A public consultation meeting, organised by Karnataka’s Department of Municipal Administration (DMA) on Wednesday to frame a solid waste management (SWM) policy in Karnataka, was called off after protests by activists and section of pourakarmikas.
The protesters said that there was no notice about the meeting until Wednesday morning. Moreover, the draft document and form to file objections were only made available in English, making it difficult for many to understand the document.
They demanded that the public consultation be held 14 days the draft policy document is circulated in English and Kannada, giving sufficient time to pourakarmikas, residents and other stakeholders to respond and give suggestions. The administration promised that a draft would be circulated in English and Kannada, and the same will be uploaded on the website. A public meeting will be held with 10-15 days notice.
“This is our right of Principle of Free Prior and Informed Consent enshrined in the constitution,” said Vinay Sreenivasa, a lawyer-activist associated with the BBMP Guttige Powrakarmika Sanghatane.
“We raised our objections in the meeting. We also pointed out the conflict of interest of some of the private parties that have already been consulted. A few companies which are framing the draft policy are calling for more private involvement, and they themselves are running for-profit waste management companies.”
Incidentally, BBMP Special Commissioner Randeep D also claimed the municipal body did not have access to the draft.
“I was there as a stakeholder, representing the BBMP. We ourselves had not received a copy of the draft notice officially. There is no question of us reacting to the draft. We will give our opinion when the next meeting is held,” he said.
Kathyayini Chamaraj, a senior journalist and solid waste management activist, who has been part of litigations on waste management at the Karnataka High Court, said that the date of the meeting and the draft policy should have been published on the website. Furthermore, she said that there were issues in the draft that need to be scrutinised.
“I had received the draft policy document but when I opposed it, BBMP officials initially said it does not apply to the BBMP but to the other city municipal corporations and civic bodies in the state. The most problematic part of the new draft is that it proposes to bring back the exploitive contractor system that was recently abolished. We will vehemently oppose this. This is also in contravention of various HC orders that have already been passed. We also have to be cautious that things like waste-to-energy plants, and are also against HC orders. Why can't we emulate models of smaller cities like Indore and Alleppey?” she asks.
The existing SWM policy has been in use for the last 14 years, and is set to be revised after came under the scanner of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India for not being fully operational. The CAG had also pointed out that urban local bodies of the state have failed to prepare a mandated detailed project report (DPR) on SWM processes in accordance with the Swachh Bharat Mission launched by the Centre in 2014.