Manage Kathmandu’s Waste Sustainably

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Kathmandu has been stinking once again as roads and alleys here have been filled with heaps of garbage for days. As waste is scattered everywhere, it is causing much inconvenience to the Capital Valley denizens. Dumping waste haphazardly on roads and streets in this hot rainy season may put people’s health at risk because it could lead to outbreaks of various contagious diseases such as cholera in the Valley. However, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) has resumed collection and disposal of waste since Saturday (August 13) after having the task halted for a couple of days. Earlier, the KMC had halted the task of waste disposal for a week, citing the maintenance of the road leading to the Bancharedanda Landfill Site. The road was damaged by heavy rains some weeks ago. The road maintenance is still incomplete as monsoon rains have continued to hinder the work. 

Thorny issue

The process of garbage disposal had remained disrupted after the vandalisation of more than a dozen vehicles loaded with waste in Sisdol village of Nuwakot district a week back. Some of those vehicles belong to the KMC while others are owned by private firms associated with waste management. The group of persons involved in such mindless act is still unknown. The destruction of vehicles transporting garbage has aggravated the valley’s thorny issue of waste disposal. They must be brought to justice in order to prevent this type of untoward activity in the future.

It is sad that waste disposal has continued to get obstructed frequently due to one reason or the other even after the Bancharedanda Landfill Site came into full operation about one month ago. The government bodies responsible for managing the landfill site and constructing roads and maintaining them appear to have failed to take the waste-affected people into confidence. It is obvious that the KMC and other relevant public agencies have signed agreements with the locals for many times. But many of the commitments made to the people living near the landfill site have still remained unmet.

Amidst this noxious garbage problem, the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic and a severe form of viral influenza have continued to take a toll on people. Different hospitals in the valley have reported more cases of viral fever as well as COVID. Several cases of dengue infection have also been detected in the valley and many other parts of the country. Such infections are common during the rainy season.

The people living near the landfill site have also been responsible, to some extent, for the failure to implement the past deals. They are often found obstructing waste disposal on one pretext or the other. What is more upsetting is that they put up one demand after another without sticking to the past agreements to hinder disposal of rubbish. They sometimes seem to be adopting the strategy ‘strike the iron while it is hot’ to pile pressure on government authorities to get even their invalid demands fulfilled. If this tendency does not stop, the issue of the landfill site may not be resolved permanently.

However, there is no doubt that the garbage disposal at Bancharedanda has also affected the locals’ health and livelihoods. They repeatedly say that waste and humans cannot stay together. This statement is very valid and heart-rending as well. Everyone should realise the fact that the landfill site has badly affected their life. The authorities must listen to their voices seriously and act accordingly. And the locals should also stop using the obstruction of waste disposal as a bargaining chip. As managing garbage is under the Essential Services Act, the government must prohibit all types of strikes and obstructions aimed at blocking waste disposal. 

The Bancharedanda Landfill Site is feasible for the disposal of the garbage generated by 18 different municipalities within the Kathmandu Valley for the next 50 years, it should be handled carefully. With a remarkable rise in population in these municipalities, they generate more garbage daily. More than 1,200 tonnes of solid waste is being generated in these local levels on a daily basis. The KMC alone generates more than 500 metric tonnes of rubbish every day. It is not easy to find suitable sites like this near the valley. So, focus should be laid on utilising the landfill site in a sustainable manner. 

Segregation

As suggested by waste management experts, the KMC has lately initiated the process of segregating garbage (biodegradable and non-biodegradable) at source (household level).  Bhaktapur Municipality has also been doing this. Other local levels need to follow suit in order to manage waste sustainably.  But what is concerning is that the locals of Bancharedanda have recently announced that they will not allow garbage to be disposed at the landfill site from coming Wednesday (August 17). The government bodies’ indifference towards fulfilling their premises as expressed in the latest agreement is said to be the reason behind the locals’ plan to obstruct waste disposal for this time. Because this is a recurring problem, all the stakeholders must be serious about addressing it for good. They must explore various other alternatives such as establishing a chemical fertiliser factory.

With numerous world-class historical and cultural monuments and several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Kathmandu Valley is one of the preferred tourist destinations in the country. But tourism is a vulnerable sector. As the government is preparing to announce the Visit Nepal Decade (2023-33) for bolstering the nation’s tourism industry, it is necessary for us to ensure that the valley remains neat and clean. The recurring garbage problem may pose a serious threat to this multifaceted industry, too. So, a strong political willpower is the key to dealing with this prominent issue.


(Dahal is a deputy executive editor of this daily.) 

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