Talking Garbage: Dealing with waste in Nagaland

Talking Garbage: Dealing with waste in Nagaland
Talking Garbage: Dealing with waste in Nagaland

(LEFT) Biomining machine installed at the DMC Landfill at Burma Camp, Dimapur. The machine will segregate residual non-biodegradable waste from organic residue. (Photo Courtesy: DMC) (RIGHT) K Haralu, Moa Sangtam and Bano Haralu, who were the speakers during the Morung Lecture XIII in Dimapur on July 6. (Morung Photo)


Morung Lecture XIII brings the challenge of urban garbage to fore


Morung Express News
Dimapur | July 6

Paying jobs, better living conditions and consumerism has remained a hallmark of urbanization and development. But with economic growth also comes garbage, which when overlooked would dilute or rather counteract the progress made.  


While developed countries have made good progress in waste management, developing economies like India has been lagging and glaringly so in Nagaland state.


With this in context and with total ban on single-use plastic in the offing beginning September 17, ‘garbage’ was at the centre of discussions in the Morung Lecture XIII themed— Talking Garbage: Dealing with waste in Nagaland.


Well known media personality and Editor of Nagaland Today Bano Haralu, Dimapur Municipal Council Administrator Moa Sangtam and former Programme Director of the State Investment Programme Managament Implementation Unit Kethoseo Haralu, who was actively involved in the Solid Waste Management Facility in Kohima, were in the panel.
In the audience were students, activists and professionals from diverse backgrounds.     



Big aspiration, zero action
The state may have made baby strides in waste management but the problem, as pointed out by the panelists, has been a clear lack of action and concern at the individual level.


“Our aspirations are up there but the action is almost zero,” said Bano, who is also engaged in environmental conservation efforts.


As opposed to the aspirations, she said that there are still people throwing used bottles and other waste out the window of fancy cars onto the road without an iota of concern.  She also cited the disregard for building laws, another problem that has contributed to clogged drains.


She said that it all boils down to attitude. “We need to develop a culture towards maintaining a sustainable lifestyle.”
While Nagaland may not be up there with the West, she asserted that the people here can learn so much from their way of life.  “If we could just start with that one step— waste segregation at our own individual homes.”


According to Kethoseo Haralu, a virtually non-existent waste segregation practice has only compounded the problem. The mode of waste management here has been more of ‘collect and dump’ and in places not covered by municipal bodies, the nearest drain or pit becomes the disposal point further aggravating the problem.


He said that the municipal bodies in Kohima and Dimapur of late have been able to somewhat streamline garbage collection but it has been limited by a lack of segregating the waste.  While stating that reusing, recycling and reducing, especially glass and plastic waste, would go a long way, he added, “Drastic steps are necessary to clear all the mess.”


Field reports
Moa Sangtam highlighted the efforts of the DMC over the past 2-3 years to manage the around 115 metric tonnes of waste produced daily in the Dimapur municipal area.


He informed that the DMC has started environment-friendly waste treatment at the DMC landfill by adopting a process called ‘bioremediation’ since 2018. It involves allowing the accumulated waste to degrade by stimulating microbacterial activity.


This has greatly reduced stench and fly-infestation, he said, while adding that the residue left can be converted into farm manure.


The only problem has been the inability to segregate the waste dumped at the site. To get around this challenge, he informed that a ‘Biomining machine’ has been procured to segregate the residual plastic waste from organic waste. The machine was installed on July 7 and was scheduled to begin trial runs soon.


The citizenry can contribute towards the success of the programme by simply adopting waste segregation method at home, which would ultimately land up at the landfill. Waste segregation requires no more than having separate waste bins for plastic, glass and kitchen refuse. According to Sangtam, the DMC has started a pilot project in Hillview colony in this direction.


To an audience query as to the safety of the residual manure, Sangtam said that “soil testing” will ensure that it is safe or otherwise. Safely disposing sanitary pads/diapers and medical waste has been another challenge. He said that the best way is to incinerate at high temperature “but that is the tough part.” Kethoseo said that medical waste management is another area that requires “specialized activity altogether.”


While a start has been made at the official level, he emphasized on widespread sensitization initiatives not only at the urban centres but also at the village level.


Kethoseo said that the day’s discussion could be a good starting point “to bigger and better things” with Bano adding, “we say Ura uvie (me and my land). Let’s be responsible. Let’s begin with a small step.”


Akum Longchari, Publisher of The Morung Express, giving the concluding remarks called for cultivating process of change that flows from the grassroots to the top as opposed to the mostly top-down approach that the society has become accustomed to and importantly, “reflecting on the questions raised back home and engage.” He said that the question of the “individual” should not be left to the person alone but more on nurturing partnerships among individuals in relation to the environment at large and its underlying dynamics.