FPJ Dialogue: ‘Only Way To Deal With Waste Is To Create Circular Economy,’ Says Maharashtra Pollution Control Board Member-Secretary

FPJ Dialogue: ‘Only Way To Deal With Waste Is To Create Circular Economy,’ Says Maharashtra Pollution Control Board Member-Secretary

Dhakne, who visited the Free Press Journal and Navshakti offices on Friday, spoke about plans by the state’s pollution regulatory body to address pollution, including use of technology like Global Positioning System (GPS) to ensure that waste is disposed of scientifically and according to norms.

Manoj RamakrishnanUpdated: Friday, May 17, 2024, 10:32 PM IST
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Dr Avinash Dhakne, Member-Secretary of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board |

Mumbai: Urban areas will have to imagine a future without dumping grounds, and smaller cities already showing the way. Cities in Maharashtra like Solapur and Jalgaon have almost got rid of unsightly and polluted waste disposal sites by segregating, recycling, and processing their garbage, said Dr Avinash Dhakne, Member-Secretary of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB).

Dhakne, who visited the Free Press Journal and Navshakti offices on Friday, spoke about plans by the state’s pollution regulatory body to address pollution, including use of technology like Global Positioning System (GPS) to ensure that waste is disposed of scientifically and according to norms.

The city recently went through a period of severe air pollution caused by the construction of big infrastructure projects like the Metro rail and the Mumbai Coastal Road. Construction, road dust, and vehicle emissions are the major sources of pollution in Mumbai, said Dhakne, adding that Mumbai can learn from cities like Beijing which has been able to bring down pollution with adoption of measures like sensor-based air monitoring.

The technology is planned to be introduced in Mumbai, he said. The agency has 69 air pollution monitoring stations and there are plans to set up 50 more. Using vacuum and other mechanised cleaning techniques to clean roads also reduced dust. Sulphur trading, which uses a pollutant-cap and trading system to curb Sulphur dioxide emissions which is one of the contributors of acid rain and particulate matter (PM), was another idea suggested by Dhakne.

Dhakne said that the only way to deal with the growing amount of waste resulting from increased consumption is to create a circular economy where materials never become waste - an idea that has been embraced by countries like Japan.

“If waste is segregated, it is value; if it is mixed, it is cost,” said Dhakne. Segregating waste at source is the first step in this circular economy, strengthening the next process, through mechanisation and creating and creating sustainable businesses out of recycling is the key to a zero-waste future, said Dhakne. “Landfills should be gotten rid of,” he said.

In many cases, creating a circular economy is difficult, said Dhakne, citing the case of fly-ash, a waste product from thermal power plants. The waste is used to make bricks for the construction industry, but the volumes at some sites, like the Chandrapur power plant, are so huge that there is a need for other ways to deal with the byproduct. In this case, disposing of the waste in abandoned mines is a solution.

As the throw-away culture gains pace, cities will have to find out ways to deal with increasing amounts of disposed clothes, old furniture and electronic items, and e-waste. Supporting businesses that recycle waste by providing land and facilities, and creating aggregators to collect and process waste could go a long way in addressing the problem, said Dhakne.

Reckless dumping of construction debris has been a problem in Mumbai, with piles of concrete waste thrown away surreptitiously in green zones and mangrove forests. Dhakne said that thousands of tons have been left in the Aarey forest. The MPCB plans to work with agencies like the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to fit GPS trackers on the 5000-odd trucks that are used to carry and dispose of garbage and construction debris.

Dumping of construction debris and toxic waste in places not designated for the purpose introduces a costly burden on government agencies that have to spend large amounts of public funds to undo the damage. Dhakne also spoke about the increasing menace of noise pollution that can have adverse health effects. Light pollution, which is now receiving more attention, is a growing problem that needs regulation.

With the introduction of regulatory rules for newly identified areas of pollution, like noise, hazardous wastes, and e-waste, MPCB has been feeling a staff crunch. A cultural change in environmental attitudes and behavior is needed to deal with the issue of pollution.

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