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CREED Paper #24: Analysing Urban Solid Waste in Developing Countries

Author(s)Pieter van Beukering, Madhushree Sehker, Vijay Kumar
Co-Author(s)Reyer Gerlagh
Serie(s)Creed Working Papers


Increasing amounts of waste, both solid and liquid, are being generated as a result of the rapid rate of urbanisation. This in turn presents greater difficulties for disposal. The problem is more acute in developing countries, such as India, where the pace of economic growth as well as urbanisation is faster.

Various concepts have been developed over theyears to provide the basis for improving the solid waste conditions in developing cities. Among them, integrated Solid Waste Management (SWM) provides a framework which has been very successful in various industrialised countries. However, urban governments in developing countries are constrained by limited finances and inadequate services which prevent them from tackling the problem effectively. In addition, their SWM planning is hampered by a lack of data while information at all levels, if available, is generally unreliable, scattered and unorganised. As a result, planning of SWM is a difficult task.

This paper attempts to understand the SWM process on the basis of an evaluation of the waste flow in the study area of Bangalore. The objective here is to review the available literature in order to derive lessons and apply the insights to an analysis of the situation in the field. In addition to the literature data are collected from the field. Despite several analytical shortcomings of this study, the flow evaluation highlights various priority issues that need to be addressed in future SWM planning in Bangalore as well as other Indian cities. These include: inadequate municipal services due to limited resources; an absence of hygienic and scientific disposal systems; a lack of public awareness for waste management resulting in high levels of unsegregated waste generation and littering; the existence of an extensive informal network which is mainly driven by market forces and functions partly on subsistence levels; the absence of sufficient capacity for waste processing, in particular for organic waste which is in most abundance; the existence of a relatively small market for recycled waste products.

Although SWM includes a range of stakeholders, the contribution of government is imperative. This does not necessarily have to be financial. For example, the government should make a formal commitment to an integrated SWM approach, and recognise the contribution of existing informal recycling networks. Moreover, waste recycling can be promoted through consumer campaigns encouraging citizens to co-operate in waste separation. A more realistic fee for waste services could be extracted in return for a guarantee that these services will be provided. Finally, to be effective. SWM requires regular and proper monitoring of disposal activities.


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