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Is the Pune model of solid waste management more sustainable than the one in Varanasi?

A report by German scholars Judith Wolf and Fabian Schroth on ‘Tracing back the choice: Implementation of primary collection of municipal solid waste in two Indian cities’ states the Pune model is more sustainable that the Varanasi model of solid waste management.The two examined the implementation of primary collection models as per the MSW Rules 2000, a policy of the Central government on municipal solid waste management (MSWM). In the study, they analysed the case of Varanasi, where a private company was employed for an integrated MSWM and Pune, where a social enterprise was employed for the door-to-door collection (DTDC).

They consider the Pune model as more sustainable because it integrates the waste pickers and socially marginalized people. Their findings show that in Pune, local conditions were extremely supportive for the decision while in Varanasi, the knowledge schema played a very important role.

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I’d say the inference could be more difficult than what it looks. On paper, yes, an inclusive model of waste management has a higher sustainability, but with any inclusive model comes the hard task of managing and coordinating the disparate stakeholders, whose aims and goals could many times be at conflict with each others’. That said however, you got to do something with the current ragpickers, they need a livelihood too, so I guess any workable scheme has to include them. The question is, the framework of inclusion – will they be part of a structured outfit with structured roles and responsibilities (easier to manage) or will it be a framework that retrofits another part to the existing ragpicker ecology without tampering with the existing operational structure of the ragpickers (more difficult to manage)?