Kickstarting Rural Waste Management Programme in J&K 

Solid waste being dumped in water bodies such as the Poonch river [image by: Raja Muzaffar Bhat]

SCIENTIFIC waste management programmes are no more a prerogative of people living in cities and towns. Like municipal institutions providing sanitation service to people in urban areas, the gram panchayats in association with NGOs, Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and Self Help Groups (SHG) will now be working at the grassroot level to ensure solid and liquid resource (SLRM) management. Under the national flagship programme, Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) has already launched a solid liquid waste management programme in several states of India but in Jammu & Kashmir this programme was yet to be launched.

The mission was started to accelerate the efforts to achieve universal sanitation coverage. Under this mission launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 2nd October 2014, all villages, Gram Panchayats, Districts, States and Union Territories in India declared themselves "open-defecation free" (ODF) by 2 October 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, by constructing over 100 million toilets in rural India. "To ensure that the open defecation free behaviours are sustained, no one is left behind, and that solid and liquid waste management facilities are accessible, the Mission is moving towards the next Phase II of SBMG i.e ODF-Plus. ODF Plus activities under Phase II of Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) will reinforce ODF behaviours and focus on providing interventions for the safe management of solid and liquid waste in villages," the official report on the mission said.

However, in Jammu & Kashmir, government is now contemplating to undertake solid and liquid waste management in all the rural areas of Jammu & Kashmir. The Mission Director, SBM Grameen J&K, Tariq Hussain Ganai, recently organised a stakeholder’s orientation workshop and announced that within a few months the work on waste management in rural areas would be taken up. More than 50 officers of Rural Development Department, NGOs and media participated in this orientation programme. Noted plastic waste management expert from Bhopal, Mr Imtiaz Ali, was the resource person during the event.

Infact, Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin guidelines of 2014 and revised guidelines of 2017 also had a provision of waste management programme but States and UTs had more challenging issues like countering open defecation which caused a lot of delay in starting the solid liquid waste management programme. It was in 2019 that the waste management programme (SBM-II) was launched which is also called Open Defecation Free Plus (ODF Plus) programme. This too faced a setback due to COVID 19. Around the end of 2020, the work on solid liquid waste management or ODF- plus was taken up and is being implemented in a phased manner across rural India. To ensure that waste is not taken to be useless entity, its name was replaced with “resource” a few years back.

Under SBM, construction of Individual House Hold Lavatories (IHHL) is an important component. Govt provides Rs 12,000 to the families who don't have a washroom. In J&K many families who already have a lavatory, submit the photos of the same before the BDO office in connivance with officials from the same office and get the money under IHHL. The officials also got a handsome cut from the beneficiary. Finally one fine morning a village in Kashmir is declared Open Defecation Free (ODF). But the reality is that people hardly used to defecate in open in the said village.

It would have been better had the IHHL money been utilized for waste management, cleaning canals etc. Infact there is already a programme called Solid Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) under Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin. This programme has now been named as Solid Liquid Resource Management (SLRM). Waste is indeed a wealth and resource provided we handle it by applying our mind and knowledge.

Constitution of Apex committee in J&K

Government recently gave its sanction for the constitution of an Apex Committee for implementation of Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen (SBM-G) in the Union Territory of J&K. The seven to eight member committee is headed by the Chief Secretary. Other members of the committee include Administrative Secretaries of  Finance,Health,Rural Development , Information and Jal Shakti. Experts in the field of sanitation,hydrology,IEC,HRD, Media, NGOs shall also be the members of this high level committee. This apex committee which was constituted vide Govt order No: 1116-JK(GAD) of 2021 Dated: 21.10.2021 will be advising the Mission Directorate of  SBM – Grameen J&K (Directorate of Rural Sanitation).The committee shall be serviced by the department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj.

SLWM in rural areas 

The guideline number 6.10.7 of SBM Grameen says that every state or UT should have at least one Solid Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) Consultant at the State level and one SLWM Consultant in each district to guide the preparations of the SLWM projects for each Gram Panchayat (GP).

Assistance of professional agencies/NGOs may be sought to prepare/develop/test/implement such projects. The project preparation,supervision and monitoring costs of SLWM projects payable to such agencies may be made a part of the project cost itself. Maintenance costs for the first five years of operation may be made a part of the project cost. These projects can be made financially viable by dovetailing funds from other programmes and sources of funding like MG-NREGS, MPLAD, MLA-LAD funds, Finance Commission, CSR contribution, Swachh Bharat Kosh, donor funding, etc. Funding from programmes of other Ministries and departments may also be converged.

