Bengaluru: Taking pride in their locality comes easy to the people of HSR Layout as it is one of the cleanest localities in the city. From holding open streets to banning plastic, and segregating waste at source, it has done it all. Cycle lanes are now the latest to make an entry in the layout which is clearly leading the way . Inspired by it, many other areas are now banning plastic and becoming more civic conscious.
All of this did not happen overnight. It took hard work of months and years by many residents, especially volunteers of the HSR Citizen Forum to achieve these goals.
Dr Shanthi Tummala of the HSR Citizen Forum ,w ho gave up a lucrative career as a dentist about two- and- a -half years ago to devote all her time to waste management, has been one of the prime reasons for HSR Layout ‘s transformation. “I realised I couldn’t manage both a career and this voluntary work. So I gave up one to concentrate on the other,” she explains.
Today, 15 tonnes of wet waste goes out of HSR Layout with almost 90 per cent of the households here segregating waste at source. “Initially, we started creating awareness and doing programmes sector- wise. But then after a few days, we found these areas slipping back into old habits. So we decided to have lane-wise volunteers and this has been successful. If our volunteers see someone not segregating waste despite repeated requests, we inform the BBMP health inspectors. If there is enforcement, such initiatives can be successful, ” says Dr Shanti. Agreeing, Ms Kavitha Reddy, another key person in waste management here, says, “We have conducted workshops in parks and temples and have also put up hoardings in front of parks about waste segregation as most of the people are not clear about it. We plan to do this in about 15 parks.”
Black spots fixed
As many as seven major black spots were fixed in the layout by the people, who went on massive cleaning drives and planted saplings to prevent further dumping of garbage in these parts.
Third sunday is for cycling enthusiasts
Every third Sunday of the month cycle enthusiasts come out in huge numbers to cycle in the area. HSR Layout was the first locality to hold Cycle Days locally. Now 17 other localities are doing the same. They not only promote cycling on these days , but also involve children in various traditional games. This led to the holding of Open Streets in the area, which have received huge response.
Says a local resident, Shashidhar Kumaraswamy, “We set out in teams to promote cycling after DULT started Cycling Days at Agara Lake. We met many people who liked cycling in HSR and then asked DULT if we could conduct Cycle Days here. They were happy to give their support. So all the local people got involved and we held it successfully.”
Now DULT has sanctioned a project for cycle lanes in the area at an estimated cost of `18.55 crore. The project includes improving pedestrian safety, sprucing up two junctions and providing cycle stands and parking facilities.
Plastic bags: No microns, full ban
During their workshops, the forum realized that plastic covers were a major challenge as they were easy to throw. Led by volunteers like Ms Malini Parmar, Ms Smitha Kulkarni and Dr Shanti , it decided to introduce a plastic ban. “We did not want to bring up question of microns, we wanted a complete ban. Things became easy as we got the support of the local bodies and MLA Satish Reddy wanted his entire constituency to be plastic –free,” says Dr Shanti.
Ms Smitha and Ms Malini then began an initiative called “Borrow a bag.” The response , however, was lukewarm. “We visited Yelahanka where plastic is banned entirely and since the bill is still pending, we asked the BBMP if we could ban it in HSR layout as well.
The joint commissioner said if there was a health hazard and we had the local representative’s support we could ban it completely. So we involved all the RWAs, called for a traders meeting and it became a reality,” explains Ms Smitha. Besides working with many temples to make sure there is no littering during festivals, the forum conducted plays in schools in HSR Layout on the effects of plastic bags.
About 10,000 families got the message through the children. Interestingly, the Sobha supermarket in sector 7 says it is saving Rs 40,000 in plastic bags since the ban, although it is losing customers who are reluctant to buy things without a plastic bag to put them in.