Vertiver is one of the key implementing partners of Su-Dhara, a sentinel project on urban waste management under the Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA) to the Government of India’s Waste to Wealth Mission. Delhi generates approximately 14,000 tonnes of solid waste per day, of which only 6,100 tonnes can be processed through incineration and composting, and the rest ends up in Delhi’s three landfills – Okhla, Bhalswa and Ghazipur, all of which reached their capacity in 2008. In addition to the mounting waste at Delhi’s landfills, several canals and drains across the city are also overflowing with waste. These drains built for irrigation purposes and as flood control measures lead directly into the Yamuna, polluting it with plastic, and leachate from waste and sewage.


(Pic- Waste in 52 cusec drain)

Su-Dhara follows a multi-disciplinary model to address urban waste wherein science and technology applications will tackle and treat waste onsite and social science approaches will enable long-term behaviour change in communities. The key objective of the project is to develop and demonstrate an integrated scientific model for waste management that rids the 52-Cusec and Gokulpur drains in East Delhi of waste and can be scaled up across other urban geographies around India. The project is being implemented in partnership with the East Delhi Municipal Council (EDMC) along with DESMI, an international major with considerable expertise in cleaning water bodies, leading on-site waste retrieval and waste collection and the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IIT-D) leading waste treatment and environmental impact assessments.


(Pic-DESMI unit installation)

The DESMI Enviro-enhancer automated waste collection unit was installed at the 52-Cusec canal in June 2019. This unit outfitted with a conveyor belt will retrieve between one to five tonnes of waste from the canal every day providing an understanding of the categories and volumes of waste in the canal. This mixed waste retrieved will be processed through a plasma pyrolysis unit being designed and implemented by IIT-D. This unit will have the capacity of dealing with up to one tonne of unsegregated waste a day and the syngas produced as a by-product will be used for electricity generation to power the unit. Su-Dhara is also setting the stage for an innovative partnership-led model for integrated urban waste management and multi-sectoral partners will play a critical role in co-creating knowledge and supporting the scale up of interventions designed under the project, ranging from waste collection and treatment to community engagement and behaviour change.

Currently, 2500 tonnes of sludge and 2500 tonnes of floating waste in recovered from the two drains annually and ends up at landfills. Of this, the majority is organic waste and has the potential of being composted. Additionally, diverting the mixed dry waste from the drain into recycling value chains can generate economic benefit and incentive for communities while reducing burden on landfills and pressure on our natural resources. In addition to this scientific model for collecting and processing waste, Su-Dhara is working closely with community members to raise awareness and build capacity to reduce, reuse and recycle waste in the area.



(Pics- Focus Group Discussion, 52 cusec)

The two drains pass through nine wards in the Baburpur and Gokulpur localities of Delhi, home to approximately 6.5 lakh people. We are engaging in a sustained community-focused behaviour change process to ascertain the issues and needs of the community, then design and develop responsive interventions. As one of the first steps in engagement, we conducted several Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with the community and other stakeholders providing us with valuable insights of the waste management system and the issues with it, along with the needs of the community. The name of the project, Su-Dhara, was also co-created with the community through these FGDs. We will also be carrying out an extensive household survey in order to understand the community’s behaviour towards waste management to help us arrive at solutions and interventions that can bring about sustained behaviour change.



(Pic- Dusshera Graphic for Su-Dhara Launch)

On the occasion of Dusshera this year, the project and its brand identity were launched at a local mela in the Baburpur area. At this mela, the Su-Dhara team engaged with nearly three thousand people through different activities. The event began with a small introduction to the project by our Vertiver COO Swapan followed by an engrossing Nukkad Natak. The play dealt with the themes of waste segregation, recycling, composting, health impacts of dumping waste into the canal and the importance of community efforts for rehabilitation of the 52-Cusec Canal, and riveted both children and adults with catchy songs and slogans.



Project partners EDMC were also present at this event and an official from the sanitation department gave a short speech highlighting the importance of community involvement for the success of the project. He also discussed the health hazards associated with the waste present in the drain. The project also received community support and President of a local RWA that has worked extensively on waste management in the locality spoke on the occasion. He encouraged community members to become responsible citizens who ensure cleanliness in their surroundings and asked those living near the drain to support the project.
The most engaging aspect of the evening was the ‘Su-dhara doot’. This mascot was developed as a representation of the project and the cut-out of this character was placed at the entrance of the mela as a photo opportunity. People actively engaged with this and embraced the brand identity of the project. Throughout the evening, both kids and adults identified themselves with the idea of being the cleanliness champion of their area and took pictures of themselves at the Photo OP zone.



Over the two years of this project, we hope that our efforts will connect the communities around the drain in
collective awareness and interventions through activities that involve the youth, households, local businesses and various other stakeholders into a sustained behaviour change model, transforming the neighbourhood and the drains.