Graduate student Daniela and PhD student Katleen conducted research projects on the topic of waste management in India with support of IGCS. Of special interest were studies on the amount and composition of waste, as well as its recycling potential in Chennai and on Neil Island. Sadly, both of them had to end their exchange early due to the Corona virus. Nevertheless, they have achieved a lot during this time and let us take part in their journey, research interest and the implications the virus has on their projects!
Katleen, Berlin School of Economics and Law
Project: Baseline study on solid waste management generation and characterisation on Shaheed Dweep
At the IGCS Winter School in Chennai about Sustainable Waste Management in February 2019, I got inspired to continue research on waste issues as an IGCS research scholar. I was back at IIT Madras in October 2019 to start my research project under the guidance of Prof. Ligy Philip from the Civil Engineering Department at IIT Madras. Two months later I started my field work on the Andaman islands.
Driving forces for my research were
acquiring knowledge on the amount of waste being produced by whom and what on the islands and
identifying recycling potential to lessen the burden of the waste’s impact on the islands.
Neil Island, now called Shaheed Dweep, in the South Andamans was research area. The island is dominated by the tourism industry now. The relation about waste generation from local vs. tourist activities is an important indicator about the impact of tourism on small islands.
I chose to conduct a baseline study on Shaheed Dweep for my research project. Realizing that there are no actual figures about waste generation on the island, data collection on the island’s waste generation and the characterization of waste became an important target of my research project. Streamlining the island’s waste becomes a necessity in order to identify recyclable materials which can be transported out of the island. A resource recovery process could take place in Port Blair or on mainland India. The big advantage would be to reducing the burden on the open dumping yard on the Shaheed Dweep, which is currently the prevailing method of waste disposal.
Having said this, the restrictions following the COVID-19 crisis hit me during my second sampling week in March which I conducted with many volunteers to measure and sort the waste from the local market. Tourists were restrained from traveling to the Andamans, water sport activities like diving had to stop and suddenly the petrol station closed overnight. The waste collector changed their collection plans or even stopped collecting. End of story: I was escorted from the Andamans on the following Monday and my second sampling week unfinished. I was leaving the islands in confusion and a state of shock.
What happened next? I stayed in Chennai to continue analyzing my data. My sampling of household data was completed successfully. The waste rate per capita per day has been calculated for the sampling group of merely 0,18 kg/per person/day. Now extrapolating it to the total island inhabitants counting 3.040 people (Gram Panchayat Shaheed Dweep, 2019), the daily waste generation of all registered islanders would be at approximately 550 kg/day. This is a very small share (29%), given the estimation of about 1,9 metric tons per day of mixed waste by the Andaman Public Work Department in 2015. When looking at the composition of waste it reflects the Indian high standard of wet waste or compostable share (65%), while the remaining waste is coming as plastics (11,2%), glass (6,8%), paper (6,6,%), textiles (5,2%), metal (2,1%), hazardous waste (1,7%), other/rubber (1%) and e-waste (0,3%). My goal is now to close the data gap and get the respective figures for the market, the hotels and beach areas, which are the remaining major sources of waste streams on Shaheed Dweep.
Besides that, I enjoyed my time on the island with a diverse range of activities related to a sustainable waste management approach and data collection. Together with local and visiting volunteers, we removed 3,8 tons of waste from the beaches and one private property within three months. Out of this, 36% could be sent to Port Blair to recycle glass and plastic bottles. Furthermore, I conducted a workshops with school children about waste categorization, a waste management stall for the local island festival, a waste mural piece from plastic caps and many beach clean ups.
Heading off to the Andamans with the ferry was not only a dream come true but also an adventure in itself. I wish to return later this year to continue what I had to leave suddenly overnight on Shaheed Dweep.
Source: Katleen Schneider
Daniela Strittmatter, University of Stuttgart
Research Project: Plastic waste management in coastal areas
Plastic is known as a material with a huge range of applications in nowadays life. Our economy wouldn’t be the same without this reliable and cheap material. But what happens with the increasing amount of plastic material after its life spam…?
