Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Sinking in garbage

The last few months has been very distressing for the Garden City. Apart from the political shenanigans which has given the city a bad name, the issue of garbage disposal has made national and international headlines.
The thousands of tonnes of uncleared garbage, domestic and commercial waste and the failure of the Bruhut Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to act swiftly have proved costly to brand Bangalore.
Though Bangalore’s waste are disposed or rather dumped in five landfills around the City, none of them are scientifically managed. What is more galling is that the garbage that is collected is not even segregated.
For a City known for its mind-boggling advances in information and bio technology, the system of garbage disposal is laughable. House holds and commercial establishments hand over the garbage, ofcourse not segregated, to the pourakarmikas who then use a trolly or hand cart to put in small three wheeler  goods autos. These then dump the garbage into trucks which are drive to one of the five landfills. Some of the trucks disposing garbage are regular trucks and, therefore, they do not have covers and they spill garbage all along the road to the landfill.
Bangalore today generates 3,000 tonnes of waste everyday from households and commercial establishments. Though studies have shown that 70 per cent of the waste is organic, they are disposed along with the rest of the garbage comprising inorganic and hazardous waste.
Though there are strict rules for collection and segregation of garbage, the system continues to flounder. Even the provisions of the Solid Waste Management and Handling Rules (2000) remaining largely ignored.
What puzzles civic experts is that garbage handling and disposal is the responsibility of the Health Department of the BBMP. Why should the Health Department monitor something in which it is not experienced, asks experts. They suggest the creation of a separate waste management wing with independent authority to take decisions to look after the waste generation, disposal and recycling system.
Another thumbs down for the City’s antiquated garbage disposal system is the amount of fuel spent to ferry it over long distances to the landfills and setting the garbage on fire. Such open burning of waste is hazardous to health and it also leads to increased air pollution.
The best way is to treat organic wastes at  the ward level. The BBMP has made a beginning from this October 1 by asking residents to segregate waste and hand them over to the pourakarmikas. But what happens next. Where is the plant or  unit to treat these wastes. Have the pourakarmikas been trained in wet and dry waste collection.
Then there is the problem of plastic. So far, research has not found out any way of recycling plastic. The small plastic bag, so essential for shopping, has become a nightmare. How do we tackle it. A few years ago, the BBMP announced the banning of plastic. Why was it not implemented. It could have encouraged shops and commercial establishments to give paper bags for shoppers who purchase articles. While a few big malls and shops hand over paper bags, others continue to charge for plastic bags.
Throw out low-quality or inferior plastic varieties of cups, plates and carry bags and even mineral water bottles. The very few recycling units in Bangalore are in urgent need of a massive overhaul. The Government should step in and help them modernise their technology.
The landfills too need to be modernized and managed on a scientific scale. Adopt the Surat model. After the plague that almost broke Surat’s economy, the city is much more cleaner than Bangalore, thanks to coordinated efforts of the Government, civic  bodies and non-Government agencies.
The ward level committees can be reactivated to join hands in waste disposal. NGOs and volunteers in each ward can be tasked with the job of  segregating waste and also recycling them. This is how Bangalore can overcome the garbage crisis.
Do also look at how the Lok Adalat brought some sense of discipline in hospitals in Bangalore. The Lok Adalat Bench of Justice K.L. Manjunath and member Yellappa Reddy issued closure orders after it found that  the hospitals did not have adequate and scientific medical waste disposal systems and that the potable water and drainage system was antiquated.
The adalat held several sittings and issued orders from time to time, finally bringing the Government around. Today, much of the credit for the revamp of the potable water and drainage system of Government hospitals and medical waste management goes to the adalat.
The Adalat had also taken the Health authorities to task three years ago when Bangalore showed epidemic of SARS, Bird flu, dengue and other diseases.
The adalat had also ordered the BWSSB to ensure that Bellandur and surrounding areas got potable drinking water from pipes. It also took the initiative for getting the lakes and water bodies cleaned up.
When the adalat can do so much,. Why cannot the civic authorities take note and set things in order. Even today, street corners are filled with trash and garbage. The people living around the landfills have refused to allow BBMP trucks to dump garbage. The pollution control board has also got into the act and issued notices to the BBMP asking them to adopt scientific methods of  waste disposal.
The Karnataka High Court too is seized of the issue. It has warned the BBMP of severe action if it fails to discharge its duty of removing waste.
 Garden City Bangalore is fast turning into a garbage dump after one of the five landfills in the city has been shut down leading to huge waste pile-ups. Mavallipura accounted for disposing off 30 per cent of  Bangalore’s waste. It is closed now and the BBMPO is scrambling to find out an alternative.   
The Garden City has mounds of garbage at almost every street corner, stray dogs and flies flock to the garbage pile-ups, driving people to desperation.
What about the E waste that is generated in hundreds of tones. Why is there no separate mechanism to dispose them off.
Till then, garbage will continue to pile up. 

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