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Urban Garbage Disposal Crisis and Ways to Tackle it Effectively

Garbage heaps without proper exposure to air take decades to slowly decompose, continuously releasing methane and leachate

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garbage filled canal in India
The less beautiful side of India. This canal running through the heart of Kancheepuram town overflows with garbage and pollution. Pollution remains a growing and significant issue in both rural and urban areas. Wikimedia

– by Gaurav Tyagi 

New Delhi, Sep 11, 2017: Rapid urbanization globally has led to large scale migration of people from rural to urban areas. This has resulted in huge waste disposal problem all over the world.

Ideally, food discards should be returned to the soil. Food leftovers fed to animals and the cattle shed waste put in a pit to decompose. It can then become a very good source for the planting season as NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) nutrients and micro-nutrients for the soil resulting in healthy crops.

The advent of plastic has led to a major problem. People throw the kitchen waste in such plastic bags. This mixed waste when put in the fields, results in the non-bio-degradable plastic film preventing the rain from entering the soil and stop seeds from germinating through them.

This assorted mixed waste presents a serious challenge for the city authorities. The municipalities usually dump them outside the city limits thus creating mountains of mixed waste.

These hills of garbage are denied oxygen from the air. They emit methane, ammonia, hydrogen sulphide and produce leachate, a black liquid oozing from the waste; for example, if a rotten tomato is left in the open air, it would dry to powder within days but the same tomato in a plastic bag would turn into a smelly liquid therefore, it is vitally important to aerate the garbage heaps.

Also Read: Garbologists find roots of modern waste by digging through Victorian-Era garbage 

Garbage heaps without proper exposure to air take decades to slowly decompose, continuously releasing methane and leachate. This leachate seeps into the soil and contaminates deep natural water channels.

The segregation of waste at source into wet (compostable), dry (recyclable), sanitary (disposable diapers as well as sanitary napkins) and hazardous domestic waste should be made compulsory in every nation.

The city authorities should ensure strict 100% compliance of the aforesaid norms with provisions of strict fines, for residents not adhering to these measures.

Once every household segregates its waste into separate categories, then it becomes very easy for the city councils to pursue scientific garbage management.

The dry waste can go for recycling. The hazardous material disposed of safely.

The food waste collected by the authorities must not be dumped in high heaps instead the pattern of windrows should be followed.

Windrows are long, low parallel heaps of waste not more than two meters high. They are designed to achieve the optimum conditions for aerating the waste.

The dumping trucks unload their waste load in a long row. Enough space is left between rows for a lifting tractor or an earthmover to drive through and periodically turn the waste.

The outer aerated waste forms the inner core of a new window and the airless centre of the old heap goes outside. A weekly turning of the waste repeated 3-4 times ensures that all parts of the waste get fully decomposed like leaves on a forest floor, turning dark brown with a sweet earthy smell.

This process can be further accelerated by adding composting bio-culture like fresh cow-dung. Fresh waste windrows heat up inside to about 55 degrees – 60 degrees Celsius in 3-4 days. After 4 turnings, there is about 40 % weight loss as the moisture content declines and also approximately 40% volume reduction.

After this, no leachate, methane and smelly gases get released. This fully stabilized waste turns into compost, which is rich in microbes as well as humus. Both of which are excellent for soil vitality.

This can be used as organic manure in agricultural fields thereby eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers for farming.

City authorities can ensure long term use of the same landfill site by following this approach for waste processing rather than continuously looking for new waste dumping grounds.

Poor homeless people in the cities can be trained and employed at such landfill sites thereby making them valuable contributing members of the society.

By strictly implementing this course of action globally; governments could easily ensure a healthier, cleaner, pollution-free planet thereby, effectively tackling the menace of ever increasing garbage in an environment- friendly sustainable manner. These measures would also greatly assist in urban poverty alleviation.

The author is a Master Degree holder in International Tourism & Leisure Studies from Netherlands and is based in China


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Surface of Pluto Has Sharp Blades of Ice as Tall as the Skyscrapers of New York! Read What The Scientists Have to Explain

The discovery of penitents on Pluto highlights its complex surface and air temperature changes.

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Colored image of Pluto clicked by New Horizons mission on July 13, 2015. Wikimedia

California, October 1, 2017 : Pluto’s surface consists of sharp blades of ice that shoot to the height of skyscrapers in Dubai. And scientists now might just be able to tell precisely how these dramatic structures arose.

The revelations of ice on Pluto first altered our understandings in July 2015 when NASA’s New Horizons mission flew past the dwarf planet and sent images of astounding terrains back to earth. Among its numerous discoveries were pictures of strange formations, resembling giant blades of ice, whose origin could not be traced.

Now scientists have come up with a scientific explanation for this ‘knife-like landscape’.

According to data obtained by New Horizons, these structures are made almost entirely of methane ice. While the cause of these peaks is still a mystery, scientists contend that they are likely to arise following a specific kind of disintegration that wore away their surfaces, leaving dramatic peaks and sharp partitions on the planet.