That was the question that came to my mind many times within the last years and during my master studies. So I decided to deal with this fascinating topic in my master’s thesis. The main aim of my thesis was to examine, how to improve the plastic waste management system in beach areas of Chennai. I conducted my research together with Professor Dr. Ligy Philip from the Civil Engineering Department at IIT Madras in Chennai and Professor Dr. Martin Kranert from the University of Stuttgart.
The research area of my research project is Chennai, a city with around 8,7 million inhabitants in India’s southeast. Similar to many other cities, Chennai is facing increasing amounts of waste, generated by society and companies. Due to an insufficient waste management infrastructure and lacking numbers of waste treatment plants, around 94% of the waste mixture is either deposited on open dumpsites without proper treatment or thrown away illegally. Uncollected waste that reaches coastal areas is likely to enter the sea, leading to negative long-term effects on a sensitive ecosystem. This is especially of increasing concern as the amount of plastic debris in underwater environments continues to accumulate with expected long-term effects on animal and human well-being.
As there is a lack of literature about the current waste composition at beaches in Chennai, I started my research with a status-quo waste analysis at different beach areas. This was an important step in order to gain a first impression. The waste analysis included both the amount and composition of waste, with a focus on plastic. Especially the questions “What is the amount of plastic waste that can be recycled?” and “Which areas are prone for plastic accumulation and why?” were of high interest for me. Luckily, many helpful hands at IIT Madras helped me with my sampling collection as I found many kilograms of waste per sampling site.
One main challenge was the hot and humid weather in Chennai, especially during noon at the sampling sites. With the sun burning down on my helpers and me, it was often quite exhausting to collect and transport the samples at the beach for hours. Nevertheless, I enjoyed being outside and was proud seeing the clean beach areas in the evening. Unfortunately and with a heavy heart, I flew back to Germany with a heavy heart due to the unpredictable Corona-crisis. I wasn’t able to collect further samples anymore due to the lock-down in whole of India. Nevertheless, I am glad to have finished my basis data which I’ll continue to use in an adopted way for my project now that I am back in Germany.
Besides writing my master’s thesis one exciting experience was my participation at the Winter School about “Sustainability in the Peri-scene” at IIT Madras in February 2020, organized by IGCS. The main content of the Winter School was to give the participates a well-rounded understanding of the peri-urban development in Chennai by having lectures, panel discussions, exercises and project work. Apart from the gained content knowledge the Winter School gave great opportunities to build a network with people of the same interest background and I am happy to still be in contact with many of them. Another highlight of my stay was during a beach clean-up I did on my own. Suddenly, a local person appeared, showed interest in my project work and offered to help me without any requirements. It was great to see that people are aware of the waste problem and the negative environmental effects and are willing to do something against it if they get the chance.
All in all I really enjoyed my stay in India. It’s a diverse, colourful and lively country and there are many things to discover. During my travels I enjoyed beautiful landscapes with rice paddies, white sand beaches and tea plantations. I fell in love with the tasty exotic fruits and delicious spicy dishes. Luckily friends taught me how to prepare Indian food. Especially the friendliness and curiosity of Indians made it very easy to get integrated into the Indian way of living and to feel home in Chennai soon. In order to get an impression of all facets of India, it is important to be open-minded and be ready for new experiences because India is also a country of contrasts. In some areas the effects of poverty and luxury can be seen next to each other and this can be challenging to cope with sometimes. Although it is visible that there is effort to improve the waste management situation in the cities, there is still a long way to go and solutions to be found. In order to enhance sustainable systems and thinking, international cooperation bonds like IGCS are a great way to exchange relevant knowledge and experiences between India and Germany and to bring research further for both sides.
Hence, I am very thankful for the experiences I made during my 3,5 months stay in Chennai and would highly recommend the exchange program to interested students. I will definitely come back to visit my friends and to discover the beautiful western and northern parts of India.
