By Perinaz Bhada and Professor Nickolas J. Themelis
The city of Mumbai (Bombay), India is facing a solid waste management crisis. The infrastructure has been unable to keep pace with economic development and population growth, resulting in insufficient collection of municipal solid waste (MSW) and over-burdened dumps. Improper disposal of solid wastes over several decades and open burning of garbage have led to serious environmental pollution and health problems. This study examined the solid waste management process in Mumbai and the potential for implementation of waste-to-energy facilities.
Mumbai’s average per capita waste generation rate is 0.18 tonnes per person. Although the reported collection efficiency of MSW is 90%, almost half of the city’s 12 million people live in slums, some of which do not have access to solid waste services. The most pressing problem is the acute shortage of space for landfilling. When the present waste dumps were constructed they were at the outskirts of the city, but now they are surrounded by housing colonies, thus exposing millions of people to daily inconveniences such as odors, traffic congestion, and to more serious problems associated with air, land, and water pollution and the spread of diseases from rodents and mosquitoes.
Mumbai is the financial center of India and has the highest potential for energy generation from the controlled combustion of solid wastes. The lower heating value of MSW is estimated in this study to be 9 MJ/kg, which is slightly lower than the average MSW combusted in the E.U. (10 MJ/kg). The land for the first WTE in Mumbai would be provided by the City and there is a market for the electricity generated by the WTE facility. The main problem to overcome is the source of capital since the present “tipping fees” are very low and inadequate to make the operation profitable and thus attract private investors. Therefore, the only hope is for the local government and one or more philanthropists in Mumbai to team up in financing the first WTE in India as a beacon that improves living conditions in Mumbai, reduces the City’s dependence on the import of fossil fuels, and lights the way for other cities in India to follow.
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