Climate change is one of the biggest challenges being faced by the present world. A number of factors including clean energy, forest protection, adaptive habitat and natural resources are attributed to climate change mitigation and adaptation. With high pace urbanisation, solid waste is a ferociously growing concern especially for the developing countries like India.
Amount and complexity of wastes is growing rapidly but the equivalent demands of technology and resources are still inadequate. Wastes and climate change are closely interrelated and are severely impacting each other but, however, less recognised in the domains of climate change mitigation, adaptation and disaster risk reduction.
Globally, around 2.01 billion tonnes of municipal waste are generated annually, more than one third (34%) of which is only contributed by high income countries. Waste generation per person varies between 0.11 and 4.54 kg. By the year 2050, waste generation globally is expected to rise up to 3.40 billion tonnes, which is no less than a disaster for health, environment and economy. India with a global population share of 18.05% contributes 11.95% to the global waste generation.
Effect of Climate Change on Solid Waste Management
A series of extreme weather events, viz., temperature fluctuations and extremes, disturbance in rainfall pattern, wind storms, etc. are known results of climate change which are affecting the waste management processes to a significant level.
Changes in Precipitation Patterns:
Climate change has led to significant alterations in the precipitation patterns. Increased average global surface temperature may lead to hotter and drier summers and shorter winter and can increase duration and frequency of extreme weather events like drought, hurricanes and cyclones. These events cause severe damage to property, infrastructure and human lives, affecting water availability and, hence, complicating the solid waste management procedure even more.
There has been an increase in daily precipitation rate as well as in the number of days. The average moisture content is generally high during these times. This elevates the risk of flooding which further leads to infrastructural damage, hindered supply system, creation of bulk household waste, inaccessibility of waste storage facilities, over flooding of site drainage systems and waterlogging in open waste storage containers. Waste management structures are protected by capping layers and bunds, which can be at higher risk of erosion and can become unstable because of the heavy rainfall.
Also, frequency and rate of waste decomposition is severely affected by heavy rainfall and the flow, concentration and volume of leachate is also enhanced at the landfill sites.
The entire hydrology of the waste management system can be altered because of the fluctuations in seasonal rainfall patterns. The clay substrate areas are at high risk of collapsing and can have huge impact on the adjoining infrastructure.
Role of Policy:
In 2008, India came up with a comprehensive National Action Plan for Climate Change (NAPCC). Out of the eight exclusive missions encompassing and addressing various issues related to climate change, the National Mission on Sustainable Habitat was made accountable for the management of Municipal Solid Waste of the country. This part of the mission is focused on enhancing resource recovery and recycling, reducing waste to be disposed in landfills or open dumpsites and maximising reuse/recycling of sewage, as much as possible.
In 2015, four additional missions were added to NAPCC, out of which one entire mission was dedicated to the theme of Waste-to Energy conversion. The focus of this recent mission is to harness energy from maximum possible waste to minimise the dependence on non-renewable resources for power generation.
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) was launched in 2014 by the Prime Minister of India with primary aims of making the country open-defecation free and improving the status of solid waste management.
This mission has definitely ignited the awareness regarding the basic cleanliness regimes and sown a seed of a hygienic, clean and safe behaviour among the people. The current status of Swachh Bharat Mission is that entire urban areas of 35 states/union territories have become open defecation free and the waste processing rate has increased from 18% to 60%.
There is an urgent need fora robust policy formulation which is inclusive of all major factors associated with climate change and solid waste management.
Also, a thorough plan of action in an affordable budget is required to be prepared that takes into account the future projection of the outcomes.