Waste management in 3 regions of Kathmandu Valley
In the past months we had the opportunity to observe waste management systems and attitudes in a variety of rural and urban environments, from intensly urbanized Kathmandu, to the entirely rural village of Bhardev, to the amalgam that is Chaling. Analizing these rural and urban communities we can observe certain diferences in people’s perspectives and practices relating to waste management.
In urban areas people tend to know why waste is hazardous to the environment and tend to be aware of the importance of recycling/limiting our waste output. But due to various reasons like apathy or lack of space/time/resources, they do not put their knowledge into practice. In urban areas also, waste collection has been handled by the government, unlike in rural areas, so people can become complacent and less inclined to think about what happens to their waste after it’s taken away.
On the other hand, rural communities generate different types of waste, and have a tradition of getting as much use as posible out of a resource. Kitchen waste and animal waste is composted and turned into fertelizer for the field/garden, glass and metal containers are repourposed many times before being thrown away, and so on. However this is not driven by concepts of eco-responsability, but more by necesity. People still practice open burning, of plastics/paper/un-compostable waste, or dump them in the forest or on riverbanks. Rural areas also suffer from a lack of a proper waste collection system.
Bahardeu is a remote village situated in a valley between the mountains South of Kathmandu. Even though the street leading there is in good condition, the traffic between the village and the cities is poor. There are no public means to get there and also no vehicles to collect the local waste. They have no public garbage bins neither do they have anything organized for managing the waste at the level of the whole community. Therefore each family takes care if the residues they create.
The overall image of the village is clean, but this is mostly because the settlements are spread over the hills and mountains. When walking through the village and into the private spaces we see people leaving their wrappers and bottles from their hand anywhere they happen to be. We see garbage in the house yards either neglected and spread allover or pulled up for later incineration.
The school where we went to conduct a workshop on “creative ways of reusing” didn’t have trash bins in the classes or in the yard. There was one collection point made out of ciment at the entrance/exit of the school’s area. There, all the waste is collected by a group of ladies to be incinerated later. Pupils were also making use of it, but they never hesitate to just leave the plastic packages anywhere if the ciment bin isn’t near.
One activity that we prepared for the pupils was to craft a small plastic mat out of noodle packs (which they have in large quantities). While trying to make them aware of creative ways in which they could minimize the garbage, during the lunch brake we saw many of them following their old habit of letting the noodle packs down and turn away.
In comparison with other rural areas where we happened to cross by, Bahardeu is a clean village, not having ware pulled in valleys and river banks. However things as eco-responsability are far from the awareness of most of the locals.
Chealsea School and Baneshwor area
Chelsea international school is clean school that teaches ecology classes and promotes a responsible approach towards the environment. People know about composting, it’s importance and some also know the process, but they lack motivation to do it.
The school’s kitchen separates the organic matter from the inorganic, but even so they haven’t done compost yet. They buy the manure needed for the garden and their initial effort for separating the waste has no finality since the public collectors mix all the garbage in one trailer .
The school is interested in changing their attitude into being more responsible and more efficient with their waste. For this reason we presented to the students and the kitchen staff how they can compost very simple also in the city.
Chhaling community, situated on the outskirts of Bhaktapur is one of the most ancient settlements of Kathmandu Valley. Here the ways of living have been passed on and kept for generations.
The school we visited there doesn’t produce much waste and it doesn’t have a plan for managing their residues. They collect all the leftovers and burn them in open space. However the situation in the village is totally different. Everybody uses the organic waste and manure as field fertilizer. Therefore each family separates the organic from inorganic and do pit-compost together with the animal waste. Few families also produce bio-gas as they were able to obtain funds from the government.
Tradition keeps precious information about organic waste management in the village but the modern waste is still an issue. The main problem is the plastic which can be found on the river banks or on the pathways. Whatever the villagers gather is kept until therebe found on the river banks or on the pathways. Whatever the villagers gather is kept until there is enough to be burnt. This process takes place in open space, without any knowledge or consideration for the existat implications. Obviously in the community does not exist an education regarding eco responsability, its importance and impact.
Observing these 3 different environments with their different habits on waste management our attention is most caught by the difficulty and lack of knowledge for adapting to the modern conditions.
We clearly see that in a rural space where the traditions are kept and applied, most of the waste is transformed for the benefit of the humans and the environment. But there, the education for managing the modern waste is absent and we cannot even speak about a communal organization that could facilitate it.
On the other hand, in cities the traditions have been lost and even if some are knowledgeable in the field, there is not much that can be applied in apartments or cluttered houses in the middle of a net of paved streets.
Third, which is not less important but we cannot base our actions on that – is the implication of the government in this issues for creating facilities that can serve the people.
I believe that reusing and recycling plastic, metal and glass is not an easy or cheap task. This is why if we are to adapt to modernity it is crucial to empower our communities with the knowledge and finances and to work together to segretate our waste, to create collection points and recycling units – at least until our guvernors take action or until modernity changes into something different.
By Dragos Balaniuc