In India, Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) are responsible for segregated waste collection, transportation and processing of recyclable waste and disposing material in sanitary landfills. Owing to the absence of a paid system for door-to-door or community-specific waste collection and management, ULBs are unable to efficaciously carry out the process. As they deal with issues like lack of infrastructure and involvement from the concerned governing bodies, inefficient waste management has now become a major threat to the environment. It has already caused catastrophic harm to the country’s water bodies and marine life. The Indian Ocean Garbage Patch was an accidental find, during search operations for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, in 2013. 

Recognising the magnitude of the problem, the Coca-Cola Department of Water Studies was set up at TERI University in 2014. The Department was well aware that tackling the problem was going to be a long step-by-step, process of progress. Thus, with 21 students as part of the 1st M.Tech & M.Sc batch, the long-term goal was to equip individuals to examine waste management issues in water bodies in an interdisciplinary, trans-boundary and cross-cultural framework. The same year, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which emphasises waste management at various stages of generation, collection and disposal, was launched. The Coca-Cola Department of Water Studies aimed to aid the government in coming up with an innovative approach to waste management in water bodies. It also aimed to generate enough intellectual capital to cater to the needs of a modern India. 

Coca-Cola and TERI University also organised a high level dialogue on the issue ‘Cleaning of India’s Rivers – Design of Participatory Approaches.’ 

Three years on, TERI University students have compiled a comprehensive report and plan of the evaluation and quality restoration plan for river Yamuna. Their recommendations include:  

  • River-front development needs to be considered an economically-viable and environmental-friendly solution to promote the concept of ‘Green Cities’
  • The recycle and reuse of treated wastewater can be used for irrigation, horticulture and industrial purposes. It can also be used for cooling power station towers 
  • Diffusing pollution via urban and agricultural runoff can be minimised by establishing rainwater harvesting units within the city and sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDs) 

The students are now in the process of attempting to get these changes implemented and the Coca-Cola Department is determined to bring their ideas to life, in its mission of safeguarding the country’s water sources, by tackling waste management in water bodies.