Compost plants die a slow death, await Government action

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Ahmed Bilal-

Set up on a Public Private Partnership framework with Municipal Corporation of Delhi, Okhla
waste plant is having a hard time to find any takers for the compost it produces. Capable of
producing an output of around 200 tons per day, the plant is producing 40 tons only, owing to
lack of demand.
Speaking at a roundtable discussion on ‘Managing Delhi’s Solid Waste’ SDMC Chief Engineer
Umesh Sachdeva said," Okhla compost plant is producing 40 tonnes of compost per day and has
a capacity of producing 200 tonnes per day but the compost that we produce has hardly any
takers."
A similar problem also persists in plants situated at Kanpur, Moradabad, Budaun and Indore,
where even though the efficiency of compost plants is minimal but still stocks continue to pile
in godowns. In Pune, the composting plant maintained by the Pune Municipal Corporation
produces around 9,000 metric tons of compost per month. About only 2,000 tons is used and
the rest remains in the depots.
According to the Report of Task Force on Wastes to Energy, published by erstwhile Planning
Commission in May 2014, the total quantity of waste currently (2014) handled in the urban
areas in the country is estimated to be about 62 million tons per year out of which merely 19%
of the total waste generated is currently treated.
With ever increasing rise in population of Delhi, menace of solid waste management is
increasing day by day. Delhi produces nearly 10000 tons of solid waste per day which is
projected to rise to 17,000-25,000 tonnes/day by the year 2021. In order to process and use
city waste as compost, the Government of India has notified the policy on promotion on city
compost as a component of “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan”. But where would the processed
compost – with dwindling demand – go remains a question.
Experts say, city compost can convert 50% of the volume of the waste generated into useful by-
product. Out of the collected municipal solid waste, only 10-15 per cent is used for composting
and the remaining is disposed at various landfills. Presently, all existing three landfills (Bhalswa,
Gazipur and Okhla) are fully packed and overflowing.
Last month, the Supreme Court infuriated on non-implementation of solid waste management
rules in the country said,” India will go down under the garbage one day.” It further added,

"Garbage mounds at the Ghazipur landfill site will one day touch the height of Qutub Minar and
red beacon light will have to be used to ward off the aircraft.”
Taking note of the menace of solid waste, The Ministry of Urban Development had set
an ambitious target of October 2019 for converting all organic waste generated in cities into
compost or biogas, and fertilizer companies have been advised to co-market City Compost with
chemical fertilizers through their dealer’s network.
However, Ashutosh Shukla, Manager, of operations in the Okhla waste plant said that it is "next
to impossible" to convert all the waste to compost by 2019 because most of the Urban Local
Bodies(ULB) in Country don’t have any modes of primary lifting of segregated waste.
Last year, the standing committee on chemicals and fertilisers in its report titled
‘Implementation of Policy on Promotion of City Compost’ observed that the key aspect to boost
city compost is by marketing through fertiliser companies. But the fertiliser companies are now
reluctant to market it, saying it affects their fertilizer sales.
About the less popularity of city compost amongst farmers, Sachdeva said, "Change in mindset
is required because farmers feel that the compost is made of garbage so it will not add value to
their fields."
The Chairman and Managing Director of Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers Limited informed
the committee that farmers are not accepting city compost as a fertilizer. It has no immediate
effect on the soil as any fertilizer like urea has. And the pricing of city compost is only Rs.50-
Rs.60 less than of urea. This difference of price is not attracting the farmers to purchase
compost.
In order to increase awareness among the farmers, Ajit Tiwari, Quality In-Charge, Okhla
compost plant said,” We are conducting door to door campaign, distributing posters, organizing
nukkad natak and making announcements about the benefits of compost. We are also creating
awareness about the segregation of wet and dry waste and as a result of this our efficiency
increased by 15-20%.” He further added "The fertilizer produced from this plant is in
accordance to the specification of Fertilizers Control Order.”
Chemical fertilizers which are easier to use and available at comparable rates are being
preferred by the farmers and cultivators.

“Farmers want instant result that is why they are preferring urea which increases soil content
and destroys the organic matter in soil, affecting the fertility of soil.” Shukla said. “Here the
responsibility of government becomes two-fold towards farmers. One is to educate the farmers
about the ill effects of chemical fertilisers and second is to facilitate them with city compost at
lowest cost possible.”

He further added,” This can serve as a solution to both the problems of solid waste and
increasing infertility of productive land.”
The department is working out methods to make city compost attractive for the farmers to use,
the department said in its written reply to the committee "The Department of Fertilizers is
providing Market Development Assistance of Rs.1500/- per MT to marketer of city compost for
scaling up production and consumption of City Compost which would be passed on to the
farmers in terms of reduced MRP."
Shukla said, "We are running in loss since last five years of about 7-8 Cr Per annum.”
On being asked, how can compost plant be made self-sustainable, Shukla said, "compost plant
should run as an integrated type of model and it is necessary that ULB’s itself use the city
compost in the rejuvenation of parks/land under it.”
Rs.7000 crore projects have been approved by the government to set up one plant in each city
by the year 2019, but where would the processed compost go with such dwindling demands
remains a question.

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