Burning Of Waste

Adar Poonawala's Serum Institute of India recently invested Rs 100 Crore towards cleaning up Pune by taking on cleaning activities. While a laudable initiative - Lt Col Satish M Vaidya, ex Special Forces, Indian Army and an environment and resources conservation expert - explains why this funding would have been better spent on setting up recycling facilities

New Update
Burning Of Waste

Image credit: Lt Col Satish M Vaidya

The basic requirements of a SMART City are clean air and litter-free roads and public places. Rampant burning of garbage, leaf litter continues even though it is banned by the National Green Tribunal with a fine of Rs 5000. The resultant atmospheric haze is responsible for climate change; and the delayed, scant monsoon this year is one of its baffling outcomes. There is lack of awareness in both those who burn garbage, leaf litter and those who suffer in silence. When checked, the common reaction is “what else can we do?”

“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”

-  Charles Mingus

I realized that indiscriminate burning of garbage is only a symptom and the real problem is poor waste management. The increased urban spread and population density requires organized methods for waste disposal. The following aspects need consideration:

  • Burning of garbage, leaf litter is very common; small piles of garbage, leaf litter burn out in 5 – 10 minutes and most violators are not identified.
  • The quantity of garbage, leaf litter burnt cannot be measured and hence is unknown. After heavy rains wet garbage cannot burn, leaving the air clearer despite the usual vehicle density, but with heavy congestion.
  • Moisture, low temperature and inadequate air cause big piles of garbage to smolder for hours and produce smoke that causes respiratory problems and cancer.

Efficient waste management can stop environmental pollution.

  • Daily door-to-door collection of wet compostable waste will ensure segregation. A simple, cheap, natural and decentralized composting method produces excellent vermi-compost locally without any nuisance.
  • Manned collection points are needed for segregated dry waste, i.e., paper, plastic, metal and glass. People’s awareness, cooperation needs time and patience.
  • Power can be generated by incinerating dried non-recyclable combustible waste at high temperature with sufficient air.

Mixed garbage thrown on the roadside overloads and frustrates cleaning staff. Garbage is burnt in city outskirts, near government offices, along riverside, railway lines; which is no one’s area of responsibility, but air pollution affects us all. Private agencies should address root causes and set-up recycling facilities for paper, plastics, metal and glass to get value-added material; instead of undertaking and duplicating the Municipal Corporation’s primary responsibilities. Once littering stops, limited effort will keep public places clean. The triple benefits, e.g., financial (wealth from waste), social (gainful employment to the poor) and environmental (clean and healthy surroundings) are too tempting to turn down.

“It is better to train ten people, than to do the work of ten people. But it is harder”.


Satish VaidyaLt Col Satish M Vaidya (Retired) has considerable experience as a Paratrooper (Special Forces) officer of the Indian Army. His second innings with a hotel chain involved security and loss prevention for 10 years and Six Sigma/ change management for two years (where he got a Green Belt). His main interest lies in environment and resources conservation. In his current third innings, he has completed Masters in Environmental Science and Six Sigma Black Belt. He is working on a system that purifies liquids, works on low-grade waste heat, can conserve energy & prevent water pollution. Over the last 3 ½ years he has established a wet-waste composting system, which can help large scale solid waste management. He actively campaigns for a clean environment and writes regularly.