GOING TO WASTE
The problem of waste in Manali has grown exponentially. Although waste management and hygiene in public places remains a challenge in most Indian cities, in Manali it is an especially urgent and mounting problem. There are several reasons for this, the two most immediate being Manali’s fragile ecosystem and unplanned growth – owing to a continuing spurt in tourism.
- The Himalayan ecosystem – that tourism in Manali profits from – has never been under such strain. Growing population, lack of awareness about preserving the ecology and in most cases, callous greed eating into concerns for the environment has turned this into a mammoth problem.
- With more jobs, greater sources of income and also due to the pitfalls of oneupmanship – to an extent – the local communities are resorting to building unplanned, haphazard, adhoc structures that cater mainly to the tourist rush. Since most tourists in Manali lay little stress on the quality of accommodation, most guesthouses and homestays comply with the barest minimum of construction regulations.
- Hence, water supply, sewage and waste disposal is primarily adhoc and meant to last from one tourist season to the next
ENERGY FROM WASTE
Manali generates several tonnes of non-biodegradable waste each year. Some of this waste is collected by municipal workers from public dustbins and transferred to a large municipal waste facility on the town’s outskirts. However, the entire tourist town of Manali has not more than 15 (yeah!) dustbins for a tourist and local population of above 23 lakh.
- Plastic waste – especially plastic water bottles – is sometimes picked up by scrap dealers but mostly remains uncatered.
- This scenario can change – with minimal effort. Plastic waste has been used to produce electricity and power homes in regions saddled with lengthy, regular power cuts – Manali is fast becoming one such place.
- In Switzerland – with terrain, topography, ecology and hence, environmental problems and solutions similar to Manali’s – energy generated from municipal waste has been used to power 250,000 homes.
- The same remedy can be applied to the problem of waste management in Manali. It will keep waste off the streets and use the same to provide electricity to several thousand homes.