Waste Management: Lessons in Collaboration

In India, WSP-SA has been supporting the Ministry of Environment in revising MSW regulation, and the Ministry of Urban Development in developing guidelines for incentivising outcome-based MSW service delivery reform. As part of this strategy, a visit was organized to Sweden and Poland to make Indian policymakers aware of regulations and incentive-based instruments being used in Europe. The focus was on ‘Policies and Institutional Arrangements in the Sector of Municipal Waste Management’; officials visited Stockholm, Sweden, on May 28-31, 2006, and to Krakow, Poland, on June 1-6, 2006. The visit provided Government of India officials a platform for interagency dialogue and collaborative learning to improve collaboration between and among the different tiers of government in addressing waste management issues.

The visit’s were timely as India is in a crucial phase of redesigning national regulation and finalizing rules for intergovernmental transfers related to MSW at the national and state level. Europe was of particular interest to Indian policymakers as much of the approach and philosophy behind Indian environmental policy is close to that of Europe. In addition, the European Union's policymaking role in waste management has a number of similarities with India's complex federal policymaking structure. Sweden and Poland were chosen to demonstrate the wide variation in contexts, approaches and programs at the country level within the policy framework of the EU, reflecting the variation between the contexts in the Indian states.

Lessons that were important take-home for the participants included (a) interpreting not only waste management hierarchy frameworks used by national and local governments, but also the process of developing programs including regulation and incentive-based financial instruments to meet policy objectives; (b) understanding the central role of decentralization of functions and resources to develop a sustainable integrated waste management system; (c) appreciating the importance of creating facilities for safe and sanitary disposal as an essential part of an outcome-based integrated approach; and (d) gaining exposure to a menu of options of user charge design, private sector participation, inter-governmental transfers, outcome-based debt finance facilities, among others, and the contexts in which they are relevant and effective.

The visit has empowered key stakeholders in the national government and a few progressive state governments. They are now better equipped with analytical tools and the knowledge of policy instruments needed to guide the development of institutional arrangements for sustainable waste management upgradation in India.

Both Sweden and Poland have succeeded in generating and maintaining very high levels of citizen participation in waste management—manifesting as responsible citizen behavior in segregating and collecting waste at the household and community level. This has been achieved after several years of awareness generation and education. The ‘Keep Sweden Tidy’ movement is a good example of environmental education, community participation and incentives for best practices. For instance, school children are regularly taken to water processing plants and landfills as part of their education to create awareness on this issue. This is an area where India has to seriously focus its attention—educating the people about responsible behavior with regard to waste management.

The landfills managed by regional municipal companies were good examples of viable alternatives in waste disposal. The role of private sector companies in the different streams of waste management in these countries is also commendable. Particular inspiration was gained from the Polish experience of transforming sector governance within 15 years. The concept of producer responsibility in waste management (where the producer must arrange, inform, and finance collection and recycling systems) is well established, particularly in Sweden, and contributes to the success of the waste management program. Rules are strictly enforced, due to which the results are good. India should enforce and monitor the rules in this regard properly, particularly with regard to hazardous and e-waste.

The Federal Ministries of Environment and Forests and Urban Development, Government of India, plan to disseminate the learning from this study tour among other officials. WSP-SA has received requests from two state governments and the Ministry of Urban Development to assist in developing context-specific policy interventions for the MSW sector. The state government of Andhra Pradesh has requested support to help develop an institutional plan (for Hyderabad and other adjoining towns) and a state policy. The state government of Kerala has discussed a plan for taking forward the Water and Sanitation Program-Clean Kerala work to encourage local governments to work together to address waste disposal.

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