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Tuesday, Jun 04, 2002

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Burning solid waste hazardous: Study

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EVEN as the local bodies are groping for a solution to the burning of municipal solid waste (MSW), the lack of awareness on the hazards of burning the wastes is causing great concern.

According to details available here, about 0.1 million tonnes of MSW is generated in the country every day. The urban local bodies spent approximately Rs 500 to Rs 1,500 per tonne on solid waste collection, transportation, treatment and disposal.

The Chennai-based Citizen, Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG) at a seminar on `Disposal of municipal solid waste: Hazards of burn technologies', said that subjecting unsegregated and mixed wastes to any kind of burning was hazardous to health as the wastes could contain chlorinated substances that released noxious emissions and left behind a concoction of toxic substances as ash.

The CAG study highlighted the emission of dioxin that took place when unsegregated waste was incinerated.

Cautioning about this potent cancer-causing agent, the speakers said it could cause a life-time cancer risk between one in 1,000 to one in 100 which was 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the generally the "acceptable" risk level of one in a million.

"It can damage the immune system leading to increased susceptibility to infectious diseases. Dioxins are "unwanted" by-products of many chemical, manufacturing and combustion processes. Garbage and medical/hazardous waste incinerators are leading sources of dioxin," he explained.

Speakers advocated various measures, ranging from involvement of community in waste management to alternative technologies such as bio-methanisation and vermi-composting.

Though there is lot of opposition to incineration, it has become unavoidable for disposal of waste, says the former scientist at the National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur, Mr Swaminathan.

He said poor design and management of incinerators had led to their malfunctioning and pollution.

He added that the municipal waste generated in the country was of low calorific value and thus unsuitable for incineration.

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