Noxious smoke from piles of burning garbage is a common sight in Bengaluru, which still struggles to dipose of its waste. Garbage (even the segregated variety) is collected and dumped indiscriminately in landfills, while the BBMP's promises about waste-to-energy plants remain up in the air. The seven processing plants, installed at a whopping Rs 450 crore, process only 800 metric tonnes, about one-third of their capacity. The BBMP is now planning to float tenders for contractors to manage these plants and assign marshals to monitor segregation, but these measures may fall flat in the absence of a regimented, decentralised process of collection and disposal, reports Aknisree Karthik.
Most would agree that traffic, roads and garbage are the city’s bane, robbing it of its peace and quiet and clean surroundings. While the BBMP seems to be attempting to give the city better and sturdier roads in the run- up to the state elections, it has not met with much success in dealing with the rising traffic and miserably failed where garbage is concerned. You still find heaps of it on roadside corners, attracting flies, cows and stray dogs.
In some areas while the locals simply set fire to the garbage in violation of norms and at great risk to people’s health, the garbage that is collected finds its way to quarry pits and dumping yards , much to the dismay of ordinary citizens, environmentalists and solid waste management activists.
Although the BBMP had assured that waste to energy plants would solve the garbage crisis, unfortunately the city does not have even one such plant in operation. And despite the state government spending a whopping Rs. 450 crore on seven integrated scientific waste processing plants to process the garbage and convert it into compost, only 800 metric tonnes of it is being processed, much below the plants’ capacity to handle 2,500 metric tonnes (MT), regrets Ms Sandhya Narayanan, a member of the voluntary organization, Solid Waste Management Round Table (SWMRT).
“All seven plants became operational in 2015. But even after two years, the BBMP has failed to bring in measures to improve their capacity and make it mandatory for the ward contractors to send the garbage to the processing centres. Instead, the contractors are allowed to dump garbage according to their convenience, putting people’s health at risk. In many places, farmers are up in arms against the indiscriminate dumping of garbage on the outskirts of the city and on their grazing lands,” she notes, adding emphatically, “It is high time that the BBMP brings in reforms like taking farmers into confidence when dumping garbage near their lands and uses technology to check whether mixed or segregated garbage is being dispatched.”
The activist makes sense as the BBMP is seeing protests at Ramangar against a plant being set up there to generate power from garbage. “It needs to convince the community living in the area to accept the plant by holding talks with it and make sure they are not deprived of any civic amenity. Offering jobs at the plants would quell the protests,” agree BBMP sources
Currently, the processing plants, are functioning only at Lingadheeranahalli, Seegehalli, Kannahalli and Doddabidarakally while those at Chikkanagamangala and Subbarayanapalya have been shut down over a dispute with the contractor concerned, Ms Narayanan recalls.
“The BBMP has planned to float tenders to get new contractors to run these plants. We must get these plants running in the next six months to ensure that the city is not caught in the garbage rut yet again,” she stresses.
In her view, the BBMP and government have allowed local politicians and villagers to sabotage the waste processing units and hold the city to ransom on the grounds that they give off an unbearable stench. “Also, acceptance of mixed waste at the processing units is another issue. It is imperative to have marshals and security at the waste processing plants for their smooth functioning,” she adds.
- The BBMP has made it mandatory for all people to segregate garbage at source since February 2017.
- It now claims segregation has gone up from 35 per cent in 2016 to 50-55 per cent today.
- While the east zone and areas on the outskirts of the city are doing well with over 60 per cent of the garbage segregated in these parts, the core areas with slums are lagging behind.
- Mayor Sampath Raj says with the appointment of marshals in all 28 constituencies, segregation is likely to improve in future.
Decentralise garbage management: Experts
Segregation of garbage at source seems to be floundering in the city. Although BBMP claims 50 per cent of the waste is currently segregated, the figure seems far too optimistic given the situation on the ground.
The civic body made it clear in February last year that it expected Bengalureans to segregate garbage at source and even threatened to slap fines on those who did not fall in line. Showing it meant business it gave wide publicity to the move through advertisements in leading dailies and roped in Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) and NGOs to take the initiative forward.
But while there is no denying there was initially an impetus for segregation at source, it seems to have gradually died down in the absence of a proper follow- up mechanism in place.
BBMP south and west division with many slums, which were the hardest to deal with, saw around 15 to 20 per cent of their garbage being segregated to begin with. But this too did not improve in the months that followed.
Says Ms Shanthi, a resident of Chamrajpet, “For a few weeks last year we segregated garbage and even bought an extra dustbin to do this. The pourakarmikas too insisted on taking only segregated garbage. But after a few days they stopped demanding segregation and although we continued to do it, the rubbish used to end up in one pile on the pushcarts. So we stopped bothering to segregate as its very purpose was being defeated by the civic workers themselves.”
Mr Syed Javeed Ahmed, resident, Anepalya, says pourakarmikas do not ask for segregated garbage. “Every day a mini auto comes to our area and people just dump their garbage into it," he recounts.
Coordinator of Citizens for Bengaluru, Srinivas Alavilli says that while garbage is being segregated in many homes today thanks to increased levels of awareness, it's not clear what exactly happens next. “The pourakarmikas seem to do a good job of segregation, but once it reaches the auto and then the truck it’s another story, " he laments, adding, "If each ward has its own garbage management centre and transport is eliminated or minimised there could be more success on this front."
Marshal assigned in each constituency to monitor segregation: Bengaluru Mayor, Sampath Raj
The BBMP has been stressing on segregation of garbage at source and even threatened to slap fines on defaulters since February last year. Are you seeing any results ?
The percentage of segregation has improved in the city . Earlier it was 40 to 45 per cent and now it is 50-55 per cent.
The segregation was between 30 to 35 per cent in 2016. Has it improved only by 20 per cent since ?
Yes. After I took over as Mayor I directed officials to submit a three month report on segregation of garbage. Once I get it we will know where we are lacking and work on improving in these areas.
What zone are doing well in garbage segregation?
Areas on the outskirts of Bengaluru and the east zone are doing well. The segregation here has crossed 60 per cent and in some places it is over 70 per cent. But the problem is in zones, which have a lot of slums.
People in many parts of the city complain that the civic workers themselves seem unaware about the need for garbage segregation. What are you doing about this?
We have been sensitising the pourakarmikas to segregation through several workshops. Our officers also brief them at the mustering centres.
What are your other plans on this front ?
We have assigned one marshal for each constituency to monitor segregation at source on a pilot basis. Based on the feedback we get we may assign one marshal for each ward in future.