India annually releases 8,656 gTEQ (grams-toxic equivalency) of dioxins and furans, a deadly group of toxins, of which 67% has been found to be due to waste incineration. These unintentional Persistent Organic Pollutants were discussed at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences on Monday, where the issue of waste management was raised and the importance of waste segregation at an individual level was talked about.
Released through waste incineration, crematoriums, metallurgical and other industrial processes, these compounds enter our environment through water and air, slowly making their way up our food chain. Dioxins are carcinogenic and cause a multitude of developmental, immunologic and reproductive health issues in people who are exposed to them.
The conference was held by the Advanced Locality Management and Network Action Committee and Toxics Link, a not-for-profit group of engineers who study the effect of chemicals on our environment. “Dioxins and furans are relatively unknown and are released on combustion of plastic and chlorinated material; they remain in the environment for a very long time. They are trans-boundary in nature so it doesn’t matter who is releasing more of these pollutants, it affects everyone,” said Satish Sinha, associate director of Toxics Link.
Deonar dumping ground receives almost 7,800 metric tonnes of garbage from all over Mumbai in a day. Residents of Chembur, who live close by, have reportedly complained of health issues due to fumes and effluents that emanate from the dump.
Segregation of waste would make provision for recycling, composting and other forms of waste treatment that have the capacity to generate energy, such as biogas plants.
Responding to the concerns, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) standing committee chairman Rahul Shewale, who attended the event, said the civic body plans to embrace modern and eco-friendly ways to process waste. “We understand the concerns. Hence, we will engage in dialogue with the Centre on technologies to use for processing refuse. This will resolve the health issues caused by poor disposal of waste,” he said.
Shewale added that in order to encourage residents to segregate waste at source, the BMC is mulling over offering 5% rebate in property tax to societies. The plan may come into effect in 2014-15.