Solid Waste Management in Global South Cities
Urban sanitation remains being a major challenge in most informal settlements in the global South despite the extensive recognition within the policy and academic contexts. Minimal efforts have been undertaken to understand the everyday sanitation experience and perception of individuals living in informal settlements characterised by poor sanitation despite it being a critical aspect of everyday city life (Samson, 2009). Mumbai is one of the Indian cities characterised by ineffective waste management. To improve everyday sanitation, municipal governments are increasingly employing new initiatives. One of the initiatives entails decentralisation of solid waste management by integrating more large-scale privatised waste management systems. The privatised waste management systems are aimed at enhancing waste collection, segregation, recovery and disposal (Schindler, 2015). The need for privatisation of solid waste management has arisen from overemphasise on the theme of modernisation in cities. Mumbai has undergone considerable changes as evidenced by the city’s transformation with reference to economy and socioeconomic composition. Nevertheless, sanitation has remained to be a challenge in Mumbai. This essay examines how the theme of modernisation appears in the context of waste management and sanitation.
Correlation between privatisation of waste management system in Mumbai and efforts to modernise cities in the Global South
Traditionally, Mumbai was known as the gateway to India. However, the conditions in the city deteriorated over the years as a result of increased population and urbanisation. The city has been characterised by high volume of waste over the years. As one of the large metropolis in India, Mumbai generates approximately 7,000 metric tons of waste daily (Singh, 2015). Poor sanitation in the city is worsened by lack of effective waste management practices. Nonetheless, the city has integrated the concept of privatisation in its pursuit for modernisations. This phenomenon is illustrated by the emergence of private firms that have identified the sanitation problem in the city’s slum as a source of business opportunity. However, Schindler (2015) argues that ‘privatisation of waste management has led to contest between the private firms and the informal-sector recyclers whose source of livelihood depends on the waste’ (p.6). An example of such contest has occurred between the private firms in Mumbai and the Solid Waste Collection and Handling (SWaCH), which is an organisation of waste pickers in Mumbai. SWaCH has established different programs to manage solid waste such as the Parisar Vikas Program (Singh, 2015). The contest in waste management is also worsened by the presence of other non-governmental organisations such as the Mumbai Slum Sanitation Program, which is supported by the World Bank (Shyamal, Ghosh & Somnath, 2006). The private solid waste management companies do not want the individual waste pickers to access the landfills. This presents a major challenge that might limit the effectiveness of implementing the privatised waste management system.
The focus on solid waste management in the modernisation of cities is not only limited to slums in India. On the contrary, the modernisation efforts are also undertaken by different global south cities. In its quest to modernise Mexico City, the municipal council is experiencing a challenge in dealing with the solid waste management question (Villagran, 2012). The challenge arises due to the presence of private firms and individual waste pickers. Samson (2009) asserts that ‘individual waste pickers are usually ignored within the public policy processes and often persecuted by authorities’ (p.1). This situation leads to discrepancy in solid waste management across the city with reference to waste collection, transportation and disposal. Neighbourhoods characterised by opulence experience effective solid waste management while informal settlements such as slums are ignored.
Privatisation of solid waste management by cities in the Global South has affected the waste pickers significantly by limiting their source of income. This outcome arises from the fact that the private solid management companies employ automated systems in an effort to maximise profitability. On the contrary, the individual waste pickers do not have the skills and technological capacity, which limits their capacity to compete with the private firms. Thus, the individual waste pickers perceive the adoption of the private solid waste management system as a threat to their livelihood.
In an effort to minimise the conflict between the private firms and the informal waste-pickers, cities in the global South should appreciate the importance of adopting a collaborative approach in the solid waste management processes. One of the approaches that the stakeholders such as the municipal governments should consider entails establishing a balance between the competing groups (Begley, 2011). For example, municipal governments should advocate the private companies to employ labour intensive waste management approaches. This will play a critical role in ensuring that the individual waste pickers are absorbed in the solid waste management process. Moreover, the municipal governments should pressurize the private firms to train the individual waste pickers on issues associated with solid waste management such as training on issues related to health and safety.
Sanitation constitutes a critical aspect in the Global South Cities quest to attain the desired level of modernisation. Nevertheless, it is imperative for a collaborative approach to be employed in order to attain the desired level of sanitation. The collaborative approach should focus on the private firms, individual waste pickers and the municipal governments. This approach will limit the occurrence of conflicts between stakeholders hence improving the effectiveness of the private solid waste management system.
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