A survey recent report prepared by researchers Ljiljana Rodic, Anne Scheinberg, David C. Wilson for the UN-Habitat Third Global Report notes that even as we have made much progress in solid waste management and recycling over the last 40 years, it is still a challenge in many cities and “it can pose public health and environmental risks and even precipitate into political ‘crisis’ if it is neglected”.
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Shifting focus in the Gulf countries makes the above statement clearer. Despite being among the richest countries in the world, the problems associated with waste management in these countries are as acute as some of the fast developing countries. Though the GCC member countries devised a uniform waste management system in December 1997, they have collectively failed to formulate a comprehensive strategy and implement in tune with the rising populations and life styles in these countries, says researcher and writer Nefisa Abou-Elseoud.
Further illustrating the facts, a presentation paper at EcoWaste 2014, the dedicated waste management event in the Middle East, notes that waste generation in the Gulf countries will go up from 22 million tonnes in 2010 to 29.07 million tonnes in 2017. The paper also notes that countries like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait rank in the top ten worldwide in terms of per capita solid waste generation.
Smaller countries like Kuwait face further challenges due to lack of space for creation of waste landfills. Having started off with 18 waste landfills a few decades ago, the authorities have been forced to close down 14 of them before their scheduled time of closure due to rampant growth of residential buildings in their immediate surroundings with imminent threat of pollution. A report in Kuwait Times on May 13, 2016, quoted a World Bank report on Kuwait warning that Kuwait ranks among the highest global producers of solid waste and noted that it produces 1.4 kg of solid waste per capita daily.
Countries like Kuwait have also been slow to react to taking comprehensive steps towards recycling and scientific waste disposal. It was just about a few years ago that the government decided to set up a state of the art waste management plan at Kabad, 35 km from Kuwait city but the tender for the same is yet to be given.
Comparing this with some of the other countries shows that they might not be as rich as the gulf nations but are way ahead in terms of waste management. Two small countries – Azerbaijan and Estonia in Europe, have caught the fancy of the environmentalists.
Despite being only an emerging economy, Azerbaijan has gone ahead in leaps in bounds. The shining start in its efforts at waste management is the waste to energy plant at Baku. Built in a PPP model, the plant has been designed and built in collaboration with the French environment technology firm CNIM – among the global leaders in mid-size energy power plants has developed a “best-in-class”, top notch technology. Work on the project started in 2009 and the first firing with waste was achieved in October 2012.
“We have very good results for this project for the Baku city, so we are thinking about extension of our project on the national scale. That means the entire country and its population could soon benefit as well,” says Faiq Sadigov, Environmental Specialist, Ministry of Economic Development, Azerbaijan.
This is a concrete example where good intentions from the government and choosing the right partner for waste management can eliminate the constraints of finances.
This has further been illustrated in Estonia, a tiny country in Europe but given the crown of being the far ahead of the average European waste management standards.
According to Eurostat statistics Estonia is among the best performing countries in Europe when it comes to waste avoidance and recycling along with Slovenia and Belgium, says Environment monitoring website ‘EurowasteEurope’.
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