No more waste mounds on Siachen glacier

Army has removed 130 tonnes of garbage and is cutting potential trash in rations

Updated - September 25, 2019 10:11 am IST

Published - September 25, 2019 01:30 am IST - New Delhi

Tough terrain:  Waste does not bio-degrade in the sub-zero temperature on the glacier.

Tough terrain: Waste does not bio-degrade in the sub-zero temperature on the glacier.

Since January 2018, nearly 130 tonnes of waste has been brought down from the Siachen Glacier and disposed of, Army sources said on Tuesday.

Based on a 2018 concept note on waste management on the glacier, the Army has made bringing down waste a part of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for troops.

“On an average, 236 tonnes of waste is generated every year on Siachen glacier. There is now a SOP, for every link patrol or administrative column to bring the waste down. The capacity of each person to carry is 10-15 kg due to the extreme weather,” an Army source said. Efforts are on to increase the disposal rate to 100 tonnes a year.

In the past, waste disposal work was fragmented and intermittent, but the Army is looking to cut waste in the rations and utilities delivered on the glacier, and make Siachen garbage free in 12-15 years.

India has held the glacier’s dominating heights since it occupied them in 1984 under ‘Operation Meghdoot’. The 130 tonnes disposed of include 48.4 tonnes of biodegradable garbage, 40.32 tonnes of non-biodegradable, non-metallic waste and 42.45 tonnes of metallic scrap. The biggest challenge was the high altitude as most posts were located between 18,000 and 21,000 feet. Nothing degrades at sub-zero temperatures, so everything had to be brought down.

The three types of wastes are disposed of differently. Biodegradable waste consists of cartons and packets rolled using baling machines. For the non-biodegradable, non-metallic waste, three incinerators have been set up at Siachen base camp, Partapur, and near Bukdang village, at 10,000 feet.

The waste are burnt in the incinerators but they do not produce Carbon Monoxide, only fumes and ash. “The ash is used as manure,” the source said.

For the metallic waste, there were three extrication centres, the source said and added, “The plan is to procure industrial crushers to crush it and send it down.”

While there are transit camps after the base camp, the actual posts are located at heights of 18,000 feet and above, the Bana post being the highest on the glacier close to 22,000 feet. At 18,000-19,000 feet, Indian and Pakistani posts face each other. However, beyond 20,000 feet, it is only India.

The Army has collaborated with the civil administration there and barrels have been painted and set up in villages around to segregate waste. “The disposal mechanism is being used by the civilian administration as well,” officials said.

The concept paper of the Army states that the process of waste generation is essentially rooted in the survival of troops present on the glacier and their need to be operationally prepared and logistically supported to undertake combat operations in such terrain and weather conditions.

“Since every item inducted into the glacier is a potential source of waste, the entire process of waste generation needs to be viewed holistically through total tonnage inducted into the glacier for requisite logistics support to these troops. Even at the broadest level, nature of waste and quantity varies from location to location,” it stated. The three-way segregation is being done on this basis.

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