Improving Municipal Solid Waste Management in India

Human activities create waste, and the ways that waste is handled, stored, collected, and disposed of can pose risks to the environment and to public health. Solid waste management (SWM) includes all activities that seek to minimize health, environmental, and aesthetic impacts of solid waste. In urban areas, especially in the rapidly urbanizing cities of the developing world, problems and issues of municipal solid waste management (MSWM) are of immediate importance. Most governments have acknowledged the importance of MSWM; however, rapid population growth overwhelms the capacity of most municipal authorities to provide even the most basic services. According to a United Nations Development Programme survey of 151 mayors of cities from around the world, the second most serious problem that city dwellers face (after unemployment) is insuffi cient solid waste disposal (UNDP 1997). Typically one- to two-thirds of the solid waste that is generated is not collected. The uncollected waste is dumped indiscriminately in the streets and in drains, contributing to fl ooding, breeding of insect and rodent vectors, and spreading of diseases. Even waste that is collected is often disposed of in uncontrolled dumpsites or burned, polluting water resources and the air. In many cities, municipal solid waste (MSW) contains human and animal excrement as well as hazardous chemical pollutants and sharps. All facilitate disease and injury, especially among children, rag pickers, and employees in the waste management sector. Studies have shown that a high percentage of workers who handle refuse and of individuals who live near or on disposal sites are infected with gastrointestinal parasites, worms, and related organisms. Contamination of this kind is likely at all points where waste is handled. Although it is certain that vector insects and rodents can transmit various pathogenic agents (amoebic and bacillary dysenteries, typhoid fever, salmonellosis, various parasitoses, cholera, yellow fever, plague, and others), it often is diffi cult to trace the effects of such transmission to a specific population. The implementation of MSWM practices benefi ts both public health and environmental quality directly and substantially.  

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