Garbage lying around along roadsides and vacant plots turning into waste-filled eyesores are not uncommon in Bengaluru. In the past five years, the amount of garbage generated in Bengaluru has doubled but the processing of garbage has not kept up with the ever-increasing waste generated.
According to BBMP figures, the city currently produces 5,757 tonnes of garbage per day. In 2014-2015, Bengaluru produced 2,500-3,000 tonnes per day (TDP), indicating that the production of solid waste in the city has doubled. Bengaluru’s population increased enormously from 5.7 million in 2001 to 9.6 million in 2011, accounting for 46.68% growth in a decade.
As the city grew, the population also became densely packed with vertical growth in many pockets. Factors like illegal constructions, outdated records, a boom in the online food delivery system and the subsequent waste generated from it have only been adding to the problems.
Data shows that Bengaluru produced only 650 TDP in 1988, which gradually increased to 1450 TDP in 2000. However, in a span of two years, the city’s garbage production had nearly doubled and had reached 2,500 tonnes per day.
With garbage production increasing drastically, the city’s civic body, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, has failed to increase its capacity to process the waste, leaving pockets of foul-smelling garbage lying around the roads, on empty plots of land and on lake beds.
Illegal constructions compromise garbage collection micro plan?
BBMP officials say that the drastic increase in garbage production is the illegal and unaccounted vertical growth in the city after the IT boom.
“There were many illegal constructions and there still are so many. One of the reasons why it is difficult for garbage collectors to handle so much waste is because our revenue records may list a house a one-storey structure, but now it has now turned into a five or six-storey one. There are more people living in these buildings than the records show and hence the concept of allotting one auto tipper for 750 houses becomes useless as the vehicle cannot collect so much garbage,” the BBMP official said.
BBMP officials accept that the agency has not conducted a proper audit of how many such ‘illegal’ structures have been constructed in the city, which is leading to garbage being dumped blatantly on the streets.
“Many people complain that auto tippers do not come to collect waste every day. This is because an auto tipper can only carry waste generated by 750 households. Hence, pourakarmikas end up collecting the remaining household waste. This is because the number of houses is more than the numbers given to contractors by BBMP. More often than not, pourakarmikas are informed by their contractors that they have to dump the garbage in a particular spot and an auto would collect it later. That rarely happens and hence you can see garbage pile up in vacant sites,” the official added.
Increase in packaging waste
Officials also say that the production of waste has increased drastically as the kind of waste generated by online food and supply delivery platforms was not taken into consideration prior to 2015.
“There was no problem with packaging waste before 2012 since services like Swiggy, Zomato, Dunzo were not there. We did not have online deliveries for everything. The BBMP has not looked at micro and macro waste management solutions that suit changing times. Here, the onus cannot only be on the municipal corporation, but also on the businesses which have to bear in mind the waste that will be generated like what kind of packaging is used, can it be recycled easily and so on,” says Ramprasad, convenor of Friends of Lakes.
Processing units cannot accommodate the garbage
Back in 1988, a large part of the city’s waste was sent to a compost plant situated outside the city. The Karnataka Compost Development Corporation (KCDC) managed the composting unit. About 100 TPD of waste was taken away to directly convert it to compost for purposes of agriculture and around 150 TPD was handled by KCDC.
A large amount of decomposable waste was dumped openly along roadsides in the city’s outskirts then as well. However, unlike 1988, the amount of waste generated has drastically increased and BBMP officials say that today there are around 350-400 unofficial garbage dumping sites in the city.
“Composting accounts for 10-12% but with an increase in solid waste, the number of compost plants needed to increase and that has not happened,” Ramprasad says.
Currently, the city has the capacity to compost 1,600 tonnes of garbage per day. But with the increasing amount of garbage, the city needs waste processing plants with a capacity to compost 3,000 tonnes of wet waste. BBMP sources say that operators are not able to process inflow of garbage properly and currently have a backlog of nearly 18,000 tonnes of RDF (refuse-derived fuel) and 20,000 tonnes of compost.
“Unless the movement of garbage is tracked properly, the situation cannot change; besides, many composting units are not even doing the work properly. The BBMP pays them for accepting the waste. The BBMP should pay them after the composting is done in order to maintain accountability. This is not happening and all these plants are turning into another Mandur,” Ramprasad added.
BBMP officials are currently looking into installing waste-energy plants. However, officials maintain that the plants will end up turning into landfills unless the BBMP changes its payment and management module.
'If we pay the private agencies after the waste is processed, then we will be able to track any discrepancies. Currently, we are paying Rs 250 for each tonne of garbage that is dumped in these composting plants," the BBMP official added.