Cashing the trash

Globally, urbanisation is accelerating at an unprecedented scale. In 2007, the proportion of people who lived in urban areas exceeded the people in rural areas. In Asia, the similar situation will happen by 2030.

In this context, the problem of solid waste management is escalating hand in hand with urbanisation.  In most of the urban centres of developing countries, waste management is often limited to street sweeping and disposing waste into open areas like river bank, low land or in any open spaces.

Urbanisation in Nepal is not an exception, with an urban population of 3 per cent in 1954 and increased by more than 6 fold in 2012. Municipalities who are responsible for the waste management often blame on unavailability of landfill site when the question comes on effective waste management. In fact, a decentralised waste management system is more favourable than a centralised system in terms of socio-economic aspects.

A compost plant of Ramnagar 12, Butwal Municipality is an example of decentralised waste management. The plant is developed according to the principle of household centered environmental sanitation (HCES). The main two principles of HCES are considering waste as resource and solving environmental problems as near as it creates.

The compost plant has demonstrated how waste can be treated as a resource. A community of 400 households separate waste as organic and inorganic. Organic waste is converted into compost and most of the inorganic waste is sold to scrap dealers. In this way, there is income from waste as well as contributing to a cleaner environment. It also reduces the cost for the management of waste to the local authority.

The scheme handles about 1 per cent of the waste of whole municipality. However, scaling up of such practice will definitely reduce a huge amount of the expenditure of the local authorities in managing waste. At the same time, it will cut off a huge amount of greenhouse gas (methane) into the environment contributing to the climate change. Further, it will significantly reduce environmental pollution including surface and ground water pollution, as waste is generally disposed in the bank of river Tinau.

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