Radhika Abrol Phogat, Councilor from the Safdarjung Enclave ward of South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), and chairperson of Delhi Environmental Management Services (DEMS) believes that waste management should be the cornerstone of urban local bodies’ strategy to fight climate change. In an exclusive interview with SH, she also stresses the need to tap into wastes for fueling green building movement.
By Mrinmoy Bhattacharjee
How can SDMC play a vital role in combating climate change?
When we talk about climate change, we have to address it comprehensively; we cannot limit our pro-activeness to only ground or air. As a Councilor and as chairperson of DEMS that works towards reversing climate change, I work at all levels.
The major problem South Delhi faces is of disposal of garbage, which is being carried out through the traditional way of burning. This contributes to pollution and adversely affects the environment.
Our objective is to ensure that not all waste goes to the landfill sites. We have erected three large structures made of iron waste sourced from junked cars; at Green Park Main Market, Zonal Office at Green Park, and Safdarjung Development Area (SDA) crossing.
We have also inaugurated the Waste to Wonder Park that features replicas of the seven wonders, all made of industrial waste, near Sarai Kale Khan Bus Terminus. Our aim through this initiative is to make people aware of the enormous problem of waste management and to present creative ways in which it can be done.
I believe that managing waste is a severe problem and the masses need to become aware of it. People will have to take the responsibility of judiciously disposing of garbage, and contribute towards reducing pollution.
Of course, it has to be a joint effort by the authorities and residents. Towards this end, we are continuously running awareness drives to tell people about ways to reduce the volume of garbage. I was recently invited to speak on waste management at the GRIHA Summit that focused on integrated sustainability.
What specific local actions are you taking to mitigate greenhouse gases?
Earlier waste was not being segregated. So, everything used to go directly to the landfill. Some eight months ago, we started segregation between dry and wet waste. We installed segregated bins in residential and commercial areas of South Delhi, besides rolling out waste management trucks which would routinely come to residents to collect their waste, provided they gave it in a segregated manner.
This initiative has started to show results. In my home, I have begun using bags to collect plastic bottles, shampoo bottles or soap bottles, which go to a recycling point. We want the residents to adopt such basic methods of responsible disposal.
Are you utilising the waste in the construction of buildings?
SDMC is experimenting with a process that produces bricks from waste. But, its disadvantage is that it is costly. Sadly, there is a notion that this is another way of making money. I, however, feel that new and innovative means of waste management should be tried to reduce pollution and save the climate.
So, what is the status of the project?
Our proposal is that every ward in the municipality will have a Construction & Demolition (C&D) waste site so that the waste does not go to the landfill anymore. C&D waste will include not only bricks and cement but also iron rods; people tend to throw them in the landfill.
At present SDMC does not accept these wastes at the landfill, as they cannot be segregated into any category. The first attempt will be to transform these wastes into bricks for probably building houses. We will drive the initiative with the help of a few NGOs, and members from the corporate world such as Airtel and Hindustan Unilever, under their CSR.
Many experts say that by constructing green buildings, we can reduce the impact that the structures have on climate. Are you also working towards driving green buildings in the municipality?
I think that residents have begun appreciating green buildings. SDA, which is one of the most urbanised areas of Safdarjung Enclave ward, has started showing adoption of this genre of buildings. The locality’s C7 block has a lot of green buildings; residents are heightening the green quotient by installing solar panels and planting vertical green walls.
A lot more acceptance needs to come in as some of these techniques may be costlier, but that is the price we pay for damaging nature. I have been involved in building an SDMC school at Humayunpur; we are trying to get in touch with a lot of people to give it a greener look.