South Asian cities collaborate towards creating a zero waste region

12 March 2015


Click here to view the photographs of the Conference. 


Mayors, Municipal leaders and myriad esteemed experts from South Asian countries – India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh, were present at the International Conference on Solid Waste Management for South Asia, hosted by ICLEI South Asia, endorsed by the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India and the National Institute of Urban Affairs and financially supported by the European Commission on the 9-10 March 2015. The event also served as a final and disseminating conference for the European Commission funded SUNYA – Towards zero waste in South Asia project. 


Around 150 people from 20 odd cities from across the South Asian region came together to discuss, engage and share thoughts, stories and prospective and on-going initiatives for Solid Waste Management.


Solid waste management is a major concern for almost all urban areas in the south Asian region, with rapid urbanization and changing lifestyles that encourage people to consume more and more resources generating more and more waste. A lot of this waste ends up in open dump sites and landfills, which leads to pollution of soil and water and release of green house gases. To avoid this situation, it is imperative for local governments dealing with waste management to adopt the 3R principle of waste management – reduce, reuse and recycle. 


Keeping this in mind, the European Commission supported the project – SUNYA – Towards Zero Waste in South Asia. The project was led by the Municipal Association of Nepal, along with ICLEI South Asia in 7 cities of the 5 South Asian countries. The 7 SUNYA cities – Heatuda and Tansen (Nepal), Shimla and Coimbatore (India), North Dhaka (Bangladesh), Matale (Sri Lanka) and Pheuntsholing (Bhutan) have been taking commendable measures to move towards a state of zero waste, through sustained awareness campaigns for segregation of waste and reduction, reuse and recycling, construction of facilities for composting, or providing assistance and training to waste workers for better management of waste. The cities have conducted detailed assessment of the existing situation of waste management and have formulated an action plan to move towards zero waste that will be implemented in the cities in the coming years. The project focused on introduction of principles of 3R for municipal solid waste management, promoting reduction, reuse and recycling of waste through community mobilization and involvement, and scalable pilot demonstrations of reduction of waste generation and sustainable management.


We see the Solid Waste Management problem all around us, this is a problem we need to tackle and we know it! In the future, we will have more and more people living in urban areas, thus increasing the need to look into and internalise this problem”, said Dr. Usha Raghupathi, Professor, National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA). 


Dr. Raghupathi said further, “We need to remember the link between waste and people’s health and solid waste management and climate change, only then the awareness can be caused.


This is indeed true. People need to realise that this (Solid Waste Management) will affect them adversely and they will have to take actions to overcome it. City officials needs to spread awareness about this problem, what causes it, how it affects the life of so many and preventive measures that can be taken to fight this problem. 


It is primarily also about the livability of the people of the cities….Take the spirit back to the citizens, make them realise that the city is theirs, it is the responsibility of each one of the citizens to help in creating zero waste”, said Tikender Singh Panwar, Deputy Mayor, Shimla. 


Dr. Tariq Bin Yousuf, Dhaka North City Corporation, put it perfectly, “Waste is actually a resource. Don’t think of it as a disposal system, think of it as resource management.


This was further seconded by Doramani Paudel, President, Municipal Association of Nepal (MuAN), “Do not dump, process!”


Mr. P.U. Asnani, Urban Management Consultants, also stressed on the need to treat more waste and make efforts to reduce the generation of waste itself, “What goes to the landfill has to be minimal. Reduce and treat as much as waste as possible… Get in touch with the manufacturers straightaway, stress on the manufacturing of bio degradable products in the first place which can create a huge impact on the amount of solid waste generated.


The conference identified the need for making waste management everyone’s business. It not only discussed the role of local governments in solid waste management in a sustainable manner, but also stressed on the roles of producers and consumers in waste management. This is especially important in the context of the Swachh Bharat Mission developed by the Government of India which is focusing on cleaning up Indian cities. The pilot projects undertaken in this project can be replicated in other cities under the Swachh Bharat Mission as well. State government representatives from Punjab, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu expressed their interest in working on solid waste in a programmatic manner after learning about the success in the project cities.  


There were myriad takeaways for all who were a part of this highly informative and interesting conference. The project might have concluded but the spirit of the people to make their cities a better place to live in, remains untouched. There is hope that many more cities will walk on the path of these 7 SUNYA cities and aim at becoming zero waste cities. 


Let us all use the concept of a circular economy – reuse, reduce and recycle. The hope is to together look into new ideas, new solutions and new partnerships to overcome the Solid Waste Management problem.”

Cesare Onestini, European Commission


Find below the presentations from the conference:


SUNYA – Towards zero waste in South Asia

Session 1: 

Swachh Bharat Mission
Solid Waste Management Status Review – Bangladesh

Session 2:

Solid Waste Management Status Review – Tansen
Application of 3R principle through composting, roof top gardening and rain water harvesting

Session 3:

Best Practices – Pune City
Inclusive Solid Waste Management – Challenges and Solutions


Session 1:

Cross sectotal linkages
Namma Toilet – User centric approach to sanitation
Swachh Bharat Mission – Special Cleanliness Drive
Punjab Municipal Solid Waste Management Project
Overview of MSW Management initiatives in Tamil Nadu

Session 2:

Municipal Solid Waste Management in India – Need for scaling up
Indian initiatives and opportunities for scaling up
ADB Support for Solid Waste Management


More information on the SUNYA project can be found here

South Asian cities collaborate towards creating a zero waste region
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