Transcript

Solid Waste Management Round Table
                                                                                                       May 20, 2012


One of the reasons that the city has had to grapple with so much of waste around is because nobody wants Waste in their own backyards; in other words not in my backyard. But there are some who smile and open doors to you to dump your waste in their backyard and encourage you to do so; what they call the ‘YES IN MY BACKYARD” Syndrome; in short YIMBY. Ms. Nalini Shekar and Ms. Pinky Chandra are two active members of Solid Waste Management Round Table Bangalore that believes in this concept. They are also one of the recipients of the Namma Bengaluru Award. The Round Table comprises like-minded NGOs and individuals working in the field of waste management in Bangalore. The team members work in educating citizens, on managing waste at the source, recycling, and even composting the waste. It also works with waste pickers, kabbadiwalas, and recyclers to manage the waste. Ms. Nalini Shekar’s main focus is inclusion of waste pickers in the solid waste management process of urban local bodies. Ms. Pinky Chandran was part of the core team that successfully organized the Bengaluru Recycling Habba. She was also instrumental in conceptualizing Recyclathon awards.

How does Solid Waste Management Round Table work? How does inclusion of waste pickers in solid waste management help? What is Recycling Habba success formula? Learn more as Ms. Nalini Shekar and Ms. Pinky Chandran have a candid conversation with Mr. H S Balram, Trutsee Namma Bengaluru Foundation.

H. S. Balaram:First of all congratulations to you and all those associated with the Solid Waste Management Round Table Bangalore for winning this Namma Bengaluru Award. What does winning the award mean to you?

Nalini Shekar: Winning the award is only the beginning of the work that needed to be done. So, we have already begun our work. We have done so much of work in the last 1-1/2 year. A recognition to that has been given, but actually what we need to do is the scale up and actually implement in a much bigger way, and we are hoping that his particular award will help us do that because we need all the citizens in Bangalore participate in this. Getting recognition definitely move towards it.

Pinky Chandran: Definitely, just like what Nalini said, the award is only the beginning. It puts much more focus in what we are doing, and it definitely will help us scale up. It will not make us complacent.

H. S. Balaram: When we speak of solid waste management, we generally ignore the contributions made by ragpickers or waste pickers. Nalini, way back in 1997, you formed a Union of Waste Pickers in Pune. I believe you have launched such a union in Bangalore called Hasiru Dala and that you have started including them in the solid waste management process of BBMP. What is the objective?

Nalini Shekar: The whole objective is to recognize the contribution made by waste pickers. There are studies made in Pune and Delhi, which is kind of something that can reflect or the study outcome can be part of Bangalore also because we are in a similar situation in terms of the quantities of waste created, the kind of people we are, and the class of people, because the higher the class the more waste we generate. So with those studies, it has very clearly shown that about 20% to 22% of the city’s waste is managed by them in a very, very informal way. They come, pick up the waste on the street or where there is an empty site where it is thrown, or may be in the landfill. Of course in Bangalore, we do not have access to landfill in principal. So, when they pick up, they pick up for their livelihood for sure but they are cleaning Bangalore, and there is absolutely no money given to them to do that work or recognition given to their work. Imagine if BBMP had to deal with 20% more of the waste, how much money we would have spent in collection, transportation, and land filling. All that they are doing, and also they are really silent environmentalists because they are really giving us material to recycling industry. They are converting what you and me throw at thrash or waste, they are making it a tradable commodity, which is a big thing. They are actually giving value to the waste and creating something else by giving to the recycling industry. Second thing is also because they are picking up waste, they are creating up to 20 to 22 jobs in the recycling pyramid, each one of them. So, you can imagine how many more jobs they have created. So, I think inclusion of waste pickers into solid waste management of the city is something that they have to do. There is no exception for it because they already have the skills of segregation. They already know what is the value, which can be recycled, which cannot be recycled, if you put two people in front of you to sort waste, one waste picker and one just people who clean the waste or just sweep the waste, you can see the skill that they have. They will pull out the things much, much more things that can be recyclable than anyone of us.

H. S. Balaram:A 2010 circular where the Ministry of Urban Development specifically directs urban local bodies to include waste pickers into solid waste management. How has been the response of civic bodies so far? You worked in Pune and now you have been working with BBMP here. What has been the response?