The guideline number 6.11.2 says that in order to implement the projects professionally, Specialists/ Consultants/Agencies from the fields of IEC, Human Resource Development, School Sanitation & Hygiene Education, SLWM, Monitoring and Evaluation etc. may be hired at the State and district levels for the project period. The guideline number  6.11.3 says that State / UT  Governments are advised to post a government officer as a full-time Block Sanitation Officer (BSO). Until that is made operational, the State governments may officially assign SBM(G) activities to a senior official posted at the Block level. He/She may be assisted by a Block Coordinator and a Data Entry Operator engaged on contract who shall be provided emoluments to be decided by State. This Block level arrangement shall be tasked with handholding, supervising and  monitoring every Gram Panchayat (GP)  in the implementation of SBM-Grameen scheme. SBM G guidelines has made it mandatory for every Gram Panchayat (GP) to have one Support Organization (SO) like an NGO member etc associated with it for assisting in furthering the sanitation programme. The State and District Missions are supposed to take necessary steps for providing supporting organisation to each panchayat.

DDC Chairman to head DSM-G

The Chairman of Zilla Parishad who is also known as Chairman District Development Council (DDC) in J&K will head the District Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen (DSM-G). The Deputy Commissioner/CEO Zilla Panchayat (DDC) shall be the Executive Vice Chairman. The members of the DSM-G would be all MPs/MLAs and MLCs of the district and Chairperson of the concerned Standing Committees of the Zilla Parishad (District Council)  or their representatives. The CEO of the Zilla Parishad, District Officers of Education, Health, Panchayati Raj, Social Welfare, ICDS, PHE  Jal Shakti, Agriculture, Information and Public Relation will also be the members of this district level committee. The NGOs can be identified by the DSBM(G) and co-opted into the Mission as members.

The CEO of the District Panchayat/Parishad, the Executive Engineer of PHE Jal Shakti , District Engineer of the Zilla Panchayat or any other officer approved by State Swachh Bharat Mission - SSBM(G) shall be the Member Secretary.  The Mission as per SBM-G guidelines shall meet at least once a quarter.  DSBM-G are supposed to plan and advise on implementation of the SBM (G) in the district with appropriate Information Education and Communication (IEC) strategies and convergence mechanisms with all line departments.

Funding 

SBM-G is a centrally sponsored scheme with fund sharing pattern between centre and states, UT’s. This is 90 :10 for North Eastern States , Himachal Pradesh , Uttrakhand and UT of Jammu & Kashmir. 100 % funding is provided to remaining UT’s and 60 :40 ratio for the rest of the states. A village with a population upto 5000 people is provided Rs 60 per capita for solid waste management and upto Rs 280 per for grey water management. Villages with more than 5000 population get Rs 45 per capita for solid waste management and upto Rs 660 for grey water management. 30 % of the amount has to be borne by Gram Panchayats from the 15th Finance Commission grants. Construction of the soak pits , compost pits and grey water management tanks etc will be taken care under MG-NREGS.

The States are to decide the technologies suitable to their areas. Technologies identified by the Committee on Technologies may also be considered for implementation. Collection, segregation and safe disposal of household garbage, decentralized systems like household composting and biogas plants are permitted. Activities related to maximum reuse of organic solid wastes as manure are to be adopted under SLWM. Such technologies may include vermi-composting or any other composting method, individual and community biogas plants.

Conclusion 

As the Chief Secretary is himself heading the Apex Committee on implementation of Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen phase-II with the main focus on solid and liquid waste management, one can hope that our villages which are choked with plastic and liquid waste will look neat and clean in the coming months and years. I would suggest that the Government make in-house composting of organic waste mandatory in rural areas as the rural households have enough space to dig compost pits or use plastic drums for composting the food and other organic waste. Low cost technologies for liquid waste management should be adopted. Government must ensure to make these waste management projects workable for the years to come as we have very bad experience of the past wherein only civil works were taken up and the projects like these failed to work soon after being inaugurated.


Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

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Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow and Chairman Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement. Feedback [email protected]

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