Managing Hazardous Industrial Waste in Indian Cities

According to government reports,  Indian cities are currently generating a staggering 62 million tonnes of municipal solid waste annually, with projections indicating that this figure could double in the coming decade. Unfortunately, rising industrial activities and expanded healthcare facilities have only exacerbated this problem by adding hazardous and biomedical waste to the mix. While economic development and improved living standards are welcome, the waste they generate as a by-product has potentially severe environmental and human health consequences. It is, therefore, imperative for cities to prioritise waste management and explore innovative solutions to treat waste both in the present and the future.

Waste management for hazardous wastes typically involves identifying toxic substances, segregating them from non-hazardous waste, and treating them in specialised facilities to minimise their impact on human health and the environment. The process can include the collection, transportation, storage, treatment, and disposal of hazardous waste in a manner that is compliant with relevant regulations and guidelines. Generally, the treatment involves rendering the waste harmless or inert enough to be safely disposed of, especially without causing harm to water bodies. 

India generates over 4 million tons of hazardous waste annually, with Gujarat alone accounting for over a third of this figure. There is a need to explore alternative ways to manage this waste, such as using them as alternative fuels for other industries. Additionally, incineration is a common method of reducing the toxicity and volume of hazardous waste. Hazardous waste landfill sites are also designed scientifically with impervious lining to prevent soil and water pollution or contamination from leachate. 

Dealing with industrial waste in cities and towns can be a major challenge due to several factors. For instance, industries often have no designated disposal sites to eliminate their waste. Additionally, many of these industries are small-scale and do not seek proper consent from regulatory bodies. As a result, they tend to be located in non-conforming areas, which leads to water and air pollution caused by solid waste disposal. Furthermore, industrial estates within city limits often lack the necessary infrastructure to effectively collect, treat, and dispose of liquid and solid waste. Infrequent coordination between urban local bodies and regulatory bodies regarding the issuance of licences and handling of waste management issues in non-conforming areas makes the process difficult. These challenges require a comprehensive and collaborative approach between industry, regulatory bodies, and local authorities to ensure effective waste management and minimise the impact of solid waste on the environment and public health.

The lack of specific disposal sites, inadequate facilities, and non-compliance by industries have contributed to the growing pollution levels in cities and towns. The need of the hour is to develop more sites of waste management that are scientifically designed and efficiently managed to ensure that the waste generated is disposed of in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner. The future of waste management in India is promising, as the government is taking measures to increase awareness and create a conducive policy framework.  With advancements in technology and the adoption of innovative waste management practices, India has the potential to emerge as a leader in sustainable waste management in the years to come.