Nalini Shekar: Actually, a group of waste pickers through Alliance of Indian Waste Pickers contacted the Urban Development Department in Delhi, and we actually presented what the contribution of waste picker and resulting that came the circular; but right now with the 83rd and 84th amendment, all the decisions related to waste and many other administrative stuff is the urban local bodies’ business. The Urban Development Department in Delhi can only advise, but the decision has to be made by the local body. Unless there is a citizen’s pressure, unless there is a pressure group, which really shows the importance of it, ULBs will not take this forward very effectively because in that circular they said within three months you have to report. There is not a single report that has gone to them till now. It has been almost a year and a half since the circular has come. We have enough laws and enough circular. We have to make sure that it enables the work that we are doing locally. So, it is a great tool for us to really empower waste pickers, empower our urban local body to include them, and circular by itself has not really acted anywhere.

H. S. Balaram: What has been your experience so far? You worked with Pune local civic body; you have been working with the Bangalore civic body, BBMP. What has been the experience?

Nalini Shekar: See the experience, they all understand taking waste pickers will be the best thing they can do because it is much easier in terms of cleaning. Not everybody is happy to put their hand into the waste, but most of the waste pickers come from the Dalit family, and they have been doing this work for a long time, but when you introduce a technology suddenly you bring in somebody else but not our own waste pickers who have been toiling all these years. Why cannot we empower them to better their condition of work and give access to waste at source; and I think many of the ULBs are recognizing this now. First time in a law that is Plastic Rules 2011 has actually defined who waste pickers are. We have never had that before. So, now with that legislation coming in everybody talks about waste picker. You go out to ULBs and say, “yeah we want to include them.” They understand the need of it. They do not know how to do it. The pressure worked.

Pinky Chandran: I would like to say that working with the BBMP has been fantastic. They have been open enough to delegate the responsibility to the NGOs to help with registration, and they have been quite supportive in that matter.

H. S. Balaram:What you say is the response from the BBMP has been encouraging?

Nalini Shekar: That is right.

H. S. Balaram: Who all come under the category of waste pickers?

Nalini Shekar: Waste pickers could be someone who on the street pick up the waste and put it the bag, usually they have a bag on their shoulder; and there are some immigrant waste pickers, now they use cycle with a huge bag on it. So, they put it in that. In this particular registration, we have included waste itinerant bags, waste itinerant buyers that is dabba batliwala or people who would trade or buy newspaper in front of your house or plastic or old metal all that and also there are huge number of sorters. If you go to Jolly Mohalla, which is near the City Market, there are a lot of huge wholesalers, there are stockists there, and there are so many people really sorting. These sorters also we have included in this particular definition.

H. S. Balaram:Do these people have legal rights to pick up waste or they are doing it on their own for their livelihood?

Nalini Shekar: There has never been legal rights for them, but law has been very vague about the rights because once waste leaves your premises it becomes the property of corporation but people have been picking up.

H. S. Balaram: How many waste pickers does Bangalore have?

Pinky Chandran: It is estimated that there will be about more than 15,000.

H. S. Balaram:Have they been issued identity cards by the BBMP or do you issue the ID cards? It is now mandatory as per the recommendations of the National Labour Commission.

Nalini Shekar: National Labour Commission has recommended. It is not mandatory. It is a recommendation, but ID cards have been given by BBMP, which is the first ULB to do in India. They have put their logo on it. Commissioner has been signing it. The methodology also we have designed in a way that there is one citizen of Bangalore who will say okay introduce the waste picker and one BBMP official who will sign on it. So, every application, we are saying about 5000 applications, we are talking about 10000 people’s signature on it. In the sense, each application will have two signatures. So, we are making sure that we are not giving away the ID card for people who are not the right person to get this card.

H. S. Balaram: Do they get a salary? Is it a job you have been offering?

Nalini Shekar: No, they do not get any salary. They just pick up waste, sort it, grade it, and trade it, and whatever they get the money that is theirs.

H. S. Balaram: Trade it whom, with BBMP?

Nalini Shekar: No, with the local scrap dealers; and they are really entrepreneurs. There is so much freedom in the work they do, so they may not even like to have a setup where they come and work and get salary.

H. S. Balaram: If they are doing exactly what they were doing before, what is the ID card about?

Nalini Shekar: ID card gives
1. Recognition that they are waste pickers.
2. The harassment they get from citizens, harassment they get from other contract workers, and harassment they get from the police all that is cut down.

Before we used to have independent houses where dabba-batliwalas would go in and pick up waste. With the high-rise buildings, the entry to that building is very difficult, but these IDs have given an opportunity for them to enter.

