The Recovery Of Organic Material In Kathmandu Environmental Sciences

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Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal is overcrowded .Large influx of people, migrating to city can be seen, everyday. Reason might be different, but all want to settle there, causing pressure on the valley's already weakened infrastructure and to meet their demand the haphazardly built city is even expanding in the same way, indicating towards the much chaotic situation in future. Settlements built without proper access of transportation is one of the obstacles in waste collection. Waste can be seen everywhere, roads and even in the rivers. The country is poor and heavily indebted and is unable to expense enough budgets for it. Poor institutional experience, lack of strong legislation and enforcement, weak financial status of central and local government are the major causes for the poor solid waste management in Kathmandu. Political volatility is seen as a major problem in the country in the current decade. According to Thapa (1998) political instability in the country after the restoration of democracy in 1990 contributed in some measure to the poor environmental management of solid waste. The successive governments after restoration of democracy engaged in the intra and extra political disputes, paying less attention to infrastructure development and environmental management. Lack of technical experts and brain drain of few remaining is emerging as a problem in the country.

Uncollected waste on the road of Kathmandu. (Source: Mercantile Communication Pvt. Ltd)

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Solid waste disposal at squatter site of Kathmandu. (Source:

Prior to 1980, almost all the organic waste was used as organic manure in the fertile land of Kathmandu valley (Thapa, 1998). According study done about 40 years ago, human waste generated by Kathmandu residents at that time were sold for NRs. 0.50 per tin. Furthermore, several household used to share a 'sagaa' to manage their waste ('Sa' means compost and 'gaa' means pit) (Tuladhar,2003).

These days, the valley's fertile land is changing into settlements and the volume of waste is increasing every day. The population of the valley has increased by 66% from 1991 to 2001 (CBS, 2003,b), where as the volume of the waste from 1991 to 2003 was increased from 69,596 ton to 106215 tons(Thapa, 1998). Different studies have estimated different volume, but all are unanimous about the increasing trend regarding waste. According to Pokharel, 2005, Joshi (2003) estimated the total amount of solid waste of Kathmandu Valley to be about 291 tons/day, whereas SWMRMC, 2000, estimated it to be 356 tons/day by the year 2002. Study carried out by IUCN in 1997, estimated the per capita waste generation to be 0.565 kg/cap/day.

Various studies on the composition of the waste of Kathmandu valley show the predominance of organic fraction. It shows the percentage of organic portion increased from 65.5% in 1997 to 70% in the year 2003 (UNDP, 2001, Jindal et. al, 1997, joshi, 2003). Organic fraction claims 70% of the total waste volume (Thapa, 2003). This huge amount of organic waste shows the possibility of composting. If it can be done, it not only helps to solve the solid waste problem but also replaces the imported agricultural fertilizer and encourages organic farming. It can be established as an industry, which keeps potential to provide employment to thousands of people. According to Thapa, 1998, 20.5% of the

waste is recyclable. If composting and recycling can be used as an instrument, most of the solid waste problem can be solved. Upgrading the level of awareness and strict implementation of regulation further helps in it and very little waste only will be destined to the landfill.

As the studies show the organic fraction domination, various approaches can be applied to manage this waste. Composting could become a sustainable solution for its management, beside this anaerobic digestion, biogas production, and recycling to some extent may help. But every solution comes along with its own problem, so it is very essential to select the appropriate one, which creates fewer problems but solves many and major one.

Low level of awareness, lack of technology, and City's inability to afford the cost to invest on infrastructure, public and political opposition, and most importantly, the lack of enthusiasm to solve the problem are major constraints.

The aim of this essay is to explore out the major technical and social problem associated with waste management, especially the organic fraction, of Kathmandu Metropolitan City and to offer some solution.

Technical Issues

The most well-liked solutions of organic waste management in the world are composting, followed by bio gas production through anaerobic digestion and recycling of some waste. But all of them have their own benefits and drawbacks and also affected by the limitation of the entire waste management system.

The waste collection system of Kathmandu is not efficient, but the involvement of private sector has improved it to some extent. According to KMC (2003), NGO's and Private sector collect 25 % and Kathmandu metropolitan 69 % of waste. But, around 13.5 tons of community waste generated by city remains uncollected. Study by Alam, R., et. al (2007), found 70%- 90 % of the total waste collected. The main problem of waste management in Kathmandu arises at source. Most of the people do not segregate the waste, they store the co mingled waste and give it to waste collectors, increasing the risk of mixing organic and toxic waste. 84% of the inhabitants store waste in co mingled form, however 89% of the inhabitant showed their interest to segregate it (Alam,R., et. al.,2007). Though the data show the high percentage of collection, most of the places and river still seems polluted, so it is essential to monitor the private waste collector to prevent rivers from illegal dumping.

Collection from doors to door and community bins are in practice, but the collection, storage, transportation and transfer of waste all are not only improperly handled, they also pose substantial threat to environment and to the public health. The waste vehicles are found carrying the waste uncovered. These vehicles drop some of the waste on its way, raising the chance of spreading diseases.

