Households segregating waste as requested but KMC mixing it up againLocal officials admit the waste separation plan was launched in haste. Urban planners say City should focus on doable things.
Dinesh Suwal has been segregating biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste generated at his home ever since the Kathmandu Metropolitan City published a notice asking the general public to do so from mid-July.
Suwal, 50, bought two buckets of 50 litres capacity each to segregate solid waste at his home in Jhochhen. He has been separating solid waste since July 17 as instructed by the metropolitan office.
But even though he and many of his neighbours have been segregating waste, the garbage collectors mix them up while loading them onto the trucks to transport them to the Teku transfer station.
“The city had announced that it would collect nonbiodegradable waste for two days a week and organic waste four days a week, but they pick everything together and carry in the same trucks,” Suwal said.
Jhochhen lies in Kathmandu’s ward 23, which is among the 12 wards where the City had announced to collect segregated waste as its pilot plan.
“There is no point in making announcements if they cannot be implemented,” said Suwal, who also owns a restaurant at Jhochhen.
The city had officially announced to collect segregated waste, especially from core areas including ward number 12, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, and 27 of the metropolitan city.
Launching the garbage segregation programme in mid-July, Mayor Balendra Shah had asked city residents to segregate solid waste at home. Speaking at a function organised to announce the waste segregation campaign, he had said it was ‘not a difficult task.’ Shah had further explained that just ‘not mixing the biodegradable and nondegradable waste’ would be enough to manage the garbage problem.
“We segregate but municipal workers are themselves mixing waste during collection,” said Suwal.
Many local government representatives including Macha Raja Maharjan, chairperson of ward number 23, now say the announcement was made in a haste.
“Many families in my ward have been segregating household waste, and they often ask me, ‘why is the city not collecting them separately as announced?’ and I have no answer,” Maharjan said.
He said people are still segregating waste because they hold Mayor Shah in high regards and trust his words. “That is why the City should be careful about its words and actions,” he added.
Kathmandu Valley generates 1,200 tonnes of solid waste a day. Nearly 60 percent of the waste is generated within the Kathmandu Metropolitan City. Experts say over 60 percent of organic waste originating in the Valley can be converted into compost manure. Of the remaining 40 percent, 30 percent of non-biodegradable waste can be sold to recyclers.
Urban planners, meanwhile, accuse Mayor Shah of deviating from his primary responsibility of solving the garbage problem, which is the most important issue in the Capital city. They said the mayor should have prioritised issues and works based on urgency.
“Shah should focus on one problem at a time,” said Kishore Thapa, urban planner and former government secretary. “But it is now clear that he is unable to find a permanent solution to the garbage problem. He is spending his energy on other issues, which are not as urgent.”
Mayor Shah, however, has succeeded in winning public support for clearing parking spaces of businesses in commercial buildings and tearing down illegal structures. Last week, a large section of society praised him for uncovering the Tukucha creek beneath the premises of the Jai Nepal Cinema. The city has announced clearance of all illegal structures along the Tukucha creek.
However, on Sunday, Patan High Court issued an interim order to the Kathmandu Metropolitan City not to demolish buildings that might have encroached on the creek’s banks. Similarly, a section of society is opposed to the plan to clear the creeksides of structures that City officials say are illegal.
On Monday, Kathmandu Valley Road Expansion Victims’ Struggle Committee also issued a press statement expressing concerns over the City’s demolition drive.
“It seems Mayor Shah has his priorities wrong. He should be working to find a permanent solution to the garbage problem, but his energy has been scattered now, and this may not bring desired results,” said planner Thapa.
He said if Shah had solved only the garbage problem based on proper research and homework, this could have set a good precedent, and he would have gotten credit for it, too.
“As garbage is a perennial problem in Kathmandu, its management would do great good to the city and its residents who come here from across the country,” said Thapa.
Sarita Rai, the chief of the city’s environment department, had said in July that they would collect only segregated waste and take it to the landfill site.
When asked why the city could not implement the plan, she said, “The city could not find a proper site for converting the organic waste into manure.”
She, however, described her office’s success in emptying the Teku waste transfer station as a major achievement.
“Now garbage is being collected regularly, and we are successfully sending them to Banchare Danda, but we are still looking for a place to convert the garbage into manure,” said Rai.
Till mid-August, Kathmandu’s garbage was not collected properly owing to the poor condition of the road leading to the Banchare Danda landfill. Every road and lane of the City was for weeks littered with rotting garbage piles.
“At least the garbage problem has been solved for the time being,” said Sunil Lamsal, an engineer and waste management consultant at the mayor’s secretariat. “On waste segregation, we are introducing a new model that will be implemented within two months.” He, however, didn’t divulge details.
“We have been doing homework so that we don’t have to roll back our decision,” said Lamsal. He said the municipality would soon make its work plan public.
This is not the first time the City would fail to execute its plan to segregate solid waste at source. The Environment Department had launched a programme to segregate solid waste in wards 12, 18 and 21 during the tenure of former mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya in 2019. They had planned on expanding the drive to all of the City’s 32 wards but failed.