Let Us Manage Our Waste And Not Trash The Future! Read On To Know The Problems?
The Indian Railways (IR) is the third-largest rail network in the world with 66,000 route kilometers. Running close to 21,000 passenger and freight trains daily, it catered to more than 8 billion passengers in 2015-16, providing transportation services of 1147 billion passenger-km (IR 2015a).
Suburban passengers also contribute significantly to the overall passenger traffic in IR It can also be seen from Figure 1 that the passenger base of IR is projected to double in the year 2020 as compared to 2011. While the Railways is one of the most economical and environmentally friendly modes of transport, one of the key steps in taking the railways towards a sustainable transport network is that of waste management. Waste (solid waste and wastewater) management forms an important aspect of the Railways? strategy to improve the quality of its transportation services. Apart from catering to passenger and freight movement, the Railways also has large residential colonies for its employees, at various locations across its network. Together, across both traction and non-traction operations of the railways, they consume significant resources as well as generate a significant amount of waste.
The Indian Railways has installed a waste to energy (WtE) plant for biodegradable waste in its residential colony at Kishanganj in Delhi and has plans to build two more WtE projects at New Delhi and Jaipur railway stations. Kishanganj WtE plant has a capacity to process one tonne of biodegradable waste daily and produce 70-80 units of electricity, which is being utilized for street lighting. IR has also piloted different types of toilets on board trains and is increasingly adopting bio-toilets over traditional- open discharge type toilets. As of FY 2013-14, about 9,587 such toilets had been fitted onto the railway coaches and IR has targeted to fit all newly manufactured coaches with bio-toilets by 2016-17 (GOI 2015, NAIR 2015). The Kansas-Dwarka-Okha section will be the first zero toilet discharge section of IR and subsequently plans to retrofit the entire stock of coaches with similar arrangements by 2021-22 (GOI 2015, IR 2016). As of 2015-16, I had installed about 30 Water Recycling Plants and 12 Effluent Treatment Plants (ETPs). More such plants will be required at all major stations in the future (PAC 2014). Some of the other notable initiatives also include the Environmental Management System (EMS) accreditation across all 6 Production Units and 23 major Railway Workshops.These initiatives indicate IR?s core strategy to move towards the development of decentralized.
The food waste generated at railway stations and onboard trains presents a significant opportunity for energy recovery and composting. The former is especially relevant for stations with a large waste footprint because energy recovery (in the form of biogas) becomes economically feasible at capacities above 1 TPD (Hulgaard 2015; PC 2014). Anaerobic digestion (AD) has long been used for sewage sludge or livestock waste in rural settings. But operational challenges are very high for solid waste due to the non-homogenous nature and high solid contents of municipal solid waste (UNEP and ISWA 2015). Technology comes in varying configurations and types. In an optimised system, the methane content of biogas could be as high as 50% and biogas generation varies from 70-90 m3 per tonne of organic waste (Hulgaard 2015; PC 2014). Segregation is an important prerequisite for the successful implementation of WtE projects as contamination with other waste and impurities significantly undermine the efficiency of the energy recovery process (Kumar and Sil 2015). Estimates for the WtE potential across major railway stations (based on passengers received daily at these stations) in the country are presented in Table 2, it was estimated that the energy recovery potential in these stations is around 17.6 MWh (biogas). Also, the requirements for separate storage organic waste are presented, which is estimated to be around 776 bins of 100 liters capacity each. Decentralized WtE for biodegradable waste has significant co-benefits. It would reduce the transportation costs for IR for shifting the waste to the nearest landfill sites operated by the city authorities, by almost 15-25%. Also, it has huge environmental benefits of avoided land/ groundwater pollution (from leachate formation at landfill sites) and avoided GHG emissions Waste Management
7 Decentralized Waste Management in Indian Railways
A Preliminary Analysis at landfill sites. An important byproduct of AD is solid digestate, which could be used as a soil conditioner or organic fertilizer after a period of aerobic stabilization. The sanitation and wastewater management in the IR is improper thus aggravating the water and environment-related challenges. The Comptroller and Auditor General report on ?Cleanliness and Sanitation on IR? has underlined that IR is finding it hard to deal with problems like dilapidated drains, faulty design, incorrect gradients that lead to water stagnation and leaching (Hedaoo et al., 2012). Open discharge from railway coaches leads to surface and groundwater contamination.