URBAN AGRICULTURE ON STABILISED CITY WASTE
Mrs Almitra H Patel, MS MIT
, Member, Supreme Court Committee for Solid Waste Management, 50
Every town and city can improve its existing dumps and manage its
city waste hygienically and sustainably, starting today, at
minimal start-up cost.
There are three
different stages of waste management.
Firstly, city waste needs to be sanitised ( a
process of controlled decomposition that makes the waste free of
smell, flies, smoke or fires, and producing minimum leachate that
can pollute ground-water). This
obligatory duty must and should be done immediately, without
waiting for fancy solutions or expecting any income from waste
small towns, this can be done by sprinkling each day’s heaps of
fresh waste with a 5% solution of fresh cowdung in water plus
preferably 5 kg per ton of rock phosphate powder.
Today there are many many biocultures available which can
do the same job of starting eco-friendly decomposition more
conveniently : fermentation cultures like EM which require no
turning of the waste, aerobic cultures like those of Excel
Industries and Eco-save, and those like BTM from Earthcrop which
can treat both solid waste as well as septic tanks and polluted
costs are low and are more than paid for by savings in health-care
costs to both cities and citizens.
As a second step,
the stabilized waste can be sold as compost after sieving
to remove plastics and unwanted items.
Sieving is currently the major cost in compost production
and will remain so until cities improve their collection of
biodegradable waste free of recyclables, debris and road dust.
This makes compost hard to sell for two reasons.
Firstly, the price seems too high to farmers, even though
one ton of compost can give the same results as 4-5 tons of
traditional farmyard manure and, being weed-free, saves labour as
farmers fear they may be paying for just dust and soil instead of
useful microbes and water-holding humus content.
Once farmers have tried city compost, replacing part of
their chemical fertilizer cost with at least 0.5 ton per acre of
city compost, yields clearly improve, and stay improved over time.
Finally, like our
century-old grass farms for sewage treatment, the ultimate aim of
waste management is to turn waste back into food.
The stabilized garbage after sieving can be moved to farms
or gardens for use. Or,
unsieved sanitized waste can be spread over part of the former
dumpsite, as at Dhapa in
, and used to grow low-cost produce on-site for the city.
In order of preference, one should grow flowers or non-edible
crops, or things that can be peeled before eating, such as
bananas, maize, pumpkins etc rather than hard-to-wash vegetables
like cauliflower or greens.
This is called
Urban Agriculture, and is lowering the cost of produce for the
poor in 30-40 developing countries and even for charities in
developed countries. Urban
Agriculture also helps to keep down the dust at disposal sites and
prevents their illegal encroachment by shanties.`
, one must avoid arrangements that can confer tenancy or
cultivator rights on hard-to-get public lands for waste
management. This conference can debate possible options, such as
allotting plots for cultivation by rag-picker cooperatives,
perhaps on rotation basis.
For rapid progress
and quick results, some immediate policy decisions are absolutely
No municipality should expect or demand payment from
private waste managers. They
should rather be encouraged to earn profits so as to sustainably
do an eco-friendly job of what
is basically the obligatory duty of the city administration.
Lease rents for space should be a minimal Re 1 per acre or
per sq meter per year, payable in compost or produce, not in cash.
Tender-free systems should be put in place for purchase of
composting biocultures. AILSG
can take the lead in putting the half-dozen city-tested ones on
their approved product list for purchase in
. Experienced and reputed organizations in the field of
testing, compost and agriculture like CESE, KVIC Wardha can
be asked to help evaluate the effectiveness of
such biocultures for the guidance of purchasers, for whom
ultimately successful results are the best test. BIS is apparently
working on standards.
composting or vermi-composting (an alternative to sieving of
stabilized waste) is the chosen option for a city’s wastes, that
effort must be encouraged by purchase of the end-product by the
city. There should be
a minimum and maximum purchase price established, say Rs 1200-1500
per ton, and a minimum guaranteed monthly purchase quantity equal
to at least one-day’s waste-production in cubic meters.
Payment for this should be through bank against
acknowledgement of supply.
Waste-processors should be given preference in collecting
biodegradable market and hotel wastes if they so desire, on the
same terms as those negotiated for other contract transporters,
without the need for separate tender procedures.
Decentralised waste-processors who undertake on-site
waste-processing that saves transport, stabilizing and landfilling
costs to a municipality, should be paid at least 70-80% of such
avoided costs, so as to have a win-win situation for both the city
and the cooperating residents or entrepreneurs.
Finally, first and last, waste minisation at source
should be the goal of every town and city.
This can be achieved by requiring users of above-average
open spaces, like golf courses, racecourses and clubs, large
hotels or halls, colleges, housing estates etc to become
zero-garbage campuses, or alternatively to pay polluter-pays
fees for trade wastes and wastes generated in the course of