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Delhi’s Solid Waste Management (SWM)

  • Context (TH): The Supreme Court recently criticised solid waste management (SWM) in New Delhi as more than 3,800 tonnes of solid waste remain untreated.

The mounting problem of Delhi’s waste generation

  • According to the 2011 Census, New Delhi’s population was about 1.7 crore (2.32 crore in 2024).
  • The average per capita waste generation is about 0.6 kg/day per person, generating approximately 13,000 tonnes per day (TPD) of waste – which adds up to about 42 lakh tonnes per annum.
  • With the city’s population expected to rise to 2.85 crore by 2031, the waste generation could go up to 17,000 TPD.

Processing capacity of SWM

  • About 90% of the waste generated in the city is collected by municipal corporations.
  • Delhi’s waste-processing facilities have a collective design capacity of about 9,200 TPD. This includes composting facilities handling around 900-1,000 TPD and waste-to-energy projects handling 8,200 TPD.
  • The 3,800 TPD of unprocessed waste is disposed of in the three designated landfills: Gazipur, Bhalswa, and Okhla.

Harmful impacts of unprocessed waste

Landfills in Delhi - PMF IAS

Credit: HT

  • The landfills, consisting of unprocessed wet and dry waste, generate methane gases, leachates and cause landfill fires.
  • The accumulation of unprocessed waste has led to a staggering 2.58 crore tonnes of legacy waste piling up over 200 acres of land.
  • Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) that has been collected and kept for years on some barren land or landfill for long periods of time is called Legacy waste.

Challenges in tackling waste

  • Lack of waste segregation at source due to which unprocessed mixed waste enters landfills.
  • Lack of large land parcels for waste processing plants.
  • Lack of public awareness of proper waste management practices contributing to littering and improper disposal habits.
  • Lack of regular waste collection services in certain areas.
  • Illegal dumping in open areas and water bodies.
  • Inefficient implementation of waste management rules.
  • Lack of coordination among various stakeholders resulting in inefficient waste management.

Way Forward

  • Scaling up the processing capacity to manage daily waste.
  • Biodegradable wet waste should be composted or used to generate biogas.
  • Among non-biodegradable dry waste, recyclable waste can be sent to recycling facilities. The non-recyclable dry waste fraction, also called refuse-derived fuel (RDF), consisting of plastics, paper, and textile waste, has good calorific value & can be used to generate power in waste-to-energy projects.
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