H. S. Balaram:When BBMP gives ID cards to these ragpickers, Police are also informed about this?

Nalini Shekar: At this point of time, they are not formally informed.

H. S. Balaram:Do not you think it should be done?

Nalini Shekar: Yes, it should be done at a different level in terms of we are just thinking of doing some work around the police sensitization also because recently in Banashankari lot of waste pickers work at 4 o’clock or 4:30 a.m. in the early morning before the BBMP workers come so that they get the material that they can recycle. So, there was someone who came and stopped them and took pictures and said I am a policeman and I am taking your pictures because there are lots of thefts happening in this area. Just because they are waste pickers, it does not mean they are thieves. They said okay open up the bag, I will show you what I have picked up, see if there is anything that is illegal. So, those kind of things might happen but we do not know whether it was really the Police People who have done it or somebody else but the photographs have been taken. So, that is not because they want to do it. Police also has to be sensitized. In Pune when we started, we had the same problem; and the whole attitude of Policemen was these people were thieves. So, what we did, we actually collected all the cases that was done, all the FIRs that has been filed against waste pickers, there were 360 cases. Not in one case they were proved that they had stolen, but definitely we have to collaborate with Police and that will be something we will definitely do this year. We are just one year old.

H. S. Balaram:Pinky, you were part of the Core Team of Solid Waste Management Round Table that organized the first Bengaluru Recycling Habba in Bangalore. It was a huge success. How did you and your team go about it?

Pinky Chandran: We strongly believe in partnerships and in collaborations. That has been one of our strengths in the Solid Waste Management Round Table. The idea stemmed at one of our discussions, and we believe that we needed some kind of a celebration of recycling and that was the reason why The Bengaluru Recycling Habba came about. I think the planning took place in our meeting room, in our usual Tuesday meeting room, and people just came about with ideas and then it just started; and then we approached the Pollution Control Board for support, and they were quite happy to take it up.

H. S. Balaram:Why did you call it Habba?

Pinky Chandran: Because we believe that the citizens should value waste. We throw out things which are actually a resource. We think that like when there are festivals like Dusshera, Diwali, Christmas, etc., you buy a lot of things and you throw it out. Similarly for us waste is a celebration. We believe that waste is a celebration, and that was the reason why we called it Habba.

H. S. Balaram:What did you do to create awareness among people about the waste issue?

Pinky Chandran: We did a lot of one-on-one, we visited schools, we visited apartments, we visited individuals like one of our members Mr. Ramakant personally called out everybody. So he has been quite active. He spoke to a lot of BBMP officials and he spoke to a lot of citizens. He called them up personally and he visited them.

H. S. Balaram:Do you plan to hold such Habbas in other localities of the city?

Pinky Chandran: What we would like to do is make the Bangalore Recycling Habba annual and eventually make it Karnataka and then may be all India. So that is our goal.

H. S. Balram: Big plans ahead?

Pinky Chandran: Yes, that is our goal. Most of the countries abroad do celebrate recycling week. So I think we should. It is not that we are copying them, but I think we need to understand that we need to do something for people to be aware that what they are doing is wrong in terms of not segregating waste instead of just putting them in your black bag and throwing it out.

H. S. Balaram:H. S. Balram: How has been the response dealing with citizens?

Pinky Chandran: Everything takes time. For us to get into the habit of recycling also takes time. Like when you start segregating at home, initially it is very easy to slip out a small piece of paper, a small piece of plastic just because it is soiled, but over a period of time it becomes a habit and once it becomes a habit then there is no stopping. So, everything takes time.

H. S. Balaram:What should a housewife or a housemaker do as far as waste is concerned?

Nalini Shekar: Their own waste when they are creating waste instead of putting it in one bin, the easiest thing is you organize your home in a way every room has a waste bin specifically looking at bins in your kitchen has two definitely separate bins one is for wet waste that is organic waste and the other inorganic waste. That is the easiest way to do. Once you organize your home, it is very easy for people to put the waste, everybody will participate. If I am sitting in my room or I am reading, I eat a banana, I feel lazy to get up and go to my kitchen to drop the banana peel just have two pretty bins there, just put it in it. So make it easy to segregate. How much ever easy you make it that much of participation you will get in the house.

H. S. Balaram:One problem people face, I have spoken to citizens, is fine we segregate, but the person who comes and picks “the pourakarmika,” he collects everything, puts together, and takes it away?

