Kohima Buried Under Garbage

Litter lines the streets of the State Capital.

As India becomes wealthier the quantum of waste the country produces is rising proportionately. About 0.1 million tonnes of solid waste is generated in India daily. This means approximately 36.5 million tonnes annually but our cities are not equipped to deal with such large quantities of waste. However, due to our consumption patterns, 48% of all municipal solid waste is biodegradable. The non bio-degaradable portion mainly comprises plastic, metal, paper, glass and rags. But with urbanisation and change in lifestyle, the statistics and composition of waste is rapidly changing which calls for a desperate need for a scientific management disposal system that extends to every household in every city.
Kohima, the capital city of the north eastern state of Nagaland is just another example of an Indian city where garbage dumps are spilling litter onto the streets as the civic authorities look the other way. Meribeni Kikon, our community correspondent reports about this situation in her video, where residents complain about the apathy of the Kohima Municipal Council in doing its work. This hilly town produces about 45-50 tonnes of garbage daily of which only 50% is collected by the municipal council. The rest lies rotting in garbage dumps from where it often finds its way to the mountainous slopes aided by gusts of wind.

Indians for most part have a strong sense of recyling garbage, and it has been something of an age-old tradition. The “kabadiwala” or the junk man is a frequent visitor in residential neighbourhoods. He wheels his cart of scrap material calling out to people to come and sell him their junk. Women come out to hand him their paper, plastic, metal, glass and other odd objects that they have been carefully collecting over the last few months. Keeping his profits in mind, the kabadiwala pays for the junk by weight, with each type of junk having its own price. He then segregates the waste and sells it to recycling plants earning a good day’s wages. As cities grow, and high rises replace independent housing, the kabadiwala becomes a less frequent visitor and is now mostly found in lower income housing areas and in suburbs where people are still grateful for the small amount of money they make from selling junk. The system is already present, what needs to be done is to revive it and scientifically and sustainably incorporate it into the government’s waste management system.

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