SWM Rules 2016 - A Wakeup Call
for All Stakeholders


SWM rules 2016 considered by many, as possibly, the most convincing policy support document for solid waste management in Indian history was notified and published on 17th March 2016. Currently, one year down the line, has it created any significant impacts on development and waste management plans of cities, states and local bodies. This is a debatable question for policy makers, experts and other stakeholders.

'Swachh Bharat' is a flagship programme of the Government of India and it has its roots in almost every sector and programmes running in India. For the first time in India's history, the subject of waste management and cleanliness has been given such a great importance and now is the right time that turnkey change in practices should happen. Waste management has become a political tool used to evaluate performance of governments resulting in all urban and rural local bodies putting in their maximum efforts and efficiency.1

The objectives of 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyan' supported with financially funded programmes like AMRUT, Smart City programme and other initiatives promotes local governments to implement better waste management strategies. Further adding to the pressure, the SWM rules 2016 published by MoEF & CC act as a policy tool enabling, empowering and enforcing ULBs to bring around efficient and clean waste management practices.

Unlike the MSWM rules 2000, the latest rules give proper advice on the role of each of the stakeholders and there are provisions to tightly monitor performances because of the deadlines provided in the rules for different levels of governments to prepare their own waste management plans and implement the same.

Even though there are many solid turnkey specifications mentioned in the rules, few of the most interlinked significant ones are the stress on source segregation, promotion of waste to energy, incorporation of specific timelines for delivery of outputs and the concept of multi stakeholder responsibility.

Lack of source segregation is the major constraint for waste management in India and leads to the failure of many waste processing initiatives in the country. The multi-stakeholder responsibility as per SWM rules 2016 takes a part of the responsibility from the ULBs to the waste generators and other stakeholders.

Since the responsibility is taken to the generator, behavioural change will become inevitable. But it is up to the local authorities and state authorities to take up the opportunity and amend their rules and implement practices to incorporate the changes. Certain municipalities have already adopted systems to incorporate generator responsibility and implement segregation at the household level. Strict actions like taking undertakings from households to segregate their waste, not accepting waste at source if not segregated and imposing fines have been very effective in some ULBs. The major tactic used by Tirunelveli Municipal Corporation which actually achieved 100% segregation recently is such an example. Some Municipal Corporations like Trivandrum even went to the extent of pushing generators to implement decentralised wet waste management at the household and community level. The Municipal Corporation only collected the dry waste. Other ULBs like Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation provides relaxation in property taxes for biogas generation and adoption of other wet waste management practices at the household level.

Waste segregation at source enhances the possibilities of efficient implementation of waste to energy projects which is important considering the increasing raw material resource crunch for energy generation in India. The rules have specific mention of deliverables for different levels of government to promote and implement waste to energy projects starting from forming of a national policy and strategy for 'Waste to Energy' projects at the ULB level. Inauguration of India's largest Waste to Energy plant in New Delhi consuming around 2000 metric tonnes of waste per day is an excellent example set for promoting Waste to Energy in India.

In addition to the increased efficiency in the waste management system, implementation of the SWM rules 2016 will also result in additional benefits including more business and revenue generation opportunities, minimal land filling, better working health atmosphere and resource saving. The SWM rules have been further backed by the publishing of C&D waste management rules 2017. Mixing of C&D waste in MSW has always been a trouble. It hinders the management of SWM, occupies space and the usual SWM segregation and processing facilities could not be used to process this waste, but in fact it damages the processing itself. To make the work of ULBs simpler, the C&D waste management has been classified separate from solid waste management. In addition the 'guidelines for C&D waste management' also helps ULBs implement the C&D waste management in the country.

Setting national rules and regulations is just the beginning for better waste management. The policy level changes need to be incorporated in waste management plans and city development plan of each city at the earliest. The fact that SWM is an important point earning part of heavily funded initiatives which selects cities on a competitive rating system like AMRUT and Smart City programmes is promoting the implementation of these plans in all developing cities.

The policy influence will trickle down into each ULB in time to create a mass change in perception of waste management. The importance of multi-stakeholder responsibility makes the management of solid waste to be kept under the scanner of many lenses leading to strict self-monitoring systems. The best practices already being practiced in the most pro-active ULBs are later supposed to create a wave of change and promote other ULBs to build similar models of better waste management systems.

The policy intervention through SWM Rules 2016, is very inclusive covering multiple dimensions of management. All departments have to take responsibility for waste management including Department of Fertilizer, Ministry of Agriculture, State Urban & Rural Departments, District Magistrates, Collectors, Deputy Commissioners, Village Panchayats and even the CPCB. The policy has left no stone unturned when it comes to distributing the duty of waste management and hence ensuing the check of performance of each stakeholder by the other.

Almost a year after the implementation of the waste management rules 2016 still many ULBs are yet to implement most of the requirements of the rules. The lack of resources being one reason and lack of capacity of ULBs to implement such programmes can be seen as another reason. Especially in the small and medium cities where further capacity development is an urgent need. Many deliverables have already surpassed their designated timelines without proper action. National Plan for Waste to Energy, annual reports from local and state government bodies, PCBS and other departments, state and local waste management plans, identification of sites for waste processing, management plans for existing landfills, formation of state level advisory bodies being some of the main points.

But making use of the provisions of SWM rules, a number of isolated initiatives in local governance level and state level have been initiated which itself is a great success. Change takes time and over time wonders can be created. With proper promotion of the best practices and proper handholding between different stakeholders a 'Swachh Bharat' can be achieved with policy push being the major driving factor.

Awareness campaigns and workshops need to be developed and implemented pan India level. CPCB needs to have a stringent action plan to follow-up the waste management rules and implement a monitoring system for different levels of governance. Further funding plans need to be developed to support small and medium towns to plan and implement solid waste management plans.

Achu R Sekhar

http://www.moef.nic.in/content/so-1357e -08-04-2016-solid-waste-management-rules-2016?theme=moef_blue
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ NGT-bans-open-waste-burning/article 16928115.ece
http://www.moef.gov.in/sites/default/files/ C%20&D%20rules%202016.pdf
http://www.swachhbharaturban.in:8080/ sbm/content/writereaddata/SBM_Guideline.pdf
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/ tirunelveli-first-to-have-100-waste-segregation/articleshow/57485885.cms
http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/ Thiruvananthapuram/pipe-compost-is-back-on-its-feet/article7083624.ece

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