Nalini Shekar: Solid Waste Management Round Table has been in dialogue with BBMP and also Lok Adalat, which has really played a great role of facilitating all of us together. Otherwise, we get into this blaming situation. So Lok Adalat has facilitated a forum where we can have a discussion. The new BBMP contract when it comes into implementation actually says that they have to collect segregated waste. That is the thing. If you segregate waste and if you would get demotivated looking at how it is picked up then you do not want to do. So, we are insisting that dry waste and wet waste be collected separately and also what we are saying is dry waste should be picked up only two days a week. If you do not do that, citizens will start putting it together. So that system is there just because that is happening it does not mean we should stop. We can do composting in our own home. I live in an apartment. I compost my waste. I live in an apartment. We have made a system where a waste picker comes and picks up all the dry waste.

H. S. Balaram:You talk of composting in your own house? Pinky please tell us, how exactly one should do that?

Pinky Chandran: Composting is very simple. Either you can purchase a kamba from Daily Dump and do it at home or if you have an old bucket you can make use of it to start your own composting if you live in an apartment.

H. S. Balaram: How it is done?

Pinky Chandran: You put all your food waste into that and make sure that you have the right mix of a little bit of dry leaves or probably newspaper or something like that because the moisture level has to be maintained. You have to keep stirring it very often so that it mixes well.

H. S. Balram: : How long we should keep this?

Pinky Chandran: It actually varies. It depends on the amount of moisture that your food waste has.

H. S. Balram: What is the average time to be taken?

Nalini Shekar: Average time I would say 40 days. What you could do is when you are choosing a bucket for example do not choose a plastic bucket. If you want to use only plastic, use a crate, which has some aeration in it. The best thing is to use even if you do not want to spend a lot of money go to a market, buy one big clay pot which is so cheap, make a hole underneath then you can do that, and you can actually get some very good liquid that you can actually spray for your plants also or you have two ceramic pots or two cement pots that you get. You can put in one above the other so the moisture should be absorbed there and then you mix it with dry leaves. Just to give a starter you can just have buttermilk, if you have buttermilk at home, mix it and put it. If you eat egg, break the shells and put it in it, it gives the nutrients that are required.

Pinky Chandran: It is actually habit-forming. Once you start you might get demotivated with the compost because you have to mix it well, but once it becomes a habit then there is no stopping you. Then when you find it on the road, you will end up picking up things. Like one of my colleagues Dr. Meenakshi Bharat. She goes picks up cow dung from the road. It just becomes a habit and you cannot stand to see waste on the road. It becomes a habit.

H. S. Balram: You also conceptualized the Recyclathon awards. Can you throw some light on it?

Pinky Chandran: The Recyclathon awards again came out of a drawing board with one of my colleagues, Mr. Marvan Abubakar. We felt that there were many individuals doing segregation and also composting, and we felt that it was important that the city acknowledge these people’s effort because it is very easy to blame the municipality and say they are not picking up the waste or they are not sweeping our streets properly or they are putting everything in the landfill even though we are segregating but there are avenues and there are people who are actually doing fantastic job in the city. so, we believe that it was important to have some kind of acknowledgment for that and that was the reason why we approached the Pollution Control Board and the BBMP and said we have come out with something like this. It will be nice for you guys to recognize these individuals, and that was the reason why this award came up, and it is a friendly competition. We are not looking at best practices so to say. We are looking at a friendly competition where everybody can participate.

H. S. Balram: As part of the award, what do you give?

Pinky Chandran: Well, as part of the award, it is only a certificate.

Nalini Shekar: ……..and a nice award made out of waste.

Pinky Chandran: One of our colleagues, Ms. Jenny Pinto, she designed the trophy which was made out of waste. She is a designer herself, but she used only recycled material to design it./p>

H. S. Balram:So far, who all have got the award?

Pinky Chandran: We have had different categories. We have had like the Community Level Awards, which had RWAs which had apartments and again apartments were broken out into three categories because of their size and we had schools. The jury members felt that the college applications did not live it up, so nobody received an award in that category. We had business, and we also had special awards for waste pickers.

H. S. Balram:Pinky, you also founded the Waste Management Initiatives, a project on decentralized waste management. How exactly you went about it?

