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Kargil waste management at a glance

Updated: Jan 13, 2023

Excerpt from personal interview with Mr. Shafqat Ali Khan, Executive Officer, Municipal Committee Kargil (MCK) on 26 March 2022 during field visit to Kargil.

Photo credit: Mipham Jigmet

Can you give a brief introduction about Kargil Municipality?

Kargil municipality was declared as a Notified Area Committee in 1963 by virtue of government order. At that time, the area used to be only about 2 sq km. Since then it has been expanding slowly. At present, the area of Kargil is 8.98 sq km. Its total population, as per 2011 census, is 16,338. The number of households, as per 2011 census, is 2,191. The area was divided into 16 wards earlier, but in 2012, it was re-divided into 13 equal wards with one member representing each ward. The election of the 13 ward members took place in October 2018, all of whom are currently active.

View of Kargil city.

How is the Municipal Committee Kargil organised?

The Municipal Committee Kargil, on the basis of hierarchy, is headed by an appointed Executive Officer, besides having a President and a Vice President, who are elected members. At the official level, there is an Executive Officer, a Secretary, a Higher Assistant, a Senior Assistant, and a Junior Assistant. In sanitation, there is a Sanitary Inspector, under whom there are Sanitary Supervisors, then Jamadars and finally, sweepers. In taxation, there is a Tax Inspector and Tax Collectors. In the Khilaf Warzi (Violation of law) section, there is a post of a Khilaf Warzi Inspector, which is vacant so currently, a Khilaf Warzi Assistant is carrying out the work. We don’t have any Junior Assistants. Those posts are vacant. But we have orderlies. There is a Death Birth Assistant. So there are positions created but most are vacant.

In conversation with Mr. Shafqat Ali Khan, Executive Officer, Municipal Committee Kargil.

How do you manage solid waste?

With regard to our solid waste management, early in the morning, on a daily basis, our sweepers sweep the streets. Then they go to clean the wards. We have 2 dumper tippers, 2 normal tippers and 1 mini tipper. Recently, Dr. Zahida Bano, Director, Urban Local Bodies has provided us with Refuse Compactors. To load waste, we use front end loading JCBs.

Municipal trucks and tippers parked in the Sanitary Complex, New Bus Stand, early in the morning before the start of waste collection.

As far as our solid waste is concerned, most of the waste generated is dry waste. The compostable waste we generate is consumed at the household level by feeding the cattle. The waste that we get from the streets is in mixed form (dry and wet together). Our sweepers start cleaning the streets early in the morning at 6 am and dispose it by 9 am.

Municipal workers sweeping the streets in the early morning hours.

The waste is loaded in tippers and transported to our dumping site in Kurbathang, which is 13 kms away from the city, and disposed of there by way of landfilling. The waste which goes to the landfill is already segregated into dry and wet. It is segregated further at the landfill by rag pickers. For the remaining waste, we dig pits about 10 ft in depth, into which we dump the waste and cap with soil.

Waste dumping site in Kurbathang, 13 kms from Kargil city.

What quantities of waste are generated in the city?

We have approximate data only because weighing machines have not been installed yet. But calculating on the basis of truckloads, about 10-12 metric tons of waste is generated per day. Most of that waste is dry waste, such as cardboard, plastic items, etc.

Dry waste lying in the dumpsite in Kurbathang.

Who are the ragpickers, what do they do, where and in what conditions do they live?

Earlier, rag pickers hardly came to Kargil because there wasn’t enough material for them to collect and sell so as to be able to survive here. But nowadays, there are a few ragpickers, mostly from outside, like Bihar and Jammu. Some of them come with their families and live at the dumping site itself. They pick plastic items and hazardous items, and send them for recycling to Jammu, Srinagar, and other places, at their own expense for their own income. We inspect their living conditions by visiting the dumpsite, every alternate day or at least once in 3 days.

Rag pickers from outside who segregate waste at the dumpsite and live there itself.
Dwelling huts of the rag pickers at the dumpsite.
Plastic, metal and some other forms of waste collected by the rag pickers for selling to recyclers outside Ladakh.

How and when did Kurbathang turn into a dumpsite?

Kurbathang, which is 13 kms from Kargil, was allotted to us in 1989-1990 especially for dumping. It was stated in the allotment document that the land is for dumping purposes only. We have been dumping there for 2 decades. But there is no garbage in the open at the dumpsite. First we segregate the waste, and only the remaining waste, which is of no use, is disposed at the dumpsite, by burying in 10ft deep pits and capping with soil.

10 ft deep pits dug for burying waste.
JCB for digging pits to bury waste.
10 ft deep pits dug for burying waste.
10 ft deep pits dug for burying waste.

Do you have plans for a solid waste management plant?

After the formation of the Union Territory of Ladakh, a Solid Waste Management (SWM) Plant has been approved for us. We have been allocated 50 Kanals of land separately in Kurbathang itself for the construction of the plant. The plant will be made by 3R waste management company. Once the plant is constructed, our waste will be treated scientifically: it will be segregated and disposed of; compostable waste will be treated separately; and landfill will also be separate.

Boundary walls of the area designated for the construction of the Solid Waste Management plant.
Boundary walls of the area designated for the construction of the Solid Waste Management plant at Kurbathang.

How do you manage liquid waste?

For managing liquid waste, an FSTP (Faecal Sludge Treatment Plant) plant has been constructed by the PHE (Public Health Engineering) department. We have 4 mini trucks with suction pumps. The residents call us when their septic tank gets full. Then we send our trucks to suck the waste and dispose it at the FSTP. We charge the residents for the service.

We have a project for an STP (Sewage Treatment Plant), the survey for which has been already conducted and a DPR (Detailed Project Report) is being drafted. We hope the STP will come up soon since everything has been approved. The STP can fall under Amrut 2.0 (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation), while the SWM can fall under SBM 2.0 (Swachh Bharat Mission), so there shouldn’t be a problem of funding in setting up either the STP or the SWM plant.

Boundary walls of the area designated for the construction of the Solid Waste Management plant.
Faecal Sludge Treatment Plant at Kurbathang.

What challenges do you face in waste management?

The main challenge is that there is less awareness and civic sense regarding waste among the public. But we are trying to make them aware that waste is everyone’s responsibility. We worked to generate public awareness under SBM (Swachh Bharat Mission) regarding segregation at source so that it would be easy for the Municipality to manage waste and keep the city clean. But the public still lacks awareness and believes that cleaning and managing waste is the Municipality’s work, whichever way they do it. Now we have deployed vigilantes in the market from morning till evening to check littering. We hope that in future, things will be slightly regularised.

Street view, Kargil.

How do you intend to raise awareness since that is the most important?

Regarding awareness generation, I have talked to the Director of LEDeG (Ladakh Ecological Development Group) and BORDA (Bremen Overseas Research and Development Association) last year when they had come to visit Kargil. I expressed the need for awareness generation among the public here. We already have an MoU with them for providing assistance with regard to manpower, experts and resource persons whenever required. We have plans to conduct ward-wise awareness as well as awareness programs in schools because if we don't educate the children then it won't be possible to bring change in adults.

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