The Flares of Disasters Solid Waste and The Killer Virus

Dec 14, 2017 |

Text: Badan Lal Nyachhyon

The Solid Waste issue in Nepal, particularly in Kathmandu Valley, flares up time again with the agitation of the local residents from Sisdole landfill areas and Teku Transfer station. As a result, solid waste dumped in the street corners will remain uncollected for several days and consequently a disastrous situation is created with environmental and public health hazard, traffic congestion and disrupted urban flow. Certainly, the heads of the decision makers face the turbulent vertex. The current Solid Waste Disaster of August-September 2017 is not the new one, which flared up with the agitation of the people from Sisdole area and the Kathmandu residents from Teku area. They have taken vow they will not allow the movement of Solid Waste vehicles unless rationale decisions are taken and their demands are not fulfilled.

On Sep 10, 2017, the Himalayan Times published the news on the recent situation of Solid waste in Kathmandu Streets created by the persistent obstruction by locals to disposal of KMC’s waste at the landfill site in Okharpauwa. Garbage on the roadside and at various intersections across the city had started piling up every day over the last few days that has not only affected traffic movement and pedestrians but also has posed serious health risks to the public. The understanding between KMC and the local protesting people was reached after talks that ended at 2:00 am morning.

The Author has listed the episode of August-September 2017 as the Fourth disaster flared up during its course of over last four decades.

Series of Disasters in Solid Waste Management
The previous disasters on Solid Waste Management sector are accounted as follows that had created suffering to the Kathmandu denizens. They are:

a. First Disaster of 1983-84: At that time, the solid waste sector was not an issue. Practically, none of the government institutions were responsible for solid waste management including the municipalities except as guided by “Sarsaphai adda” responsibilities. The scale and magnitude of the situation was not much remarkable but the littering with solid waste in all towns and tourists’ spots were unsightly and hazardous. This situation triggered the formulation of the First Project in Solid Waste Management with the support of the Government of Germany. The project established the composting and transfer station at Teku, Kathmandu and the first Land fill site at Gokarna, Kathmandu.

b. Second Disaster of 1990: The closure of pilot level waste processing facilities as Gokarna Landfill Site, Teku Transfer Station and institutional transformation from:
1) Panchayat System to Democratic System in 1990, and takeover of the Solid Waste Management affair in Kathmandu by Kathmandu Municipality following the refusal of the three municipalities namely Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur to make financial contribution to the Solid Waste Management Project (SWMP) and
2) Withdrawal of support of the German Government to the SWMP. The huge pile up of the Solid Waste in the major corners of Kathmandu Valley as Rani Pokhari, New Road, Ratna park, Pulchok, Patandhoka etc, which was reported by the Panaroma TV of Germany declaring Kathmandu as a environmentally unsafe place for tourists to visit. The tourism sector with a yield of over 500,000 tourists’ visits per year dropped down to less than 200,000, which forced closer of several hotels as Hotel Yellow Pagoda, Hotel Blue Star, Kathmandu Hotel, etc.

c. Third Disaster of 2006 July 24: On that day, Kathmandu municipality dumped the Solid Waste in the heart of Kathmandu in Tundikhel as a symbolic gesture to show the huge problems associated with the Solid Waste Management and failure of Sisdole Landfill site to function as a semi-aerobic facility that created huge environmental hazard with bad odor spreading over a large area about a distance of over 3 Km, and the agitation of local residents from Sisdole area protesting against the violence against human rights and environmental issues created by the malfunctioning of the Landfill site. Even today, the disaster created by the Sisdole landfill site is continued without any remedy.

d. Fourth disaster on August, 2017: The Sisdole site is again closed. Lalitpur municipality issued a press note declaring difficulty in collection and disposal of waste and asked the citizen for restraint and bear for the case, which is promised to be solved quickly. The issue is known for last two decades and very little efforts were made to solve it. We are waiting for the big procurement packages under Nepal Investment Board to be implemented. Probably, we have to suffer more.

e. Fifth disaster-in-Waiting in 2018: Next year, when the over saturated Sisdole land Fill Site will be closed due to the capacity exceedence. KMC will face huge problem of disposal without any alternative solution. The only option will be again to keep huge piles of waste unattended in the streets and corners of Kathmandu Valley, if alternative solutions are not sought in time. The proposed Banchare Land Fill Site needs to be implemented with urgency, otherwise a huge two-fold disaster may occur:
a) failure of the Sisdole Landfill site to accommodate additional disposal of waste, and
b) resistance of local residents blocking movement of vehicles carrying solid waste.

Bringing change to this pathetic situation of the sector needs very strong institutional strengthening of the sector through promoting strong strategic plan and institutional strengthening of the central, provincial and local level institutions for planning, coordination, implementation, execution, and performance monitoring, feedback, and mobilizing capital investment in waste management infrastructure.

The current Institutional Gap in dealing with Sisdole issue, which was dealt by the central agency before, has been divulged to the 22 local municipalities of Kathmandu Valley since July 2017. That means the burden of management deal with Sisdole Issue has to be repeated many folds and dealt by each of the 22 municipalities. Kathmandu Municipality, as the largest municipality in the Valley, may need to take the lead role and act as the regional coordinating entity in the absence of the role of the Central entities.