These land edges can be found at the extreme heights on Pluto’s surface, close to its equator and soar as high as the New York skyscrapers. Scientists identify these high cutting blades as a complex feature of the planet’s atmosphere and topographical history.

ALSO READ NASA Scientists Reveal New Information on Mars’ Formation and Evolution, Claim The Red Planet has a Porous Crust

According to Jeffrey Moore, a research scientist associated with the New Horizons’ mission, presently at NASA’S Ames Research Center in California, the knife-like terrain began with methane solidifying out of the climate at extreme elevations on Pluto. This can be understood to happen in the same manner as frost freezing on Earth, the only difference being in the scale of the two.

These structures can also be found on Earth and are called penitentes. However, here they extend only up to a couple of meters in height in the high-altitude snowfields along the planet’s equator. Researchers believe slight inconsistencies can transform them into dramatic spikes of snow as sunlight sublimates a few sections faster than others and prompting longer and spikier structures.

The discovery of penitentes on Pluto highlights its complex surface and air temperature changes.

The new finding is set to appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Icarus.

– prepared by Soha Kala of NewsGram. Twitter @SohaKala

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Manmade Urban Flooding: Poor Drainage, Plastic Clogging Contribute to floods, Say Experts

Steps such as rainwater harvesting, ban on use of plastic bags and better use of weather forecasts will go a long way in helping tackle flooding in cities after rains

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Heavy monsoon in Mumbai in August 2005. Wikimedis

New Delhi, Sep 11, 2017: Urban floods are entirely manmade with poorly maintained drains, plastic bags, shrinking open spaces and climate change contributing to accumulation of water on roads after a heavy downpour, experts say.

They said that steps such as rainwater harvesting, ban on use of plastic bags and better use of weather forecasts will go a long way in helping tackle flooding in cities after rains.

Heavy downpours have been disrupting normal life in almost all metro cities in India, with Mumbai bearing the brunt last month which led to death of at least six persons.

Experts said a range of factors including rapid migration to urban areas and “lackadaisical attitude” of civic authorities were among the factors that contribute to cities coming to a standstill after heavy rains.

They said citizens also have to behave responsibly and ensure that plastic bags or used food plates are not thrown in the open or in the neighbourhood drains.

V.K. Sharma, Senior Professor of Disaster Management at the Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA), said the cities need a proper system of garbage collection and sewage disposal and regular cleaning of drains.

“It is true that poor drainage and sewage system is the real cause of urban flooding. There is also migration to cities which often leads to land encroachment and exerts pressure on the existing civic infrastructure,” Sharma told IANS.

Sharma said the urban planning has to have a long-term perspective and infrastructure should keep pace with growth of population. He said rain water harvesting should be made mandatory.

“There is also the need of fixing accountability of government officials and municipal authorities if drains are not properly cleaned. Strict penalties should be imposed on people throwing garbage in the open,” he said.

He said steps have been taken at some places to ban use of plastic bag but it should be enforced strictly.

“There is need to make people aware. This will also meet the larger goal of cleanliness,” he said.

Sharma said that prediction of the meteorological department are fairly accurate and authorities can issue timely alerts to people in case there is prediction of very heavy rainfall.

“This will also help prevent loss of life,” he said.

Santosh Kumar, a professor at the National Institute of Disaster Management with expertise in disaster risk reduction and policy planning, said climate change was also a factor in cities getting excessive rainfall.

“Urban flooding occurs when water flows into an urban region faster than it can be absorbed into the soil. Earlier, a city received such amount of rainfall in two to three weeks,” Kumar said, referring to Mumbai getting 350 mm rainfall on August 29-30.

He said the cities do not have spaces to absorb the excess water or to store it.

“Rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and population growth have also contributed to drainage systems getting congested. These drains are not able to take the pressure of huge water accumulated due to heavy rain, leading to waterlogging,” Kumar told IANS.

He said steps should be taken to improve garbage disposal and ensure that plastics do not find their way to drains.

“Urban ecosystems comprising marshlands, wetlands, lakes and rivers have steadily deteriorated,” Kumar added.

Vinod Kumar Jain, director of NGO Tapas which works in revival of water bodies in Delhi, said “water harvesting can play a significant role in reducing the chances of flooding in urban areas.”

Rainwater harvesting refers to trapping and storing rainwater so that it can be used at a later time when the need arises.

Heavy rainfall in Delhi last month had flooded roads and caused huge traffic snarls. On August 19, many parts of Chandigarh were flooded due to heavy rains. Chennai had witnessed severe flooding in 2015 while floods in Mumbai in 2005 had killed over 500 people. (IANS)

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First Pollution early Warning System Aims to reduce Health Impacts and Deaths from Air Pollution

Ahmedabad was among the five most polluted cities in India in terms of PM 2.5, according to the WHO's 2014 Ambient Air Pollution database

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Air pollution, (Taken from VOA).
  • Ahmedabad was among the five most polluted cities in India in terms of PM 2.5
  • PM 2.5 is particulate matter finer than 2.5 micro-metres, or about 30 times finer than a human hair
  • The AMC had drafted a comprehensive Air Action Plan to combat pollution from construction activities, vehicular emissions, and industries in 2016

Ahmedabad, May 31, 2017: The first monitoring and early warning system in India was launched on May 12 in Ahmedabad, with the hope that it will reduce the health impacts and deaths from air pollution, a growing problem in a country with nine of the world’s 20 most polluted cities in 2016.

