Swachh Hyderabad – Need for Harmless Elimination of Municipal Solid Waste – Part 1

MSW Municipal Solid Waste – Environment & Health Hazards

Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Processing is the responsibility of Urban Local Bodies (ULB) in India.

Per capita MSW is estimated in the range of 0.2 to 0.6 Kg/Day with annual growth of 1.3% per annum and Total  annual MSW is growth estimated as  5% by Govt of India.

India even today by and large is doing Open Landfill dumping of MSW. At current rate by 2047 MSW landfills land requirement is estimated as 140,000 Sq. Km (larger than entire GHMC area of 922 Sq.Km) and Methane emissions from this landfills will cross Over 40 Million Tonnes per annum that is 4 times more than it is now.

Composition of MSW in India has higher Organic Waste (40% to 60%) this means higher Green House Gases (GHG) It consists of 50% Methane, 45%Carbon dioxide, 5% Nitrogen Gas

Emissions in Summer  from Landfills are about 5 times or more with rise in mercury levels as compared to winter.

GHG emission sources from MSW is not only landfills but right from pickup using Open push carts, Tricycles, autos,  Dumper Bins, Open Transport  open dust bin, Waste blown, Dust during tipping then the decomposition in landfills and burning in various points including the landfills.

Impacts of Emissions from Landfill sites

  1. Acid Gases

Nitrogen Oxide & Sulphur dioxide  result in significant Respiratory impact for those with Asthma for others irritation to inflammation

  1. Dioxins (Need to increase the awareness and bring in regulatory framework)

Burning in landfill sites in India, pose significant hazard with release of Dioxins.

Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems,

damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer.


Short-term exposure of humans to high levels of dioxins may result in skin lesions, such as chloracne and patchy darkening of the skin, and altered liver function.

Long-term exposure is linked to impairment of the immune system, the developing nervous system, the endocrine system and reproductive functions.

  1. Methane

Is flammable gas and is explosive at concentrations between 5 to 15%

Inhalation causes nausea, vomiting, headache

At very high concentration can cause coma and death due to respiratory arrest

  1. Carbon Dioxide

Concentration above 6% can cause headache, dizziness, mental confusion, increased BP,

Humans cannot breathe air with more than 10% Co2 without losing consciousness


Study in UK around 20 landfill  sites that opened during 1983-1997 found 39% increase in rate of anomalies in populations living close to the landfill sites

Impacts of Ground Water near Landfill sites

Below is the Result of Study conducted in Delhi

Delhi landfill site effect on Under Ground Water

It reveals high impact up to 1 Km distance from the landfill site.

At present, Environmental Impact  Assessment (EIA) has become compulsory to construct any waste processing and landfill area in India.

Scarcity of land in the cities and awareness  among the citizens Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) made it difficult to find new landfill sites.

Recent GHMC initiative to issue Waste collection Bins and Trucks to for daily waste collection to reach transfer stations faster than lying for long in dumber bins in each street is a welcome step and may reduce the GHG closer to homes to some extent and rest of the challenge with MSW within city itself remains same

Next Post will look into various technology options worldwide that are adopted extensively


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