New guidelines notified for landfill sites, and associated odour

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Of the 62 million tonnes of municipal solid waste generated in India every year, only 43 million tonnes is collected and only 12 millions tonnes is treated before disposal. 31 million tonnes are dumped in landfill sites, without treatment. Over time, these give out noxious odours which affect the health and quality of life of residents in the surrounding areas. At sufficiently high concentrations, odorous compounds may lead to vomiting, headaches, nausea, stress, anxiety, frustration, restriction in outdoor activities, children unable to sleep, and discomfort for elderly people. 

As a start in tackling this problem, the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016, notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) last year, identified odour as a public nuisance. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has also recently come out with detailed guidelines for proper monitoring and management of odour at urban municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills. 

The guidelines advocate a green belt around landfill sites, and the selection of appropriate plant species for vegetation cover to assist in reducing odours. They mandate that MSW landfill systems should be designed to capture and prevent the emission of landfill gases. The guidelines also batted for legislative norms for creating baseline data on odour, and the installation of Continuous Odour Measurement Systems, similar to Continuous Air Quality Monitoring Stations. 

The guidelines also state that the selection and number of landfill sites for a city should be based on factors like requirement of land for the disposal site by considering the present population and projected growth over the next 20 years at least. Other factors include whether the selected site is free from the influence of other odorous sources, and the topography of the site (slope, proximity to water sources like rivers and natural springs). It further stated that the selection of landfill sites should be integrated with urban development planning, so that when the city expands over the next few decades, it does not encompass the selected landfill site. 

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