Eight new air quality monitoring sites across Ahmedabad will produce a daily air quality index (AQI) that will be accessible to citizens through 11 LED screens, as part of what is called the Air Information and Response (AIR) plan.

An early warning system will notify people of excessive pollution days as part of the response plan, while medical professionals will be trained to respond to air-pollution emergencies in the city of over 5.5 million people.

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Ahmedabad was among the five most polluted cities in India in terms of PM 2.5, according to the WHO’s 2014 Ambient Air Pollution database.

PM 2.5 is particulate matter finer than 2.5 micro-metres, or about 30 times finer than a human hair. Inhaled deep into the lungs, they can cause heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and respiratory diseases, and are known to pose the greatest risk to human health.

People living in more polluted areas die prematurely after long-term exposure to air pollution, and inconsistent monitoring makes it difficult to assess the threat posed by ambient air pollution.

The AIR plan is a collaborative effort between the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH), Natural Resources Defense Council, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology and the Indian Meteorological Department’s System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) network.

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The monitoring and warning system will be tried for the first time in India, but follows the successful example of Beijing, that started the programme for issuing colour coded pollution alerts in 2013.

The AMC has set aside a budget of Rs 30 lakh for 2017, Chirag Shah, nodal officer of the AIR plan and the Deputy Health Officer of the West Zone at the AMC, told IndiaSpend.

‘All the recurring costs, such as the maintenance of screens and stations, issuing advisories and initiating programmes to increase public awareness will also be borne by us,’ said Shah. SAFAR has invested about Rs 20 crore to install 10 AQI monitors — two in the adjoining city of Gandhinagar.

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The AMC had drafted a comprehensive Air Action Plan to combat pollution from construction activities, vehicular emissions and industries in 2016, its second such plan since 2002, but it is yet to be implemented.

‘If people don’t go to the highly polluted areas and follow the health advisory to minimise exposure, then symptoms will be reduced and there will also be a cost saving for citizens,’ Dileep Mavalankar, Director of IIPH told IndiaSpend. ‘So, it depends on how effectively we are able to communicate to patients and the people who are vulnerable to avoid exposure.’

As part of the AIR plan, the AMC will issue a health alert when the AQI forecast for the next 24 hours is ‘very poor’ (301-400). When the AQI forecast rises to ‘severe’ levels (401-500), a health warning will be issued.

Under the health alert, the nodal officer of the AIR programme will ‘inform urban health centres as well as private medical practitioners including pulmonologists, paediatricians to alert them to expect and be prepared for more cases of respiratory health effects’.

If the AQI exceeds 401 (severe), the nodal officer will inform urban health centres, the local ambulance service, transport, traffic police, the government radio station, schools, colleges, and the estate department — which handles permissions for real estate — in order to control road dust and construction work.

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‘Major contributors to air pollution are population, industries and vehicles. Rate of urbanisation and industrialisation leading to growth of vehicles make cities like Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot the hot spots for air pollution,’ according to a report by the Gujarat ENVIS centre.

Ambient levels of PM 2.5 from transport sources alone are expected to double by 2030 if no action is taken, according to a 2015 report by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Between 2000-01 and 2010-11, Ahmedabad’s vehicles more than doubled from 1.2 million to over 2.6 million. As of 2014-15, there were 3.4 million vehicles in the city. Ahmedabad also had more than 2,000 industrial air-polluting units as of May 2012, the report stated.

In Ahmedabad pollution comes from a variety of sources, including power plants and brick kilns. The city has two thermal power plants and more than 300 brick kilns.

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The Air Action Plan, if implemented, will reduce pollution from these sources through various measures such as improving fuel quality, phasing out commercial vehicles over 15 years old, traffic management, installing pollution control measures in industries and reducing pollution from thermal power plants.

In 2015, 153 of 168 days (93 per cent) monitored for air quality in Ahmedabad remained ‘good’, according to the national air quality index (AQI).

However, in 2016, the annual PM 2.5 average in Ahmedabad was 183.35 �g/m� (microgram/cubic metre), over 4.5 times the national ambient air quality standard of 40 �g/m� prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). In 2017, the monitor installed by the CPCB in Maninagar to provide real-time air-quality data has been working intermittently.

India Spend analysed air quality data from its monitoring systems, collectively called #Breathe, for two devices located in Ahmedabad for the duration March 14 to May 14, 2017, when CPCB data were unavailable.

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Of the 62 days that India Spend analysed, only six days (9.6 per cent) fell within the WHO guideline of 25 �g/m�. However, only three of 62 days were over the national standard of 60 �g/m�, meaning that 95 per cent of the monitored days fell within the permissible Indian standard for PM 2.5. The most severe air-pollution levels occur during the winter months of November, December and January. (IANS)