In the beginning, everything was clean.
Yes, that was during the days of yore. But till even a few decades ago, segregation of waste was not the talk of the town. No one had the faintest clue, what this might have meant. It didn’t matter either.
The Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BMP), recollects NS Ramakanth of Solid Waste Management Round Table, used to put up concrete bins at every street corner to collect garbage.
The BMP would engage pourakarmikas and vehicles to clear the trash. Ironically, even during those days, the municipal efforts did not pay any dividend — the BMP had to remove the bins since residents would litter garbage around the bin instead of dumping it inside.
After the BMP metamorphosed into the BBMP, the concrete bins were removed and a door-to-door system of garbage collection was introduced. Even this evidently failed. Bangalore now is a city steadily sinking under the weight of its own garbage.
Every expert has his/her own solution to the problem. Yet, what has been gaining steam and gathering consensus over the last few weeks has been the well-argued demand for a separate civic body to resolve the garbage crisis of Bangalore.
Chief minister Jagadish Shettar in his budget speech even announced the government’s willingness to consider the proposal of establishing a separate civic body to mitigate the city’s garbage problems.
Grandiose plans of the ruling dispensation invariably come in for criticism, and are often taken with a pinch of salt. It is all but natural for Bangaloreans to have doubts on any proposal’s viability and, if it becomes a reality, on its eventual functionality too. Though the style of functioning of the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) and Karnataka State Housing Board (KSHB) deserves its public censures, the need of the hour, those conversant with the issue aver, is to create a separate agency or authority to deal with garbage.
Yet, if problems in finding suitable landfills or locating government land or acquiring the private land for landfills are any indication, the BBMP seems more inclined in resorting to knee-jerk reactions. The palike certainly has no policy or method in finding a permanent solution to the garbage quagmire it has pushed the city into.
Naturally, the consensus among many civic experts is that a separate agency will not only be able to implement segregation of waste at source, but also install suitable machinery for waste processing at landfills.
This school of thought has been gaining momentum since August 2012 when the garbage issue snowballed, and the city came to be known more for its trash, than anything else. There were many who were ostensibly to blame — right from corporators, pourakarmikas and politicians to Bangalore Metropolitan Task Force (BMTF) chief RP Sharma, whose over-enthusiasm in booking health inspectors for negligence of duty was seen as a contributing factor towards exacerbating the mess.
It is not that there were no garbage-related problems earlier, but those were managed with the commitment and dedication of BBMP health inspectors and pourakarmikas. However, in case of the August 2012 crisis, those expected to find a solution had complicated it by ensuring that pourakarmikas joined the strike for two days. Chaos prevailed, and the stench was all-pervading.
The mess, meanwhile, is becoming messier. Many responsible politicians have been competing among themselves in assuring support to engineers and pourakarmikas who were staging dharna demanding withdrawal of cases booked by the BMTF police. On the other hand, Bangalore was producing 3,500 tonnes of garbage per day. More than 7,000 tonnes of garbage piled up and it became tough for pourakarmikas and garbage transport contractors to clear the garbage.
The increase in quantum of garbage arrival at landfills made residents of Mandur, Mavallipura and Gundlahalli protest and opt for violent methods to prevent garbage-laden trucks. Many non-governmental organisations have been striving hard to ensure these people lead healthy life by reducing garbage output to minimum and putting up machinery for effective waste management at the landfills.
The resistance continues.
Solid Waste Management Round Table and City Connect are of the opinion that waste management is the responsibility of all Bangaloreans and the need of the hour is sending no more garbage to landfills. “Lack of awareness and commitment to keep the city clean is the main cause for the garbage mess,’’ contends NS Ramakanth of SWMRT. This can arguably be done better by a new agency created from scratch.
There are other contentions too. News of the visit by a Gujarat delegation to the Karnataka Compost Development Corporation premises to replicate similar models in that state has receded out of public memory. Gujarat had established more than 20 compost development units to find its own solution to garbage. However, petty politics and greed for land succeeded in ensuring that life for KCDC became difficult. The state government is yet to provide funds to install additional waste processing units and the corporation needs a few more years to clear the garbage mounds at its premises. Apart from this, many compost units started at various parks in the city are either closed down or defunct due to various reasons. Someone needs to take these issues up. A separate agency? Perhaps.
But that was all in the past. The recent seven-day waste habba —Wake Up Clean Up Bengaluru —an event on waste management provided a platform for various trade bodies, hoteliers and industries to make a commitment in implementing waste processing units, thus reducing contribution of garbage to the landfills. Earlier, BBMP commissioner Siddaiah had asserted in public fora that Bangaloreans had no right to deprive the people of Mandur or Mavallipura in leading a decent and healthy life. And in doing this, he had appealed to Bangaloreans to segregate their waste at source and deposit the dry waste at the respective dry waste collection centres.
Many — like the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI), Bangalore Chambers of Industry and Commerce (BCIC), Bangalore Hoteliers’ Association and Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Association of India (CREDAI), Bengaluru — responded to the commissioner’s appeal.
FKCCI promised to reduce 400 tonnes of garbage per day by creating awareness among traders and businessmen. The hoteliers’ association said it would implement waste management processes wherever possible and collaborate with service providers to dispose of solid waste. CREDAI Bengaluru too assured it would direct all its members to ensure that waste management processes were in place at future housing projects. If all goes well, there will be no reason to believe that Bangalore will remain as garbage city.
The BBMP has also been ineffective in tackling the collusion between corporators and garbage contractors. Detractors believe that contractors pay hafta to corporators to ensure that no complaints are made against them. A few corporators had reportedly encouraged their followers and relatives to grab garbage contracts. The menace even compelled V Ravichandar, chairman of Feedback Consulting to demand that all corporators take a oath in the BBMP council pledging that they have no commercial interest in garbage disposal. If the BBMP cannot control its own corporators, they can do little to tackle garbage either.
And that brings one back to from where one started — the dire need to have a new waste management authority.