Fireflies Intercultural Centre January 9 – 12, 2020 in Bangalore
Organised annually by Pipal Tree of Fireflies Intercultural Centre near Bangalore, more than 60 participants from India and abroad met to discuss and share their views on climate change and environment along the key questions of the title “What Hope? What Action?…in the Anthropocene”.
These dialogues are part of a global initiative Dialogues in Humanity to bring to the fore the human dimensions which are often neglected and marginal in sustainability and climate change response such as fear, grieving, and the multiple religious, spiritual and ethical aspects.
IGCS-Postdoc Dr. Woiwode was invited to give a talk on “Exploring Levers of Inner Transformations towards Sustainability Transitions” in the session Processes that lead to Inner Transformation . The format of the event facilitated guided morning meditations and reflective one-to-one, small group and large group interactions along the overall theme “Inner processes from spirituality, religion and secular humanism to re-imagine, re-enchant, strengthen resolve and commitment to alternatives”. The venue was ideally located on a large, beautifully designed, forested retreat campus on the outskirts of Bangalore.
The Chair of Waste Management and Emissions at the Institute for Sanitary Engineering, Water Quality and Solid Waste Management (ISWA), University of Stuttgart, and IGCS were present at the International Solid Waste Association World Congress that took place from the 7th to 10th October, 2019 in Bilbao, Spain.
In a session with the connecting theme Empowering Women in Recycling and the Circular Economy, Dr. Gabriela Garcés presented encouraging ideas and gender perspectives for sustainable waste management for resilient cities. The Indo-German Centre for Sustainability and its core objectives was presented to an audience from the academia, industry and international organizations.
During a 2-hour-dialogue, IGCS-Postdoc Dr. Garcés exposed on approaches to include social and gender aspects in planning for waste management projects and practices in the frame of circular economy strategies. Focus was on the relevance of integrating environmental, social, and gender issues in governance frameworks, technological solutions and capacity building to empower equitable participation and promote opportunities of collaboration.
Urban Resilience 2: Coastal and River Management, Vulnerability and Sustainability October 20-23, 2019 at IIT Madras in Chennai
Continuing discussions from 2017 on the influence of climate change on flooding at rivers and coastal areas Indian and German researchers met for the round table Urban Resilience 2. 15 German scientists from Geoverbund ABC/J, under lead of RWTH Aachen University, met a again delegation of Indian researchers at IIT Madras to continue discussions on the influence of climate change on flooding at rivers and coastal areas. Many Indian scientists from different parts of the country were invited, e.g. from IIT Madras, IIT Kharagpur in Golgata; Anna University in Chennai, NIOT & NCCR in Chennai, and Annamalai University in Tamil Nadu.
The presentations covered many highly relevant topics, such as the establishment of the coastal flood forecasting system for Chennai ‘CFLOWS’ after the devastating floods of 2015 and coastal vulnerability and socio-economic effects in large cities after extreme events. This was also discussed in light of distribution patterns and toxicity of various pollutants, e.g. pesticides from agricultural areas in river catchments and coastal areas after flooding events. Other presentations covered the following topics
Urban and Coastal Resilience
Climate Change and Coastal/Riverine Flood Hazards
Bio- and Ecohazards
Social and Environmental Impacts, Adaption and Governance and its Dynamics
In October 2017, IGCS started a discussion on Urban Resilience on coastal and river floods or extreme events affecting megacities and settlements in coastal low lands. More than 1.5 billion people are currently living within 100 km of the coastal zones of the Earth, especially in tropical and subtropical regions. And the number is still growing, due to economic and social attractiveness as large-scale urbanization and mega-city development within the coastal zone is expected to be more rapid than in other areas in the near future.
