P Shekhar, a 30-year-old waste picker, stands on top of an auto tipper that collects household waste in Hyderabad. The foul smell of garbage causes passers-by to cover their noses, but Shekhar and two other workers are forced to segregate wet and dry waste — without gloves or masks — using their hands.
Though last year, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) adopted a new initiative to urge citizens to segregate waste dry and wet waste, the practice has not been widely accepted.
“This is our daily routine. The people staying in Begumpet do not segregate the waste as required by the GHMC. So, we have to spend two hours segregating all the waste collected in this area,” Shekhar said.
GHMC has reportedly distributed 44.04 lakh 12-litre twin bins to 21 lakh households across the city and have introduced 2,000 auto tippers to increase the efficiency of door-to-door collection of segregated garbage.
“GHMC is conducting awareness campaigns by the Gandhian methodology, requesting citizens to change the system and encouraging citizen participation to improve sanitation. Waste segregation at source will be achieved by storing dry and wet garbage in two different bins and disposing them of separately,” GHMC commissioner Dr. B Janardhan Reddy previously told Deccan Chronicle.
However, this initiative has been not been very effective in encouraging waste segregation in the city, so the waste pickers are forced to separate the garbage themselves.
“If we ask residents to segregate their waste, they usually yell at us and say, ‘this our job, this is what we are paid for.’ We have to do it ourselves. We are not provided with gloves and masks that we can use it to segregate waste. At the end of the day, I lose my appetite to eat anything,” Shekhar added.
Ram Babu, another waste picker, says he doesn’t eat anything between breakfast and his evening meal, as it becomes impossible to eat during the day with his shirt covered in garbage.
“They should provide us with proper uniforms and equipment for this job,” Ram Babu added.
However, the GMHC’s Solid Waste Management department has denied that allegation, stating that even though waste pickers are given gloves and masks, they do not use them.
“The waste pickers in Uppal and Rajendranagar have stopped using gloves, saying they are more comfortable using hands,” said Srinivas Reddy, an executive engineer of Solid Waste Management.
He also said that while several areas in the city’s East and South zones have acted positively in segregating waste, the Centre and West zones often fail to do so.
“There is already a shortage of auto tippers. The city needs nearly 4,000, but for now we have given 2,000 auto tippers. The main problem is we are not getting eligible employees with licenses. Recently we had to give 500 more autos. The scheme is still under process,” he adds.
By May, the GHMC will provide the 12-litre twin bins to several other parts of the city, and plans to continue the awareness programme of “Segregation at source.”
“We have also directed the waste pickers to deny picking the waste from the houses which do not segregate the waste. However, this needs collective effort from the municipality and citizens,” the executive engineer said.
“By next year we expect the initiative will be fully implemented and show positive response from across the city. These kinds of initiatives will take some time,” he added.