Rethinking waste management: Improving governance in India’s North East

  • IASbaba
  • January 1, 2021
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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Topic: General Studies 2,3:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Environmental Conservation 

Rethinking waste management: Improving governance in India’s North East

Context: North East India is the land of rising sun and has an abundance of fresh water sources. But that may not remain so in the coming days.

Issues of Waste Management in North East India

  • Lack of Waste Management system in ecological sensitive areas: The world’s largest, fully habituated river island Majuli is situated in the middle of Brahamputra, with the Kaziranga National Park touching Jorhat and Nagaon. Yet, none of these places have any waste management system or a waste water treatment plant
  • River Pollution: At least 85 per cent of the waste in the North East is unceremoniously dumped, without processing and treatment in the Ganga, Yamuna and Brahmaputra. Several dumpsites in India’s north-eastern states are located at wetlands or river banks.
  • Untapped Employment Generation Potential: If the Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 are implemented in letter and spirit, more than 12,000 jobs can be created in these towns. If extended to all villages, nearly 40,000 jobs related to door-to-door collection, composting and recycling value chain can be created.
  • Inadequate Capabilities: Municipalities in the North East lack the technical know-how. There is also a lack of political commitment from the local elected representatives. Some staff members lack adequate training and exposure. Most trainings are organised for commissioners and engineers but seldom for collection staff or sanitary supervisors.

Way Ahead

  • Strong Commitment: If we look at the top five cleanest cities of India, did they do it not because they received money but because there was strong commitment by people & authorities concerned.
  • Involving Community rather than spending big of technology: The solution for India lies in strengthening the existing system and integrating the informal sector in collection and recycling. The informal sector can remove more than 60 per cent of inorganic waste from dumpsites with little investment and save more energy through recycling.
  • Encouraging Small Companies: None of the cities that figured in the cleanest city of the country employed large companies for waste management. Rather, they relied on good local players, including self-help groups for women, waste picker cooperatives or even local non-profits and small contractor.
  • Enforcement of Waste Segregation Laws: A lack of municipal by-laws or enforcement of penalties regarding littering and non- segregation are the two worst forms of waste governance deficits. If authorities do not enforce it, cities cannot be kept clean for long time.
  • Collecting fees for Services rendered: It is important that people must learn to pay for services. The provision for payment for waste services are there in the laws but are not enforced because of objections by politicians. Surveys suggest that people will pay segregate their waste if there are systems in place
  • Reducing Corruption in administration:  There is a direct link between cleaner cities and corruption-free cities. For Ex: Top 10 cleanest cities of the world: Calgary, Honululu, Helsinki, Kobe, Oslo, Adelaide, Brisbane, Wellington etc. have very low corruption index.


  • North East India needs to reform its municipal governance along with building capacity of the lower staff of the municipal systems. The Swachh Bharat Mission will not succeed as long as we do not see commitment from the administration.

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