National Green Assembly on “ Waste Legislation and Waste Pickers” by AIKMM

The Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, has recently come out with the Draft Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, 2013 (MSW Rules). These rules would supersede the earlier MSW Rules, 2000 and have huge implications for the way waste is managed in cities across India. It is important to draw the attention that these rules completely lack to focus on the lives and livelihoods of millions of workers, both formal and informal, who have been involved in waste management. As per the claim it is also have lack of potential to address the problem of pollution control.

Millions of workers involve in work for waste collecting, sorting, recycling and selling material that someone else has thrown away by declaring it as garbage. Vital actors in the informal economy, these workers work hard for reducing carbon emission and save energy in handling the waste contribute to save the revenue and provide widespread discernible and indiscernible benefit to our society, municipalities and the environment. However, they face irony harsh working conditions, often low social status, deplorable living  condition and without  support from the government. Despite the fact that waste collectors recycle about 20 percent of the city’s waste saving the municipalities millions of rupees every year, they are unrecognized in legislation, criminalized by the administration and ignored by society. Instead of their role these workers which are named Waste pickers working for environment without any direct payment are not part of the public solid waste management systems and are socially invisible and seldom reported in official statistics.

The 3R (reduce, reuse and recycle) is most accepted universal recommendation to save the environment,  only followed by these workers. Waste picking is also responsive to the market driven conditions for recyclables and most often it is a family enterprise. It may appear to be a chaotic work but is absolutely organized. In some cities, most waste pickers are migrants and rejected from the global economic processes. This puts them in a more vulnerable condition with no legal entitlements despite the fact that they are “The real, Invisible Environmentalist”. In its 2009-10, Annual Report the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) estimated that approximately 55 million tons of MSW are generated in urban areas of India annually. It is estimated that the amount of waste generated in India will increase at a rate of approximately 1 – 1.33% annually , indicates that this problem will sustain if adequate measures will not taken.

India is one of the fastest growing economies of 6 to 9% GDP growth per year but despite these achievements and claims that economic development is happening, the disparity between rich and poor is widening, and this can be seen across the country– from large urban areas to small rural ones. According to ILO, despite of playing such an important role for the society and environment waste Pickers also fall under the 77% of the population who earn less than a dollar every day cause they are not authorized to collect the waste material from the source i.e.; home, factory, offices etc. Due to lack of recognitions and authorization, the waste pickers always suffered from atrocities by the Resident Welfare Associations, Policemen, Colony people, Municipal Authority etc. With little scope of earning, they are entangled in the web of bribery.
In spite of their vital role than any other government and nongovernmental agency involve protecting the environment , the government has never noticed them as an important informal sector but always taken their Name (Waste Picker) in the legislation.

In the new Draft The Gazette of India REGD.NO.D.L-33004/99  Page no. 26- Point no-9 (k) Management of Municipal Solid waste, they talked very little about the authorized waster Picker but very reluctant to recognize them, yet there is no such mechanism for authorizing it and thus  not a single waste Picker has been authorized by the government agencies. Even this Gazette has not authorized them. The roles, responsibility, and rights of the waste Picker has also not been mentioned in the draft Gazette. Yet the waste pickers have historically   demanding for the rights of collection & segregation of the waste material at the source level , which is only way to segregate the waste and can get potential to handle according to  the appropriate category .

This gazette also brought a forged and dangerous idea of waste to energy, in spite of knowing that in India it is not possible to generate Energy from the Waste, due to the properties of waste comparatively to the countries practicing this process. In 2012, an operational energy plant was set up in Delhi to produce electricity but more than one and half year this plant not able to produce one single unit of Electricity except to release toxic pollutants. On the other aspects, it is proved that in an area where waste to energy plant would run, as warned by concerned scientists there is a higher risk of disease likes Cancer and Impotence in Women.

Given the situation, it is of utmost importance that there should be dialogue between stakeholders to obtain different opinions on the Rules. It has been 13 years since the earlier Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, were framed, and approved by the MoEF. Various changes have taken place since then in the structure and format of waste management, its governance, and economic and financial aspects. However, until date, there has been no systematic review of these changes and the measures that have been taken to manage urban solid waste. It is time to carry out such a review. In order to make the new Rules valuable for society must reflect this new learning instead of simply being a slightly amended version of the existing rules. Even declared unsuccessful the policy of privatization by their promulgators the draft concludes, the private sector has the best proficient to handle the concerned responsibility. This is escape from the responsibilities as a results make the problem complicated to handle in future.

It is for this reason that All India Kabadi Mazdoor Mahasangh (AIKMM) has decided to host a dialogue of various stakeholders to thresh out the issues so that the new Rules may lay the foundation for much more sustainable, inclusive, and holistic waste management rather than the present inefficient draft.

Schedule of the Programme:

Date: 24 october

Time: 10 AM

Place: Constitution Club,Marg, New Delhi.


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