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India: Smart Cities India 2020 expo and Green Dream Foundation propagated the spirit of World Environment Day by hosting a widely appreciated third webinar in the ongoing series ‘Driving Swachh & Swastha Bharat during COVID-19.’

The first track on Solid Waste Management during COVID-19 included an esteemed line-up of industry experts. Moderated by Ashish Sachdeva, Founder & President, Green Dream Foundation, the list of honorable speakers comprised:

  • Anil Kumar Bansal, Director, IPE Global Ltd
  • Chetan Baregar, Founding Member, Recykal
  • Masood Mallick, Joint Managing Director, Ramky Enviro Engineers Ltd
  • Dr. Suneel Pandey, Senior Fellow and Director, Environment & Waste Management Division, TERI

Some important takeaways from the panel talk included Anil Kumar Bansal, Director, IPE Global Ltd. pointing out how recently-inculcated habits of waste segregation may be witnessing wavering during the pandemic. “A third new category of waste that has emerged in homes of household hazardous waste such as gloves, masks, etc. must be segregated at source, and collected as such.”

Dr. Suneel Pandey, Senior Fellow and Director, Environment & Waste Management Division, TERI focussed on how recycling facilities being closed during lockdown have impacted the waste management cycle. “According to the International Solid Waste Association, recycling facilities must be declared essential services. According to WHO, the coronavirus will be with us for a very long time, so waste management from containment zones must be handled systematically. Hazardous waste like masks and gloves must be cut up to avoid reuse, waste must be sanitized and quarantined for 3 days, and transport vehicles must be periodically sanitized. We must remember to Reduce, Reuse & Recycle.”

Discussing the impact of COVID-19 on waste collection, Masood Mallick, Joint Managing Director, Ramky Enviro Engineers Ltd. said, “Some of the challenges faced during early days of lockdown included biomedical waste collection capacity constraints and collection of waste from COVID-19 affected residential areas. As nursing homes and small clinics- which are responsible for about 30% of hazardous biomedical waste, shut shop during the lockdown, our overall amount of waste interestingly remained the same. For COVID-19 affected waste collection, we employed the same operational process as for biomedical waste. I would like to take a moment to salute the municipal and sanitation workers whose relentless work makes it possible for us to sit comfortably in our homes and offices.”

Chetan Baregar, Founding Member, Recykal explained the acronym SMART for waste management. ”We have come up with the system of- Segregate, Modulize, Assess, Recycle, Trace. One of the trends emerging during COVID-19 is increased use of plastic- single-use and not recycling. We need to think of plastic as ‘raddi,’ which we can recycle and not have it end in our dustbins after a single-use. Every household can be motivated to segregate waste using these 3 ways- organizational motivation, social pressure, and kids (school-led motivation programs have worked wonderfully). We can track the success of these modules and implement strategies accordingly for further progress in solid management.”

Eminent speakers on Track 2 deliberating Waste Water Management during COVID-19:

  • Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Ph.D., Secretary-General, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance and President, Divine Shakti Foundation
  • Dr. Ramnath Sonawane, Secretary, Maharashtra Water Resource Regulatory Authority
  • Raveendra Bhat, Director, Base of Pyramid Solutions, Xylem Water Solutions India
  • Pankaj Kumar Sharma, Director, River Data Compilation-II, Central Water Commission
  • Dr. Girish R. Pophali, Senior Principal Scientist, Wastewater Technology Division, CSIR-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute

Calling COVID-19 a crisis that presents an opportunity to come together to tackle the issue of water sanitization hygiene in India where water-borne diseases are rampant, Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Ph.D., Secretary-General, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance and President, Divine Shakti Foundation elaborated, “It’s wonderful to come together in this webinar. COVID-19 is a very dark cloud, with a silver lining being the widespread adoption of water sanitization hygiene. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of sanitization, and we must not become complacent and should remain focussed in the fight against all other water-borne infections. Ganga and Yamuna, which have both become clearly cleaner during the lockdown, owe their pollution to 3 major factors- sewage, agricultural waste & industrial pollution. We must remember to put “eco” back in economy, and find measures to ensure industries do not discharge untreated waste into our waters.”

Highlighting the problem of wastewater management in India, Raveendra Bhat, Director, Base of Pyramid Solutions, Xylem Water Solutions India said, “In India, over 62,000 million liters per day wastewater sewage is generated in urban areas, while only 37% of sewage generated is treated. We don’t have enough infrastructure to treat wastewater. Action is needed on both short and long-term levels and from both the private and the public sectors. With COVID-19, the chance of recontamination of water sources is a major challenge, and it can be countered by installing complete home water treatment systems to avoid this risk.”

Shining light on the impact of COVID-19 on water quality across the country, Pankaj Kumar Sharma, Director, River Data Compilation-II, Central Water Commission revealed some promising numbers, “India has a list of organizations at the central and state levels to monitor environmental pollution. In the long list of these organizations, Central Water Commission undertakes hydrological observations since the 1960s, monitoring both the quantity and quality of water. As per the analysis of Water Quality (WQ) site data, the value of Dissolved Oxygen (DO) at 76 out of 97 stations was relatively higher during a lockdown, as compared to the preceding year period. Essentially, yes water quality has gone up during lockdown.”

You may view the webinar recording here:
https://www.facebook.com/smartcityindia/videos/2338980233063134/

Since its inception in 2015, Smart Cities India expo has evolved into Asia’s largest trade fair and conference on the matter. Organized by the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) & Exhibitions India Group; the expo is scheduled to be held at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, from 20-22 October 2020. Conference sessions and exhibitions across key verticals constituting smart cities framework including Buildings, Solar, Transport, Water will be held at the event.

Green Dream Foundation is a non-profit organization focused on generating awareness, engaging, and driving action among people to stand against the biggest environmental concerns before the world such as global warming, climate change, pollution, and waste management.

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