Clean City Survey Encourages Environmentally Unsustainable Ways to Manage Waste, Says Green Body

The Centre for Science and Environment says the Swachh Survekshan survey ranks cities working towards decentralised recycling poorly, but rewards those with landfills and waste to energy plants.

CSE has questioned the methodology of the Swachh Survekshan 2017 survey. Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: Just days after the clean city survey Swachh Survekshan 2017 ranked cities on the basis of their cleanliness, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has questioned the criteria of ranking. According to CSE, the methodology, rather than giving credit for segregation and recycle and reuse had instead lent weightage to the existence of landfills and waste-to-energy plants, thereby encouraging environmentally unsustainable approaches to waste management.

Stating that there was an urgent need to change the methodology of the survey to encourage sustainable practices like segregation at source and recycle and reuse, Sunita Narain, the director general of CSE said that since the ambit of the Survekshan is expected to grow and cover 4,041 statutory towns and cities next year, it was essential that the methodology of assessment gives more points for segregation and decentralised treatment. “Solid waste management should move towards behaviour change and local solutions, it is only then that we can achieve the goal of a clean India,” she added.

Undeserving cities ranked high in survey

CSE said in the recent evaluation, the cities which were focussing on collection of unsegregated waste and transporting it to landfills while processing very little quantity of waste, have been ranked high. “The top three cities in the survey – Indore, Bhopal and Vishakhapatnam – have adopted environmentally unsustainable practices for waste management,” CSE said, adding that all three of them have been dumping unsegregated waste.

It said that Indore, which has been ranked at number one, is currently struggling with waste management. “Similarly, Surat, which is ranked fourth in the Survekshan results, is dumping 1600 metric tonnes per day of its unsegregated garbage in a landfill, that too without processing.”

“These cities are, therefore, not meeting the statutory requirements of the Municipal Solid Waste Rules, 2016,” CSE said pointing out that these rules “clearly state that waste needs to be segregated into three categories at the household level – wet, dry and domestic hazardous waste” and that “waste to energy plants shall not burn mixed waste”. Also, these rules lay down that disposal at landfills would be the least preferred option.

CSE said from the survey it has become clear that “the states that have pushed for a centralised approach towards waste management – Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh – have been given high rankings in the Survekshan results.” Of the top 50 cities, 31 cities are in these three states, it said, adding that all these cities are pushing for cluster-based waste management approach using waste to energy plants and landfills for processing and dumping of waste.

Meritorious cities left out

In contrast, CSE said, cities that have been working towards household-level segregation and decentralised recycling and reuse of waste have been given very poor ranking. “Alappuzha, in Kerala, which has a decentralised model for waste management ranks 380, Panjim city which has adopted five point segregation ranks 90,” it said.

Elaborating on the issue, Swati Sambal, the programme manager of the waste management team, said, “Both Alappuzha and Panjim have no landfill sites or waste-to-energy incineration plants. Most of their waste is converted into compost or biogas. Inorganic wastes like plastic, glass, metals, papers etc. is sent for recycling. These cities make money from solid wastes rather than spending crores in collecting and transporting wastes to landfills. Still, Swachh Survekshan 2017 has not given any recognition to these cities.”