Waste burning in the valley
M.Sc. Environmental Science, GGIC
Air pollution is a growing concern in the valley especially during the winter; the inhabitants are annoyed and equally concerned regarding the deteriorating air quality, blaming the government for not removing old vehicles and delaying road expansion. But, little do they know, waste burning is also a potent source of air pollution that adds to the already poor air of the valley. Every time garbage is burnt, amounts of dangerous particulate matter (PM2.5) are released into the atmosphere revealed by a report published by PhD scholar Bhupendra Das.
About 5000 garbage piles are lit on fire everyday all over the valley incore and peripheral areas, on curbsides, in empty plots, galli’s and backyards. It is happening here and now in almost all places like Teku, Kirtipur, Lagankhel, Baneshwor and Boudha, to name a few. It’s a saddening fact that even the waste collectors and sweepers are found burning the waste early in the morning before it can be loaded into trucks which would transport it to the landfill. The misconception that burning is a harmless way to decrease the waste volume has become troublesome.
According to Mr. Dhumanath Ghimire (staff member at Sisdol landfill), less waste is brought to the landfill during winter than any other season. He believes this is because households often burn garbage for warmth. Unfortunately, the PM emitted from burning hovers at breathable heights when the ground temperature is cool due to a shallow temperature inversion. It only riseswhen the ground heats up during in the afternoon. This is one reason why PM concentrationsare highest during the winter season and are several times greater than the WHO guideline. Thus, garbage burning is especially harmful during the winter season.
According to Mr. Santosh Shrestha of Solid Waste Management Technical Support Centre (SWMTSC), there’s no specific law against waste burning in Nepal. In some communities, penalties ranging from NRs. 5000 to 1 lakh have been issued. Whatever the law is, few organizations are really geared up to tackle the waste burning problem like JUAS which is providing biodigestor for household level at a very low cost and Bio-comp Nepal, one of the biggest organic compost maker which doesn’t let the organic waste from vegetable market to end up in landfill. The government has recently also recognized waste burning as an issue according to Dr. Arnico Panday of International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development ICIMOD.
Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) and private waste collectors manage the solid waste of the valley but more waste is produced than they can handle. Most of the waste we generate is organic (70%) and could be used productively if it is segregated and turned into compost and biogas. However, this is seldom practiced in Kathmandu Valley. There are different private waste collectors; mostly collect mixed waste and due to their infrequent collection, over-charging prices and monopoly over the area has led to unsubscribed households, illegal dumping and burning. Meanwhile, there are NGO’s like NEPCEMAC which has been promoting segregation at source in Nagarjun Municiplaity ward no. 1 and 2. The organic and inorganic waste are collected in different days, organic waste are turned to compost in their facility at Chovar. Due to their continuous effort in reducing the 70% organic waste going to the landfill, Nagarjun Municipality will provide them plots for composting and expanding their segregation at source service to other wards. This practice has led to no burnings or illegal dumping’s in that area. Other NGO’s like WEPCO, Blue Waste to Value are also segregating but in their transfer site. With a collective effort to improve waste segregation and collection, it is possible to eliminate garbage burning throughout Kathmandu Valley.