Unused Compost Trashes Govt’s Rs 7,000 Cr Waste Management Plan

Govt plans to convert all urban organic waste into compost by 2019, but the problem is this by-product has no buyers

4 min read
Hindi Female

A public private partnership (PPP) set up with a Municipal Corporation of Delhi waste plant in Okhla is having a hard time finding takers for the compost it produces.

Capable of producing an output of around 200 tonnes per day, the plant is just producing 40 tonnes as of now, due to low demand.

Speaking at a round table discussion on 'Managing Delhi's Solid Waste', SDMC Chief Engineer Umesh Sachdeva said:

Okhla compost plant is producing 40 tonnes of compost per day and has a capacity of producing 200 tonnes per day but the compost that we produce has hardly any takers.

Delhi’s Garbage Crisis

A similar problem also persists in plants situated at Kanpur, Moradabad, Budaun (in UP) and Indore (in MP), where even though the efficiency of compost plants is minimal but stocks continue to pile up in godowns. In Pune, the compost plant maintained by the Pune Municipal Corporation produces around 9,000 metric tonnes of compost per month. But only 2,000 tonnes (approximately) is used and the rest remains in the depots.

According to the task force’s report on ‘Wastes to Energy’, published by the erstwhile Planning Commission in May 2014, the total quantity of waste (in 2014) handled in the country’s urban areas is estimated to be about 62 million tonnes per year, out of which merely 19 percent of the total waste generated is currently treated.

With the ever increasing population of Delhi, the menace of solid waste management is increasing day-by-day. Delhi produces nearly 10,000 tonnes of solid waste per day, which is projected to rise to 17,000-25,000 tonnes/day by 2021. In order to process and use the city’s waste as compost, the government of India has notified the policy on promoting city compost as a component of “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan”. But with dwindling demand, where would the processed compost go remains a question.


Non-Implementation of Solid Waste Management Rules

Experts say that the city can can convert 50 percent of the volume of the waste generated into useful by-products. Out of the collected municipal solid waste, only 10-15 percent is used for composting and the remaining is dumped into various landfills. Presently, the three existing landfills (Bhalswa, Gazipur and Okhla) are packed and overflowing.

Last month, the Supreme Court, infuriated about the non-implementation of solid waste management rules in the country, said, “India will go down under garbage one day.” It further added, “Garbage mounds at the Ghazipur landfill site will one day touch the height of Qutub Minar, and red beacon lights will have to be used to ward off airplanes.”

Taking note of the menace of solid waste, the Union Ministry of Urban Development had set an ambitious target of October 2019 for converting all organic waste generated in cities into compost or bio-gas, and fertilizer companies have been advised to co-market this compost with chemical fertilizers through their dealer’s network.

However, Ashutosh Shukla, Manager, Operations, Okhla Waste Plant, said that it is "next to impossible" to convert all the waste to compost by 2019 because most of the urban local bodies in the country don't have any mode of primary lifting of segregated waste.

Last year, the standing committee on chemicals and fertilizers, in its report titled ‘Implementation of Policy on Promotion of City Compost’, observed that the key aspect of boosting city compost is by marketing it through fertilizer companies. But fertilizer companies are now reluctant to market the product, saying it will affect their sales.

About the lowering popularity of city compost among farmers, Sachdeva said, "Change in mindset is required because farmers feel that the compost is made of garbage so it will not add value to their fields."

The Chairman and Managing Director of Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers Limited informed the committee that farmers are not accepting city compost as fertilizer. It has no immediate effect on the soil as any fertilizer like urea has. While city compost is cheaper by Rs 50 to Rs 60 (compared to urea), this difference in price is not attractive enough for the farmers to purchase compost.


Awareness Programmes Regarding Compost Usage

In order to increase awareness among the farmers, Ajit Tiwari, quality in-charge of the Okhla waste plant, said, “We are conducting door-to-door campaigns, distributing posters, organising street plays and making announcements about the benefits of compost. We are also creating awareness about the segregation of wet and dry waste and as a result of this, our efficiency has increased by 15-20 percent.” He further added, “The fertilizer produced from this plant is in accordance with the specification of Fertilizers Control Order.”

Chemical fertilizers, which are easier to use and available at comparable rates, are preferred by the farmers and cultivators. Shukla says:

Farmers want instant results, that is why they prefer urea which increases soil content and destroys the organic matter in soil, affecting the fertility of the soil... Here the responsibility of the government becomes two-fold towards farmers. One is to educate them about the ill-effects of chemical fertilizers and second is to offer them city compost at the lowest cost possible.

Shukla further added, “This can serve as a solution to both the problems of solid waste and increasing infertility of productive land.”

The department said in its written reply to the committee: “The Department of Fertilizers is providing Market Development Assistance of Rs 1.500/- per metric tonne to the marketer of city compost for scaling up production and consumption of city compost which would be passed on to the farmers at a reduced MRP.”

Shukla said, “We’ve been losing about Rs 7-8 crore per annum annually, since the last five years.”

Rs 7,000 crore has been allocated by the government to set up one plant in each city by the year 2019, but where would the processed compost go remains the big question.

(Ahmad Belal is an MA student in Convergent Journalism at Jamia Millia Islamia. He tweets @ahmadbelalji.)

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