 20 MTS
Recycling / Rag pickers: 20 MTS

Achen land fill site is around 600 canals of area where Municipal Corporation resorts to open dumping.

The Municipal Solid Waste (management and handling) Rules 2000, published by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, GOI under the aegis of Environment Protection Act 1986 gives ample and clear ways of waste management methods and clearly shows the responsibility of Municipality and implementation of provisions of these rules and infrastructure development for collection, storage, segregation, transportation, processing and disposal of municipal solid wastes. Government’s responsibility is also defined. The PCB has to monitor the compliance of the standards. For process of land filling as one of the disposal methodologies, site selection is an important aspect due to the fact that the urban population have shown huge increase in solid waste, and the studies have shown that the per capita increase varies form 100 gms to 500 grms in larger cities. The sites so identified need to be away from habitation forest areas, reserves and national parks and othe ego-fragile areas.

Land fill should be properly hedged and to be provided with a proper gate to monitor the movement of vehicles carrying the solid waste.

Waste disposal options are many but as described sanitary land filling system is the most prevalent one in the country. The system means trenches and pits in alternate layers of 80 cm thick refuse and then covered with an earth fill of 20 cms thickness. After 2-3 years, the solid waste (SW) volume shrinks by 25-30% and the land can be used for the parks, roads or as land for the small buildings with normal compaction. A land fill site can take 500 bags and refuse per cubic meter of trench space available. While locating the site for dumping refuse, as the land should be selected for taking into account that it can be used for 25-30 years, land filling depends on the availability of land area, soil conditions, ground water table, topography, distance form the residential area and the ultimate usage of site after reclamation.

The land fill operation is a biological method of waste treatment. SW can be stabilized by dividing it into five distinct phases. In the first phase aerobic bacteria deplete the available oxygen as a result of aerobic respiration and the temperature increases. In the second phase anaerobic conditions become established and the hydrogen and carbon dioxide is evolved. In the third phase Methane is liberated and in the 4th phase methonogic activities become stabilized. In the fifth-phase the system returns to aerobic conditions within the land fill. The duration of each phase varies with the environmental conditions.

The process of Bio-methane technology is used for the production of methane from the SW. Here separation and size reduction of the solid waste is carried out. After the moisture and nutrients are added, the pH is adjusted to about 6.7 and temperature of the slurry is increased to 55-660C. The Slurry is mixed well for about 7-10 days. After this the storage of the gas is carried out.

In the composting, which is a method of aerobic decomposition of SW, many types of micro-organisms already present in the waste stabilized the SW. The organisms include bacteria, which predominates at all stages, fungi which appear after the first week and actinomycetes which assist during the final stages. Mesophillic bacteria present oxidize the orgasnised matter in the refuse to carbon dioxide and release it as heart. The temperature increases up to 450C. Thermophillic bacteria takeover and continue the decomposition. The temperature further increases to 600 and SW is turned. After 3 weeks composites are stabilized.

The process of incineration involves burning of the SW at a very high temperature. The volume of SW is reduced up to 90% and the un-burnt SW is about 25% of the original. But the ash disposal and emissions from incinerators is a matter of concern for the environmentalists.

Health impact of solid waste is manifold. The increase in SW is due to an increase in the population. As the population increases, the demand for food and other essentials also goes high, resulting in the increase in waste. In our city, it is thrown in the streets as is a usual site, it attracts insects, flies, rats, dogs etc. which result in spreading foul odour due to decomposition. Waste form agriculture and industries can also cause serious health diseases because these wastes may indicate some chemicals pesticides, metals etc. Uncollected SW may also affect water bodies and cause many water borne diseases. Plastic is also harmful and its unhygienic disposal can cause toxic diseases as it releases heavy metals like copper, lead. mercury, chorimium, cobalt, selenium and cadmium etc.

For every successful programme, and in particular the areas directly related with human day to day activity, and having such a direct impact on all who are around, needs aggressive public awareness and heath education. Public needs to be made aware about the environmental hazards by arranging awareness camps and hammering home the point that the domestic waste should not be spread on streets, roads etc.

In our city there is a strong need of formation of a pressure group which can interact with the city municipal authorities to know about their plans and actions. Full involvement of citizens is required so that the city population becomes aware of what is happening in our city. The recent episode at Achen is a case in point; this land fill site is absolutely mismanaged by the municipality.

There are many factors which are hampering the technical and scientific work of the municipality but we cannot remain mute spectators to the changing environmental management scenario the world over. We cannot always plead ignorance. Infact our plans are faulty and we don’t take required measures to save the environment, at the inception of a project.

Let us vow to work for an environmental friendly city. And then dream of a beautiful city.

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