Project changes mindsets, provides solutions
The city of Delhi has launched a groundbreaking project that will transform the way it deals with its waste. The project, jointly developed by the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), marks the first integrated solid waste management system in India, covering door-to-door collection, transportation, treatment, and disposal of waste. Construction is nearing completion, with system expected to be fully functioning by the year’s end.
The project’s significance is both local and global.
In Delhi, it solves a growing sanitation problem and prevents the release of 96,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) into the atmosphere each year. “These early projects have immediate value to the cities where they are delivered,” says Karen Luken, Director of CCI’s Waste Management Program. “But we have also designed them to serve as best practice models that can be replicated across other big cities.”
This ability to replicate projects is an important feature of CCI’s approach – for waste management is both a climate and health issue. Waste in landfills now ranks third among the largest sources of global methane emissions – a greenhouse gas stemming largely from the decomposition of organic matter and 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
In many developing countries, the practice of dumping is entrenched, and systems to collect and manage garbage are rare, leaving 2.6 billion people susceptible to health risks and related economic loss. Across the board, seeing garbage as an important resource is something new.
“So much of our work is to change the mindset of how people perceive garbage,” Luken says. “The challenge is in getting cities to look at alternative ways of using garbage, and then working with them to close the margin between finding the cheapest way and the most sustainable way.”
Delhi’s new system closes that margin successfully. It will process 1,000 tons of waste a day, converting organic waste into compost and recycling plastics and paper to create a refuse-derived fuel product. Both are potential sources of revenue that can offset costs. Other materials will go to a state-of-the-art landfill that meets the highest environmental standards.
The project will generate employment opportunities for local people, including those who used to eke out a living by scavenging for saleable materials in the open dumps – and they will be granted access to some portion of the site for collecting recyclables.
The mayor of Delhi, Dr. Kanwar Sain, is duly proud of this achievement. “Waste management is a big concern for Delhi, and CCI has been a constant partner and catalyst in helping us address this issue,” he says. “By identifying the best technologies at the outset, bringing international companies to the table quickly, and establishing a tender process that was transparent and equitable, CCI raised our game and helped us move remarkably fast.”
CCI has supported Delhi every step of the way, beginning with the development of the initial strategy and feasibility reports through the entire procurement process. “Working with the MCD has been a very positive experience, in large part because the mayor and the municipal commissioner have been engaged from the start,” Amit Jain, Regional Coordinator- South Asia of CCI’s Waste Management Program, says. “I think they were galvanized by the opportunity to reduce emissions and deliver critical sanitation services to their citizens -- in a single action.”
Delhi’s waste management system is just one example of CCI’s work in this arena. In conjunction with CCI City Directors, CCI’s Waste Management team is developing projects in a number of cities across the world, helping local governments reduce reliance on landfills by using waste as a resource for materials or energy.
“We help cities change their mindset and their policies – and even the way they have traditionally obtained services. The importance of doing it correctly upfront is essential,” Luken says. “At the end of the day, they’ll have long-term, sustainable waste management systems that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the quality of life in their communities.”
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