Student Research: Municipal Solid Waste Management in India

In her MCP thesis, "The Role of Institutional Incentives in Municipal Solid Waste Management: a Case Study on Muzaffarnagar, India," Kate Mytty (MCP 2015) explored  the role of institutions and incentives in household waste collection through the lens of Muzaffarnagar, India.

The ever-increasing urban population and a growing middle class are leading to a burgeoning solid waste problem in Indian cities. While legislation has been passed to address the growing waste issue, there has been limited compliance by municipal governments. One of the key changes and challenges resulting from the new legislation is that municipal governments are now responsible for household waste collection. This is both a major expense for municipal governments, but also involves influencing the behaviors of every household in a city. The challenge is there is limited research on how municipal governments enact the changes needed to deliver an effective municipal solid waste management (MSWM) system.

Household waste collection may be more acute in smaller cities. Estimates suggest that a lower percentage of waste is collected in smaller cities than in larger cities. Yet, existing research has a bias towards MSWM systems of mega-cities like Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai even though 48% of India’s urban population lives in cities with populations fewer than one million people. This leaves a gap in the existing knowledge on cities with populations under one million people.

While the 2000 Municipal Solid Waste Management (and Handling) Rules legally bind a municipal government to be responsible for municipal solid waste management (MSWM), a closer look at MSWM systems reveals a range of waste service providers that is much more complex than a single provider. Each actor’s incentives shape their participation in the MSWM system. Thus the municipal government, though the responsible party for MSWM, does not always direct the outcomes of a MSWM system. This begs the question: what actors influence municipal solid waste management (MSWM)? How do their incentives shape the activities and outcomes of a MSWM system? 

Professor Gabriella Carolini served as Kate's advisor on this project.  To learn more about other DUSP student research, see