Waste is a problem. Managing it is a bigger problem. Now we have another problem just as we thought we have found a solution.

Incinerators were seen as the solution, especially for medical or hazardous waste. Burning waste in the open, forget hazardous waste has always raised eyebrows of authorities and environmentalists. We had been doing that because there were no alternatives.

There is an incinerator installed at the capital city’s landfill, Memelahka. More are being planned. In fact, about half a dozen incinerators with varying capacities are already in the country, ready to be supplied. But it is not that straightforward.

The one at Memelakha has not started operation. There is no operator. In the meantime, those who are aware of the development in the waste issue are starting to smell foul both in the regulation and procurement process. There are questions about the regulatory body, National Environment Commission, of procuring incinerators without open tenders. The Commission is accused of both being a regulator and implementer.

Some incinerators are not put to use because there is no Environment Clearance. There are also funds available now to help us deal with the mounting waste problem. Money was the biggest problem so far and the best excuse in not being able to deal with waste. Ironically, we cannot make the best use of the fund.

We had waited for a solution, but we cannot make it work. It seems the solution, like the procedures are caught up in the bureaucratic red tape. Everybody agrees that there is the need to manage our waste, medical or general. We should have been readied with all the procedures before we secured the fund. When there are rooms for doubts and suspicions, implementation is hampered.

We have put the cart before the horse. We bought incinerators a year ago. The environment clearance rule for incinerators was finalised in June this year.  We need to iron out the issues and make good use of the solutions. The financial support committed is impressive and there are others willing to support. We will risk diverting the fund to lesser controversial projects if we can’t find a solution.

The much-touted 3Rs- reduce, recycle and reuse is not working as envisioned. We generate a lot of waste, but it is too less to be reused or recycled. Waste is under a national flagship programme. This indicates the seriousness of the problem. We should not be bogged down by bureaucratic processes and controversies. The fund committed is in the millions. The priority should be to get it started at the earliest.

Our problem is basic – not being able to segregate waste at source or not having separate places to drop. We have done enough advocacy and awareness programmes. We know the results. Perhaps, some of the fund could be used to recruit waste inspectors to penalise violators. This would be more sustainable as the fines collected could be used for other initiatives. From the amount of waste we generate and how we discard, managing waste could be a good source of income.