The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation administers multiple dumping grounds in the city – Deonar, Mulund, Kanjurmarg and Govandi being some of the largest in the country. However, with our bustling megapolis extending its boundaries each day and welcoming new residents into its fold, the BMC is facing administrative challenges that are steadily threatening to verge on the extreme. Among the major challenges our municipality faces today is waste management – a critical aspect of our existence as Mumbai citizens. As humanity faces an unprecedented waste management concern across continents today, it is perhaps prudent to reflect inward on the generation, recycling and management of our waste at the local level.
The recent ban imposed by the Chinese government on imports of plastic waste has caused an unprecedented waste management crisis in the UK, highlighting the need for ‘supply chain responsibility’ – the focus on waste creation and conduct. One need not look beyond our city, with its staggering contribution of 25% to the nation’s industrial output, 70% of India’s total maritime trade and a population of approximately 30.9 million residents in its metropolitan area.
As the most populous city in India and the fourth most populous city in the world, it is perturbing to realise that the city is unequipped to deal with its waste and the circumstances that the administration is facing are gearing Mumbai towards a potential environmental disaster.
With the existing dumping grounds already at tipping point and the likelihood of the BMC having to shut the Mulund ground, the city is in dire need of re-evaluating its disposal of food waste, mostly unrecyclable and a serious biohazard, as well as its unhealthy plastic consumption. The last two years have experienced an atypical 73% of garbage comprising of food waste, most of it being unusable to produce energy due its wet composition. Citizens are now facing the prospect of having to compost food waste on their own, a reality compelling us to assess the benefits of composting and adapting environment-friendly alternatives to the massively convenient plastic.
As a city eternally pressed for space, the installation of composting pits are likely to pose logistical trials, especially when retrofitted into small-scale housing societies and slums that have not been designed to accommodate recycling and composting facilities in their premises. However, the benefits of large-scale composting are numerous – from reducing methane production in our landfills to lowering our overall carbon footprint.
Composting is also the key to prevent Mumbai’s dumping grounds from tipping over, and encouraging societies to use the manure from composting in landscaping and planting. Already, medium-scale composting is creating a new stream of income for vegetable vendors in the city’s suburbs. The rediscovered advantages of composting are encouraging in their contribution to community activity, reducing the burden of garbage disposal on the municipality and nurturing soil fertility.
The concerns of composting zones consuming considerable space are not unfounded; however, they only augur well for the long-term balance of Mumbai’s delicate coastal environment. Breaking down the city’s colossal food waste is sure to become a far easier task when undertaken at the housing society level and reducing the burden of waste segregation and disposal on the BMC. Mumbai is on the search for new dumping grounds, running out of space on waste disposal. This measure can be curbed eventually if citizens embrace the conveniences of composting and contribute towards a greener Mumbai with greater space and volume in which to live.