The term solid waste or municipal solid waste was defined in the Indian context by the Government of India back in 1986. The government described it as all the commercial as well as residential wastes generated in solid or semi-solid form. This referred to the waste generated in a municipal or notified area but excluded any industrial hazardous waste. However, an exception is the treated bio-medical waste, which is included in the government definition.
Over the years, the growth of urban centers has led to civic services being in short supply, leading to massive pressure on the existing infrastructure and services, which in turn has resulted in impairing the quality of service. Managing and disposal of solid waste has become a major challenge for urban civic governments across the world in general, and in India in particular because of its large population and limited amenities. The government’s e-governance initiatives under the Digital India program have endeavored to address the issue.
In several urban areas across the country, e-governance has been adopted to manage solid waste disposal, thanks to the Swacha Bharat mission.
Let’s begin by understanding what solid waste management really entails. Generally speaking, it is a basic service that the public health department provides through a series of activities, ranging from collection to transportation and disposal of garbage. Within the ambit of solid waste management are other related activities that include collecting garbage related information from different places, allocating the necessary manpower to clean it up and then ensuring that the garbage so collected is transported out of the area and finally disposed off. All these activities need to be stringently managed and monitored by the agencies involved.
Tasks to be executed daily
As of today, urban civic authorities need to execute multiple tasks with respect to solid waste management, including planning, managing, tracking and monitoring, as well keeping a check on vehicle and personnel allocation, and trip planning. While executing these tasks the authorities encounter multiple challenges, including difficulty in manually locating the bins, monitoring the actual collection of waste from the designated bin/location, redressing citizens’ complaints and manually preparing the status report on the work is very time consuming.
It’s here that e-governance comes to play a critical role. Under the e-governance initiative, GIS and GPS enabled services make the task easy to execute, expeditious, simple, transparent and citizen-centric. However, it’s important to ensure that the urban civic bodies are endowed with certain ‘inputs’ and should be able to execute the necessary ‘processes’.
The essential inputs that are required to be included are GIS location and co-ordinates of bins in dumping yards, vehicles equipped with GPS, system for automation of fee collection, automated system to record the volume of landfill sites, automated data transfer to database from diverse devices, computerization of weighbridge and centralized database for storing repositories.
The processes include mapping of all bins and landfill sites to be on GIS/MIS, auto generation of status (online monitoring system), automated workflow mechanism, facilities for online payment and automatic update in database, optimizing the transportation path, optimizing the collection points, automated alerts for tracking deviations, proper tracking and monitoring of resources to enable quick decision making, and ability to track the status.
Provided these points are taken care of, e-governance brings immense benefits in solid waste management including:
- Does away with the human interface in the process of solid waste management from the start to the end (bill disposal)
- Monitors the status of garbage bins
- Monitors the vehicle in real time to enhance per vehicle productivity and reduce non-compliance, availability of MIS for effective planning of resources
- MIS helps the authorities to plan things more effectively with respect to scheduling, resources and unforeseen exigencies
- Ensures transparency in civic governance
State governments across the country are slowly realizing the importance of e-governance for better civic administration. And the benefits realized by the civic bodies have exemplified its effect. With the government’s zealous efforts to popularize e-governance, it’s likely to create a positive impact on urban civic bodies across the country.