The current disaster need to be dealt in two folds manner:

1) Seeking new solutions: Such as introduction of waste management at source including source segregation, composting of organic waste, storage for a week, practicing reducing, reuse and recycle following “Waste Free Communities” concept of Solid Waste management promoted by Rotary Nepal, reducing waste disposal in Landfill site, establishing Material Recovery facilities, and marketing of waste products, and 2) Creating alternative facilities for closing the Sisdole landfill site, which is already an over saturated facility and further over use of it will bring another Big disaster similar to the recent disasters of Landfill site in New Delhi, Colombo and Hong Kong that took life of several people.

2) Megha disaster in waiting from Fiscal Year 2017- 18 onwards: Next Disaster-in-waiting from Fiscal Year 2017-18 onwards will be associated with the institutional gap created by the Constitution 2015, Local body restructuring plan of March 2017 and the Budget Speech of Fiscal Year 2017-18 and is related to the Institutional framework between the Centre, the provinces and the municipalities. The Constitution has allocated the full responsibility of Solid waste management to the municipalities without spelled role of the central, provincial and district level institutions.

The Constitution 2015, Local Body Reform Report 2017, Budget Speech 2017/18 had made provision to transfer the responsibility of Solid Waste Management to the local level and the Solid Waste Management and Technical Support Centre has been transferred to local level. The responsibility of central entity towards SWM is absolutely abolished. It is felt that this act has created a kind of Constitutional gap in SWM. This is the only one example of transfer of a central level entity to local level.

a. The Constitution of Nepal has visualized very strong central, provincial and local governments. But there is no evidence till now of any studies made towards how strong and sustainable government could be established. It is for sure without a strong Central Government, the provincial and local governments also will not be strong enough to take the allocated responsibility according to the Constitution and it will not be possible to coordinate and regulate.

b. In order to strengthening the Central Government, the Executive, Legislative and Judicial entities need to be strengthened. Under the Executive Entity, the Cabinet of ministers, ministries, various constitutional Councils and Commissions, supporting departments, and other entities are included within the institutional framework. With the support of these departments and other entities, the cabinet of ministers and ministries, the planning government programs and execution are carried out. Without the head offices of these departments and entities, the Central Government would be incomplete and the Constitutional gap could be strongly felt. Because of this gap, there is a mass confusion created how the coordination, planning of activities, training, technical assistance, feedback, monitoring and evaluation will be carried out. There is a wide interaction being ongoing in the media in this aspect.

c. In the same context, recently the government has announced that several district offices such as District Administrative Office, District Police Office, District Coordination Committee, Funds and Comptroller’s Office, District Election Office, District Advocates Office, District Land Registration Office, District Land Survey Office, District Post Office, District Camps and regiments of Nepal Army will remain within the institutional setup as of today (i.e. as of previous provision), which is widely appreciated. This action has initiated the efforts to minimize the Constitutional Gap. Probably, this effort will be continued in relation to other district offices related to the technical and infrastructure development and the Constitutional Gap prevalent will be minimized.

d. The modern institutional structure has given priority to following four factors:
• Strengthening of Institutional Framework
• Protection of Institutional Memory
• Nomination of Right Person at Right Place, and
• Effective Communication across the Institution.

These important factors are not dealt in the Constitution 2015 and in the Budget Speech 2017/18, and this matter may be instrumental in creating Institutional Gap.

e. According to the Modern Management theories in the context of Institutional Structure, the hierarchical ratio between an entity and its subordinates is typical considered best is 1:7. According to the Constitution 2015, the Hierarchical Ration between the Center and the Provinces is exactly 1:7 whereas the Hierarchical Ration between Province and Local Level Institutions as municipality is 1:108 not taking account of the district offices since they are authorized to provide coordination only. The ration of 1:108 is very large and practically is considered “Not Accessible” and “Unpractical”. This ratio will create Institutional Gap. Practically, the communication between the provinces and the local level municipalities will be very complex. In order to minimize this gap, it may be essential to reinstate the district level entities (which is partially already done in October 28, 2017 to some extent). If this is done, the Hierarchical Ratio between Province and District will be 1:11, and that of District and local level entities will be 1:10. These ratios are could be termed practical and will be instrumental in
eliminating the institutional gap in practical terms.

f. It is very essential to gain overall knowledge and understanding on the institutional structure of the Central Government. The fundamental base of the Executive or the Cabinet of Ministers and Ministries is the performance and delivery of services provided by the subordinate departments and other entities. The outcome of performance of these subordinate departments is the base for performance of the Ministries and the Cabinet. The absence of these subordinate entities will give a strong feeling of the institutional gap and there will be erosion in the performance of the Central Government. In any case, if such situation
will be created it will be a case of big disaster and the country may have to pay big price to recover.

g. A lot of time will be required to define and establish the new institutions such as the provinces and most of the municipalities, since most of them are new ones. This gap will create disastrous condition in solid waste management since most of the institutions have no practical experience and capacity except of few, which have some history and experience. The situation will be aggravated since the institutional capacity to deal with Solid Waste Management will be reduced with the central authorities are divulged to local level institutions. Particularly, the important functions such as Planning, Coordination, Facilitation, Surveillance, Monitoring, and Feedback reporting will suffer in the absence of Central and District level institutions.

3. The Killer Virus: It seems that a killer virus has been installed that destabilizes the institutional framework for the Centre downwards as the Constitution will be implemented. In order to establish the new provincial and local bodies, it is obviously required to depute the knowledgeable and experienced staff to the local bodies. This process weakens the Centre and creates disparity at the local level since the local bodies are deprived of their right to choose right persons for their institutions and fell imposition and interference of the Centre. At the other hand it is not the priority of the experienced staff from the Centre to shift to the local bodies. Only a judicious decision making process that makes the Centre extra strong will keep the virus trapped in a corner.

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