Bengaluru MLA from Malleshwaram constituency Ashwath Narayan CN on Tuesday started a Change.org petition asking the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to waive the Solid Waste Management Cess imposed on households which compost organic waste on their own. The petition is addressed to Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, Bengaluru Development Minister and Deputy CM G Parameshwara and BBMP Commissioner Manjunath Prasad.
The Solid Waste Management Cess is collected by the BBMP as part of property tax and amounts to Rs 160-Rs 600 depending on the size of property. Ashwath argues that removing the cess will encourage sustainable measures like in-situ composting and recycling, thus bringing down the burden on the BBMP.
In his petition, Ashwath Narayan has written, “It is increasingly getting difficult to find a solution to the city’s growing waste. If the BBMP & Govt of Karnataka waives off the ‘SWM Cess’ for individual households and apartments, who manage and compost their ‘Wet Waste’ in-situ, it would incentivise more households and apartments to start composting in their own homes and premises. This will greatly reduce the quantum of waste the city has to manage daily and the financial burden of waste management (sic).”
He also asked the BBMP to ensure that a proper channel for collection and distribution of the compost generated at homes is created, as currently most of it is sold at throwaway prices and people who are composting at home are left unrewarded.
Presently, waste management in Bengaluru is an utter mess. Due to a lack of waste processing centres in every ward as mandated by the Karnataka High Court, garbage is often burnt or dumped in drains, open spaces by BBMP-appointed contractors, which either way pollutes the air or water.
Speaking in favour of the petition, Seema Sharma, a solid waste management expert and citizen activist said, "Right now, it’s not that people are ready to compost, they have to be persuaded to do so. A financial incentive might help that process. Households, apartment complexes which are doing their own composting are reducing 60% of the waste that BBMP has to manage. It makes even more sense to rebate the SWM cess as composting has initial costs and maintenance costs when done at a community level. Under the present circumstances, even if the compost is sold to farmers, the operation costs are not met. So if the SWM cess is waived, it will help in breaking even. And importantly, waste is segregated at the source. So why not incentivise people to do good?"
She explained although it's usually the civic body's duty to process waste at a micro-level, in reality, the BBMP has been rapped by the Karnataka High Court and other courts for its lax approach.
“Once a contractor collects the waste, we don’t know where it will end. This will actually end up as a big favour to the BBMP itself as we know what is happening at the courts. But right now, many people who compost are not sure what to do with it,” she rued.
Seema said that former Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda (presently holding the rural development portfolio) had proposed a government platform for compost to be directly bought by farmers, but the project never took off.