Transforming Waste Management in South Asia: Addressing Post-COVID Gender Equality and Sustainability

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the critical importance of effective waste management
practices in safeguarding public health and environmental sustainability. Against this backdrop, a research
project titled “Transformation of Waste Management Practices and Policies in South Asia during and after
the COVID-19 pandemic: Impacts on gender equality and sustainability” has been initiated with funding
from the Swiss National Science Foundation under the Swiss Programme for International Research by
Scientific Investigation Teams (SPIRIT).

Led collaboratively by a distinguished team of researchers, the project brings together expertise from
various institutions. Professor René Véron, a full professor at the Institute of Geography and
Sustainability at the University of Lausanne, and Professor Swetha Rao Dhananka, from the University of
Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland (HES-SO), School of Social Work Fribourg, are the two
leading researchers spearheading this initiative.

Professor Nishara Fernando from the Department of Sociology at the University of Colombo, in
collaboration with the Federation of Sri Lankan Local Government Authorities (FSLGA), and Professor
Bishnu Upreti from the Nepal Centre for Contemporary Research, aims to analyze and evaluate
Resilience, Sustainability, Decent Work Conditions, and aspects of Gender Equality in the Municipal
Solid Waste Management (MSWM) systems in Nepal and Sri Lanka during and post pandemic.

With the overarching goal of understanding the intricate dynamics between waste management systems
and the COVID-19 pandemic, the project delineates four specific research objectives:
i) Describing Changed MSWM Systems: Investigating the shifts in MSWM systems and related
discourse during the COVID-19 pandemic.
ii) Assessing Gendered Effects: Evaluating the intersectional gendered effects of these changes
on formal and informal waste workers, including their livelihood, health, and stigmatization.
iii) Investigating Consumption and Waste Practices: Examining altered consumption and altered
waste management practices of households, with a particular focus on gender relations.
iv) Appraising Long-Term Impacts: Assessing the longer-term impacts on governmental and
municipal waste policies, management systems, logistic chains, and discourse with specific
reference to gender responsiveness.

By illuminating the influence of the pandemic on waste governance and its implications for waste
workers, the project aims to inform policy development and capacity building in waste management. It
seeks to enhance teaching and curricula development at partner universities, promoting knowledge
exchange and transboundary teaching.

Furthermore, the project strengthens international research collaboration between Swiss and South Asian
researchers, aligning with the Cluster of Cooperation (CLOC) Knowledge2Action initiative in the Global
South. Leveraging its network in South Asia, the project intends to scale research results and advocate for
sustainable, inclusive, and gender-sensitive waste management practices in the region.

In summary, the project represents a significant step towards addressing the multifaceted challenges of
waste management in South Asia, with a keen focus on gender equality and sustainability in the aftermath
of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through collaborative research, knowledge exchange, and policy advocacy,
the project endeavors to pave the way for resilient, inclusive, and environmentally sustainable waste
management systems in the region.