How Delhi is dealing with waste segregation and disposal

With a one-year deadline set by NGT in March to ensure full compliance, civic bodies are running against time to streamline waste segregation and disposal in the ‘model wards’. Sidharth Ravi and Shinjini Ghosh take stock of the measures under way, from awareness campaigns to training of waste pickers, updating databases of households to plans for penalties

June 18, 2019 01:32 am | Updated December 03, 2021 08:34 am IST

At a time when the national capital is reeling under increasing load of solid waste and struggling with its scientific disposal, the civic bodies have initiated a fresh drive to tackle the issue head-on. The East, South and North Municipal Corporations have undertaken several steps by converting certain wards under their jurisdiction into “model wards”.

Janakpuri South, which was declared a model ward by the SDMC in early May, witnessed mixed compliance from residents. While people The Hindu spoke to acknowledged that civic body officials had visited their homes and urged them to segregate garbage, total compliance was a long way off.

Akash, who collects garbage from about 70 houses, said people still don’t segregate the waste despite the awareness drive.

“They are supposed to sort the waste, but they don’t. If I tell them to separate degradable and bio-degradable waste, they say it is my job. I end up segregating the garbage myself. Though most of the garbage gets segregated, a few wrappers or pieces of paper might be sometimes left behind,” he said.


Amit Sharma, a resident, had a different take. He said for the last two months, his household has been only giving dry waste to the garbage collector. Wet waste, on the other hand, is sent to a compost plant in the locality once or twice a week, depending on the amount generated that week.

However, Sunita Nakul, an RWA member in one of the blocks, claimed no real initiative has been taken on waste disposal. “While the residents were told to segregate the garbage, the person who comes to collect it throws it in a single dustbin where it gets mixed,” she said.

According to officials, in Trilokpuri, which falls under EDMC jurisdiction, work is in progress to ensure compliance. Even as a handful of residents said that waste segregation at source takes place, others were caught unawares regarding the provision.

Surya Bhanj, residing in lane number 13 at Trilokpuri, attested that officials had visited her house a few months ago and demonstrated how to separate waste. “Around three to four months ago, we got designated bins. Officials who came to distribute the bins demonstrated how to segregate dry and wet waste. Since then, we have been doing it ourselves and when the garbage truck comes, we empty the waste in designated bags.”

However, for Heena and Aarti Devi, living a few lanes away, the concept of segregating the waste at home is a new one. “We are not aware of it. We either empty our household waste directly into the garbage trucks or keep it on the roadside. The garbage collector picks it up from there directly,” they said.

NGT order

The model ward initiative emerged after the National Green Tribunal passed an order in March this year directing the civic bodies to notify at least three wards or zones in their jurisdiction as model wards where complete compliance with solid waste management rules is expected.

Following a report furnished by the Delhi government, a Bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel had observed: “From the status report furnished by the Chief Secretary, a huge gap is noticed in the steps taken and the steps required to be taken in terms of [relevant] rules and for ensuring sustainable development. Unless such steps are taken, the unsatisfactory state of the environment in the country in general and in the State in particular may not improve.”

Directing the Chief Secretary to monitor compliance, the NGT had said that the “model wards” are required to be compliant within six months while the remaining wards or zones have to be made “fully compliant in respect of environmental norms within one year”.

In pursuance of the orders of the green tribunal, the three municipal corporations have undertaken different approaches to convert the notified wards into ‘model wards’ based on their location. All three, however, are focusing on ensuring source segregation of waste at the household and commercial level in their attempt to fully comply with municipal solid waste management by-laws.

An intensive Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaign has been launched. It involves distribution of pamphlets carrying information on how to go about source segregation, said senior officials of all three corporations. Additionally, through nukkad nataks or street plays, an attempt has been made to take the message to all households.

Targets set

While the NGT ordered that notified wards should be declared as ‘model wards’ in six months, all three corporations are at different stages of achieving the target.

In EDMC, a spokesperson said that in three wards the corporation has targeted source segregation in up to 60,000 households. So far, the corporation records state that it is taking place in over 13,500 households.

“We realised that people didn’t understand what is wet and dry waste. So we are distributing stickers which carry pictures to educate people. Most people don’t know what they are even supposed to do,” the official said.

To find a solution and achieve the target, the EDMC has roped in waste pickers and issued identification cards to 70 of them. They will be trained in source segregation and tasked with communicating it to the household waste generators.

Earlier, attempts were made by the corporation to train waste pickers with the help of NGOs, the official said. However, the trainees were dispersed to different wards and the move went futile.

“This time, the training will be concentrated in the model wards. So it is expected to yield dividends. Wet waste from the selected wards is to be kept in a separate section of the garbage dumps and will be transferred to compost pits. Dry waste will go to waste-to-energy plants,” he explained.

The official added that while mixed waste was still being generated and taken to the Ghazipur landfill, a database of households would help ensure identification of generators and separation of garbage.

In SDMC, a senior official explained that surveys were undertaken to collect basic data such as the number of households and types. This was combined with data from the property tax department. The information will be used to commence user charges, following the enlisting of a new concessionaire, he said. The official claimed that a tie-up with the area electricity discom is also under way to issue user charges along with electricity bills.

According to the municipal solid waste by-laws, violation of source segregation attracts penalties, which the official said the corporation plans to implement soon. Different penalty structures apply to different types of waste generators. In SDMC, the corporation is also attempting to go beyond the NGT’s mandate. The short-term mandate is to ensure the civil bodies have three model wards ready by six months, which the corporations are focusing on now.

Additionally, the SDMC is also prepping three model wards each in their six zones right now, the official said.

In North Delhi Municipal Corporation, intensive IEC exercises are being undertaken. In Rohini-G, a senior official said that the campaign has seen modest success with the amount of wet garbage increasing steadily. The garbage dumps in the area are also being regularly monitored. Here, training is also being imparted to household helps with regard to source segregation.


While the green panel expects the first quarterly report by June 30, the Chief Secretary is also expected to meet all the District Magistrates once a month to monitor the progress.

Uphill task

Chitra Mukherjee, the head of programmes at NGO Chintan, said, “The proposal for model wards is a smart initiative even though it is an uphill task, as citizens need to be a part of the system. Sometimes they are reluctant as they are not aware of the importance of segregation of waster at source. We are in the process of training RWAs but it is important that more IEC programmes are conducted to raise awareness. Many stakeholders, including citizens, RWAs and waste pickers, need to be trained. We have already started work in Sadiq Nagar after being ap proached by the localcouncillor.”


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