Almost all future scenarios of climate change and sea level rise point to a higher frequency of extreme weather and climate events in near future, and that this will reveal significant vulnerability and exposure of coastal cities to the current climate variability. Climate change also affects monsoonal patterns, which seem to cause an intensification of the seasonal rainfall that fortifies inundation/floodings/droughts in India regularly during the last years (e.g. 2015 Chennai, 2018 Kochi).
Besides the Indian coast is prone to tsunamis, as the Makran subduction zone may cause earthquakes and tsunamis affecting the Indian west coast, as e.g. in 1945. In 2004, the east coast has been affected by the Sumatra tsunami inducing landfall in the Tamil Nadu coast. Besides the primary destructive effects, the widespread contamination of coastal areas due to the pulsed transport of immense pollutant loads during the floodings may seriously affect the coastal ecosystems. This clearly affects increasing population and urbanization in particular along coastlines and urban or even critical infrastructure, as a consequence adaptation, decision analysis and governance of manifold administrational levels.
At the roundtable, many new collaborations for prospective research projects between Indian and German researchers evolved.
IIT Madras, Chennai, India
October 20 – 22 2019 (until October 25 incl. excursion to Pichavaran )
Alumni Meeting | November 6 and 7, 2018 | Heidelberg
For the very first time, an Alumni meeting of the Indo-German Centre for Sustainability (IGCS) at the IIT Madras, Chennai, will be hosted at the Heidelberg University of Education on Nov. 6th and 7th 2018. For this purpose, the following call is meant for anybody who can consider himself or herself to be an alumnus of the IGCS, because he or she participated in an IGCS summer or winter school or stayed at the IIT Madras, Chennai, or a German University due to an IGCS research stay funding. The objective of the meeting is the initiation of a debate among the alumni on ways of sustaining their IGCS research experience by networking, combining research efforts, sharing experiences and field work know-how etc.
In the course of the workshop, inputs will be provided on selected current issues and methodology of sustainability research, with a specific focus on transdisciplinary approaches and living labs. A guided design thinking workshop will support the participants in structuring ideas, options and approaches for establishing a longer term alumni network and alumni projects.
Indo-German Dialogue on Green Urban Practices | November 8-10, 2018 | Freiburg
The Indo-German Dialogue is conceived as a continuous series of an annual interaction of academics, civil society activists, government officials, and social business/ entrepreneurs. Its key objective is to provide a platform of sharing and exchange of experiences of social urban innovative change in Europe/Germany and India in order to leverage action towards new transdisciplinary research and practice projects.
Based on the experience and activities of participants/initiatives present at the first dialogue and supplemented by a further review of activities carried out across academia and practice we identified “Education, Learning, Training and Awareness” as a crucial area.
These activities connect to global policy frameworks and campaigns such as the UNESCO’s decade 2005-2014 Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and the Global Agenda 2030 on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Social transformations towards sustainable lifestyles will only succeed in practice when people reflect on and learn about the implications of their daily life activities, combined with widely communicating and spreading successful practices, skills, knowledge, values and behaviours. While the local conditions and context are essential dimensions that influence teaching and learning on the ground, transnational exchange is inevitable to generate global awareness and action. This importance is evident in Target 4.7 of SDG 4 on education that addresses ESD and related approaches such as Global Citizenship Education.
Objectives of this dialogue
good practices: role of learning, awareness, trainings for changing patterns towards sustainable living and consumption especially in urban contexts
knowledge sharing about methods of and approaches to ESD (education for sustainable development)
potentially, experiences of knowledge transfer implemented in projects
explore opportunities for collaborative projects in ESD
explore and document potential funding sources
Target groups and participants
The symposium seeks to bring together people from academia, grassroots activists and policy makers from Germany and India for a dialogue about the role and potentials that socially innovative individuals and citizens initiatives have in the sustainability transition of cities on the cross-cutting themes of education, learning, training and awareness.
The first two days will provide opportunities for participants to share and discuss their work and experiences including generating projects. Field visits in Freiburg on the third day will allow exposure to practical applications.