While the Karnataka High Court intervention has helped Bengaluru get rid of the garish flex banners, its “do it now” approach may prove more harmful to the city’s garbage problem. The High Court on Saturday had asked BBMP Commissioner N Manjunath Prasad to clean the city by October 31 and told him the ways to do so was “his problem”.
“When hearing PIL petitions related to garbage menace, we will hold you responsible if the city is not clean by October 31. You cannot put the blame on others,” the bench, headed by Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, said.
While the streets may appear clean, unsegregated garbage continues to be burnt or end up in quarries, open drains, parks and lakes, causing more environmental damage.
Lack of vision by BBMP
Following Saturday’s directive by the High Court, the Commissioner had asked all Zonal Joint Commissioner and Junior Health Inspectors to work with citizens to clear all “visible garbage”. In one such instance, in the late hours of Sunday, eight trucks of unsegregated waste, including banned plastic, was dumped in pavements outside Agara Lake. Activists and local residents, who revived the lake a year ago, raised the alarm and got the area cleared by Tuesday afternoon.
But Kavitha Reddy, a lake activist and KPCC spokesperson, observes that lack of a strong solid waste management policy by BBMP has been contributing to the garbage menace in the city.
“We were able to learn that the waste was not dumped by an individual but by a BBMP contractor. The BBMP’s Solid Waste Management policy is to be blamed for all this mess. The High Court’s orders will do no good unless there are pragmatic policy changes. BBMP should also remove the Expert Committee headed by a single NGO called SWMRT, which thinks activism is a policy. They have been EC members for eight to 10 years, but have not brought about any changes than opposing the much-needed interventions.”
When TNM asked Randeep D, Additional Commissioner of Solid Waste Management and Health, about the garbage dumping near Agara Lake, he tried to downplay the crisis.
“We will take action if we get complaints like this. But there is no need to panic as we have clearly stated destination points to dump such plastic waste. While the wet waste goes to one of the seven composting plants in the city, all mixed waste goes to our scientific land site in Bellahalli. We have 400-500 compactors for secondary transportation; it will take the waste to the nearest plant or the landfill.”
He added, “If we add the amount of waste reaching the composting plants, the 168 dry waste collection centres and the landfill, almost 4,200 metric tonnes of waste is collected on a daily basis. We have a plan to have one auto tipper for 750 houses, as door-to-door collection is not effective in some places. We have asked local officials to strengthen the procedures. We are recording attendances and online monitoring of vehicles, too.”
Where does the collected waste actually go?
Currently, activists and resident welfare associations point out that even if garbage collection is regular in each ward, there is no record of what happens to the collected garbage. Many fear that garbage collected from one ward is dumped in isolated places in other areas.
Ramprasad V, a solid waste management expert, said, “If there is door-to-door collection, why would people throw garbage in the streets? So, this means that there’s no collection at all. According to Swachh Survekshan guidelines, the BBMP should upload ward-wise details of how much garbage is picked up from every ward and how much waste processing centres are accepting the garbage on a daily basis. However, despite reminders, the BBMP does not want to implement it.”
A Citizen Matters analysis published on October 1 said only 69 out of the 155 directions passed by the HC since 2012 on solid waste management has been implemented, while another 10 have been discontinued.
In November 2017, hearing a different case, the High Court had asked the BBMP to hold ward committee meetings and prepare a solid waste management plan at a ward-level. Despite this, ward committees only exist on paper.
Following the election of new Mayor earlier this month, activists had met her on the issue but since then nothing has happened on the ground. Only 30 wards have an action plan. Not surprisingly, on October 24, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) fined the BBMP Rs 5 crore for its waste management malpractices in north Bengaluru.
“Bengaluru needs a robust multi-process policy from collection to processing garbage,” said Kavitha, adding, “BBMP should hire professionals and pay them so that they can be held accountable. If Bengaluru can have one Indira Canteen in every ward, why can’t there be one small-scale waste processing plant?”