The unattended wastes are often emptied on the rivers, polluting river and destroying the fresh water. The impact of it can be seen clearly during summer, when it decomposes and bad odour spreads around the vicinity of rivers. Study done by Alam, R, 2007, found transfer station at the bank of Bagmati River technically unsuitable and not properly lined,

due to that decomposition of organic waste and leachate had turned the river has turned blackish and causing foul smell in the local area

All the waste including pathology, kitchen, diagnostic laboratory and hospital are dumped into KMC bins. These bins are exposed to waste collectors and pose danger of spreading diseases. According to Alam, 2007, efforts to effective disposal of waste hindered due to financial constraints. (Rashid, 1996).

Hand cart, tricycle, tractor, open tractor, container carrier are used for the purpose of waste collection, transfer and disposal. Most of the vehicles are old. All types of waste goes to land fill.(Alam, R., 2007)

The organic waste can be separated to make compost or for anaerobic digestion. These techniques can remarkably reduce the volume of organic waste in one hand and could help to improve the quality of Kathmandu's agricultural land on other hand. The total organic waste of Kathmandu and Lalitpur can be recycled by setting up a 300 tons/day organic fertilizer plant, by doing this waste disposal problem can be reduced by 80% with minimal environmental impact and generation of high quality (Tuladhar,2008).

Braber, K, 1995, suggests to treat different types of organic waste differently. If the waste is predominantly from kitchen or contains high amount of moisture, the anaerobic digestion could be appropriate. For the waste containing more yard waste and other dry or less moisture waste aerobic composting is suitable. Kathmandu receive huge amount of food waste as well as other non food and less moisture containing items, it is essential to streamline these waste at source and treat it differently to achieve high level of efficiency.

Though in small scale, composting is practiced in different levels at different places of Kathmandu. Household and community level are practiced in different locations. Vermi composting is also promoted especially to manage organic waste at household level. Household composting was promoted by Kathmandu Metropolitan City, distributing 100 litre compost bin (ICIMOD, 2007).

There is only one large scale composting plant in Bhaktapur, which receives about 3 tons of organic waste/day. This facility is operated manually. The composting facility at Teku has been closed since 1990, which had capacity of 15 tons/day (ICIMOD,2007). So it is essential to mechanise the manual machine to increase its capacity and efficiency and to restart the closed ones.

In my opinion, alternative management of organic waste of Kathmandu is urgent, in order to find long term and sustainable solution. But the obstacles appear at every stage of planning and management. Technology is essential to improve the present condition and financial aspect is crucial for it. Establishment of more composting plant could help to reduce the significant level of waste volume. Beside this bio gas can be produced from the household organic waste, this technology can be introduced in Kathmandu too, as Indian cities are practicing it successfully (ARTI, 2009). This technology could be appropriate for country like Nepal which does not have any source of natural gases and is unable to produce enough electricity.

Kathmandu needs large scale facility for composting, and that needs to be economically viable. Windrow composting could be appropriate for it, which uses sunlight for decomposition of the organic waste and do not require skilled manpower, which is cheaper than in vessel composting (Madina,M, 2001).

As most of the waste is collected in the co mingled form and Kathmandu do not have facility to separate it, scavenging activities can facilitate the composting of organic waste as they take away the recyclables one and purify the organic waste in one way (Madina, 2001).

The compost produce in Kathmandu valley can be sold outside the valley where agricultural land is abundant, on which Kathmandu depends for food. If this interchange can be established both the city and farmers can get benefit. But for successful composting and reduce risk of mixing toxic material it is essential to promote segregation at source. Urban waste management, 2009, emphases on the rural urban alliance for sustainable management of urban organic waste.

Much of the waste in Kathmandu remains uncollected for days on the side of roads due to various reasons such as strike or opposition from people nearby landfill site. Especially during the rainy season, roads get flooded and due to the moisture and warm climate there is danger of spreading of diseases due to decomposition of organic waste.

Furthermore, advanced thermal technologies like Gassification and pyrolysis are also available option for the management of organic waste. But, the huge installation cost, sophisticated technology and requirement of skilled human resource makes it less feasible in the context of Nepal.

Strict implementation of waste hierarchy is most important to reduce the waste, separation at source, improvement in collection and transfer system, introduction of composting at various levels and capacity can well manage the organic waste.

Social Issues

Society produces the waste, so it is society's responsibility to manage it. But there are many impediments. Economical and political are other problem after technical. The plans to make better waste management system are often hindered by political instability. Public involvement in waste management is key to achieve success in this regard.

Community residents can play vital role to separate waste at household level, their active participation in composting at household and community level could change the scenario better.

It is essential to educate people about the difference between bio degradable and non bio degradable waste in society as well as kids at schools. Moreover, since women are engaged in household activities, it is also essential to educate and encourage them to practice it. Though public private partnership is currently in practice for waste management, it is essential to do it in large and broader scale. Public Private Partnership for Urban Environment, in association with Nepal Government and UNDP has started composting of Kalimati fruit and vegetable market. The NGO involved in it is practicing Windrow composting (PPPUE,2008). But it is essential to broaden its market in order to make it successful in large scale.

