Solid Waste Management – A PPP Opportunity?

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Meena Gupta, a secretary at the Ministry of Environment and Forests, claims that the Indian government will soon add amendments to municipal solid waste management regulations, and highlighted the private sector’s role in exploring new projects. Merinews, a citizen journalism news portal, quoted Ms. Gupta as saying:

sustainable waste management could materialise only if service delivery was linked to private sector participation. “It is imperative that the private sector comes forward and enables the public sector stakeholders to devise appropriate frameworks that result in a win-win for both sides,” she said, adding that the private sector could also play an important role in building the capacities of municipal bodies. The municipalities, on their part, need to provide guidance for the selection of appropriate technologies.

Solid waste management, along with recycling, presents plenty of opportunities for partnerships. For example, EXNORA is an NGO in Chennai that focuses on the environment through their SoWAM program, which works in muncipalities throughout Tamil Nadu. An India Together article also provides a good background into the various policies in place, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of private sector participation.

Risks of private sector involvement may include a lack of transparency, a commercial failure that would then lead to disturbance of public services, or low cooperation between stakeholders. A World Bank presentation offers different options for contracting mechanisms and other processes to offset these potential risks, and Vinay previously discussed a primer on PPPs.

The opportunity is there, but is it best for the private sector to get involved in offering what can be considered an essential public good? And do the benefits really outweigh the risks?