While Bengaluru struggles to find a place even among the top 200 cities in terms of cleanliness in the Swachh Survekshan survey , the city's corporators have few suggestions to improve its ranking, other than making cosmetic changes like improving its image in the eyes of the public. When will they get down to dealing with the real issues such as poor garbage disposal and inadequate sewage treatment that are at the root of the problem? Aknisree Karthik and Aksheev Thakur report
You could blame it on its rising population and increasing traffic on its roads, or even on the construction of the Namma Metro, but there is little doubt that Bengaluru is not the clean city it once was. With its garbage bins disappearing and the door-to-door collection of rubbish hardly efficient, its streets are littered with rubbish, making them an eyesore. And as untreated sewage is let into its lakes , many are dying or reporting mass fish kills.
Not surprisingly, the city has performed very poorly in the Swacha Survekshan survey. Although it marginally improved its ranking, standing at 194 in 2019, this is hardly an achievement as it is not much better than its 216th rank in 2018 and 210th position in 2017. Shamed by the survey, the BBMP is reportedly now keen on finding a place among the top 20 cleanest cities in India. But if it has chalked out a plan of action to clean the city , it is certainly not visible on the ground.
Ask mayor Gangambike Mallikarjun about the city’s poor performance in the national cleanliness survey and she blames it partially on the poor feedback from its people. The solution, she believes, lies in informing Bengalreans what the BBMP is doing about solid waste management. “ Many people are not aware of the steps we have taken to improve the cleanliness of the city. In fact, Bengaluru is the only city which has eight waste processing plants. We will take measures to improve citizen feedback with the help of street plays and documentaries,” she says optimistically.
Agreeing with the mayor on the city’s “lost opportunity” for a better ranking in the Swacha Survekshan survey last year, solid waste management expert, N S Ramakanth too contends that it was poor citizen feedback that did it in. “We need to make people aware of the work done to improve the cleanliness of the city," he says.
In his view, the city could perform really well in the survey and even find a place among the top five in terms of cleanliness if it prepared its presentation on the subject early.
“Last year it was only when the Swacha Survekshan team was heading here that the officials rushed to gather the data. We have given a presentation to mayor Gangambike, corporators and the BBMP top brass on what has to be done to improve Bengaluru’s ranking. We want a governing council headed by the mayor, deputy mayor, leader of the opposition and other officials to oversee things and better cooperation among the mayor , the corporators and the public,” he explains.
Mr Sandeep Anirudhan, co- founder of Citizens Agenda for Bengaluru believes the BBMP needs to conduct a year -long campaign, called Bengaluru Top 20 by 2020 with high power media messaging, tie- ups with citizen groups on the ground, competitions between wards, and mock Swacch Survekshan ratings every month to keep the city on its toes for a better national performance on the cleanliness parameter.
The suggestions may be many, but the fact remains that even if publicity is given to the BBMP’s efforts to keep the city clean, unless the results are visible to the eye, it is unlikely to make much of an impact. Like in everything else , it is hard work in clearing the streets of garbage and treating sewage water before it is let into the lakes, that is likely to pay off. The question though is : Are the civic agencies upto the job or will Bengaluru have to wait forever to see its ranking climb up in the Swacch Survekshan survey as they plod along in their characteristic inept fashion?
Will babus roll up their sleeves to clean up the city?
With each passing year, the Swacch Survekshan survey raises the bar of competitiveness among cities. Take Swacch Survekshan League 2020, which has made Storm Water Drains (SWD) in cities a big part of its focus, requiring all wards in the Urban Local Bodies (ULB) to make sure no solid waste is visible in the drains and to provide data on their rejuvenation along with an action plan to address their pollution.
In fact, in its component on Drains and Water Bodies four levels of action are specified. The first, which is allotted 50 marks, says there must be, “No visible solid waste in water bodies (not limited to ponds, lakes, tanks, rivers etc.) in 100 per cent area under ULB jurisdiction At least 50 per cent of nalas should have screens, notification of charges for C&T, P&D of C&D waste.”
The second level requires at least 90 per cent of nalas in ULB jurisdiction to have screens and the third ups this to 100 per cent.
Also, as part of the SS league 2020, there will be a quarterly assessment of cities spread over April to June, July to September and October to December, with each quarter carrying 2000 marks.
Bengaluru then has its task cut out for it. Will it be able to deliver and win a better ranking in the national survey? The answer clearly lies in how far its babus are ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work.
Q&A with Gangambike Mallikarjun, Mayor
‘Poor citizen feedback led to low rankings’
Q: Why have the city’s Swachh Survekshan rankings been so poor year after year?
Yes we are aware of this and have been working towards improving the ranking.
What are the major reasons for this low ranking?
For the past few days, we are have been having several meetings to understand what went wrong and what should be done to set it right. We have found that one of the major reasons for the fall in the rankings is poor citizen feedback.
Q: What do you intend to do about this?
A: First, we need to let the people know what we are doing to dispose the city's solid waste. In fact, Bengaluru is the only city which has eight waste processing plants. Many people are not aware of the steps we have taken to improve cleanliness in the city. We will take measures to improve citizen feedback by creating greater awareness about our efforts with the help of street plays and documentaries.