Availability of land for large scale operation could be difficult to find within city due to scarcity of land and public opposition as people oppose to make such plants near to their area. Often waste becomes playground for politician in Nepal, the plan to make large scale composting plant of capacity 300 tons/day, in joint venture of Nepal and India could not be

materialised because of politicians' personal interest.(Bhusan Tuladhar, 2008). Peoples out of sight, out of mind' philosophy and Not in My Backyard concept, makes it further difficult.

Kathmandu has recognised private sector involvement in waste management as an instrument for relieving financial burden and effective collection,transfer and recovery/recycling/composting of collected waste.

People may hesitate to use the compost made from municipal waste, so public acceptance of compost as a soil improver is essential (K, Braber, 1995). Policies to enhance composting is necessary, to make it successful. Expansion of market can be another challenge. Kathmandu is losing its fertile land which used to consume the organic waste in past but produces organic waste in huge scale;so it is crucial to search for its consumer. The vast agricultural land adjacent to Kathmandu could be a potential consumer. If this can be done, Kathmandu city and farmers both could get benefit from it.

In past, ethnic groups "Pode" and "Chyame", a marginalised caste responsible for cleaning and managing waste, were involved in waste management activities in Kathmandu. They were the masters of organic waste and used techniques passed by their ancestors to convert waste into fertilizers. They single handedly managed Kathmandu's waste in past and accepted their role as a profession. These people are economically weak and do not have much option for their profession because very few of them are educated.So in my opinion, government should give priority and incentive to these people to re-establish business in this sector to improve their financial status.

Now a days, significant number of poverty stricken immigrants from South India and Nepalese homeless children are engaged in scavenging operation for collection of recyclable material. Though they are doing this to make living, they are separating the organic waste from other solid waste such as metals, plastics and papers indirectly and this makes the composting process easier. Since most of these people collect waste with bare hand, it is essential to alert them about the possible infection and contamination and if possible supply safety material in subsidised rate to these people.

Like the poor neighbourhoods of some cities, in the outskirts and poor area of Kathmandu, people raise pigs for consumption and trade. But the ever rising cost of commercial feedstock makes them difficult to rear this animal. In the outskirts of Manila metro, Philipino people collect organic waste from restaurant and feed the pigs. This practice can be replicated here in Kathmandu, where, according to a study, profit was doubled even after the veterinary, transportation and fuel cost. (Practical Action, 2009). This practice can help to solve the problem of waste management and saves farmers money to some extent. However, due consideration should be given to the quality of that feed and hygiene of the animal and people.

Initiatives from Kathmandu metropolitan city

Kathmandu Metropolitan city is trying to overcome the problem of waste management. It has identified private sector as an important ally in this work. To encourage private sector involvement, it has adopted strategy, to plan the process but not to wait for perfect plan. A year after the involvement of private sectors, it was found that they were making good money and willing to continue and expand the work. (KMC,2002)

In focus to the organic waste management. According to IGES (2008), it has planned to improve the situation by the year 2010 by doing the following activities:

It has planned to use media for campaign in encouraging waste segregation at source. Lobbying on tax exception of recycled product, promotion of composting at household level by providing compost bin at 45% subsidy are other measure planned by it. Expansion of community based recycling centre and medium scale vermicomposting, and assistance in marketing of those recycled product are in the pipe line.

Beside these Kathmandu Metropolitan city has set up its guidelines on Public Private Partnership Programme to speed up this process in large scale.


Technically, conversion of Kathmandu's land into settlement has reduced the valley's assimilating capacity to absorb its waste. Financial inability of local and central government to invest on infrastructure to move along with increasing population and ever expanding town is another hurdle on its way, added by political instability. Lack of proper technology, infrastructure and human resource, low level of public awareness and lack of public and political enthusiasm are further deteriorating the city's environment.

Organic waste can be managed with the simple measures along with financial benefits and employment opportunity. Improvement in existing storage, collection, transfer and disposal system is crucial in this aspect. Need of large composting plant can be helpful to tackle this problem. Furthermore, separate storage, collection and disposal of medical and non medical waste can noticeably reduce the chances of spreading of diseasing.

There is need to establish a well functioning nexus between city's waste management authority and farmers near Kathmandu to promote composting successfully. Technology transfer is key to get benefit at optimum level. Simple method like Windrow Composting could be useful as it does not require high level of skill and energy. Using these methods at household and community level would uplift the economy of people engaged on it.

Provision of some incentives and if possible the financial assistance to the people who are dependent on waste management for their livelihood, to make compost plant or to do some business related to waste could yield constructive outcome for this purpose. I believe if we improve the technical capacity and could change social attitude towards organic waste that can help a lot in recovering the organic fraction of the Kathmandu's municipal waste.

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