Pinky Chandran: The whole idea of waste management for us began because of street dogs. There were a large number of streets dogs, and we believe that the reason was because the waste was thrown on the road. I am an animal lover, and I believe that even animals have a right to have dignified access to food and not just eat from the road. Like for instance, the cows which has so much plastic in their stomach. So, that was what stemmed the whole idea of waste management and speaking to a lot of people doing research, and that is how we came about; and then we partnered obviously with the Solid Waste Management Round Table because we did cleanup drives. We would do cleanup drives every time, but then the next day the roads would again come back messy. So, we said this is not going to solve any problem. You need to have a much more concrete and a much more sustainable approach to the whole thing and then we partnered with the Round Table and that is how we came about it. We believe that it is important rather than land filling that the government should make provision in each ward to have a recycling centre, have a biomethanation plant, and have a leaf composters in the parks so that everything in your ward whatever you generate stays in the ward. You do not have to spend money in transporting all your waste to one location and then from there it gets segregated and come back again to the city. If in Koramangala III Block where the station is located, if there is waste generated, have all the recyclable materials go to recycling factories, collect it, sort it everything over here, so that waste pickers then have easy access to all these things, all your food waste, look at biomethanation if you do not want to do individual composting then do community composting. Your parks, there are leaves burnt everywhere. We are tired of telling people stop burning.

H. S. Balram:Nalini, how many households and institutions in Bangalore that the The Round Table has tied up so far?

Nalini Shekar: We have initiated work through awareness. It could be through support with either making available what is the technology available, what could they use, or training like domestic workers or even giving presentations, so about 20,000 households.

H. S. Balram:Is it true that your monthly collection of paper makes up to nearly 24% of the recyclable household waste and that it equates to planting about 18,500 trees and saving a staggering 4,600 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Pinky Chandran: In that context I think I would like to give you this study of Chintan, an NGO based in Delhi about Delhi. What they have said is the Alliance of Waste Picker estimate that there is about 9,62,133 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent saved due to the contribution of waste pickers, and on an average the waste pickers collect up to 59% of the waste, it saves the city about Rs. 12 Lakhs in labour cost alone and it is roughly equivalent to about 1,76,215 passenger vehicles from the road annually. That is the figure or it could be equivalent to in terms of electricity it is about 1,33,444 homes per year.

H. S. Balram:If an apartment complex or a gated community or a large company or institution want to utilize your services, what is the procedure involved.

Pinky Chandran:Nalini Shekar: Actually, they could give us a call. Now because waste pickers are across the Bangalore, we are able to get them together to provide the services in that particular area. So, if you give us a call, we can come. If it is a very big company, we always suggest a waste audit, means you audit how you manage your waste or not managing the waste, and what is the potential to do it, and then have a dialogue and see what can be done there, and then include waste pickers. That is what we do. We also have a lot of enthusiasts in our group Solid Waste Management Round Table who can come and talk to you about different ways of doing the composting. There is a person called Ms. Vani, she does it like a cooking show. In some of the things that she has shown how to make compost, it is almost so interestingly she demonstrates you feel that somebody is cooking something. So people who love cooking shows really love the way she shows. We have people like Mr. Ramakant who is willing to come and inspire people to do it. Also, waste pickers are there. It is an integrated approach that we do that we can offer all this at a time, and also definitely we say if waste pickers are involved and somebody is coming and supervising to make sure all your waste is taken care off appropriately cleaning all that.

H. S. Balram: For the benefit of listeners, any contact number, email, or website.

Pinky Chandran:: They can actually call 99456274 or 7829777737 or www.swmrt.com. have already informed the authorities these things do not work.

H. S. Balram:With the onset of summer, clearing of roads of leaf litter is a Herculean task for pourakarmikas. Most often they set them on fire. This leads to air pollution. Does Solid Waste Management Round Table have a solution for this?

Pinky Chandran: Definitely yes. In fact if anybody is passing by BBMP Headquarters near J. C. Road, Dr. Meenakshi Bharat has actually initiated a leaf composting pit. It is actually very, very simple. Even in HSR layout some of the parks, the horticulture inspector has actually made provisions to compost leaf in the parks, and it is very, very simple. You do not really have to burn leaves. Most of us are so conditioned to thinking that the parks must be beautiful so that means all the dry leaves have to go but in fact it is so beautiful to look at parks when there are these leaves all over the place. So, I think that it is important that people stop burning leaves, stop setting fire. It is mandate. Most of them think that it is ugly so they say okay dispose it off or clear it off or the roads are not clean or the park is not clean. But in fact there is beauty in that. I think once people start learning to do it, it is very simple but the simplest solution is to compost your leaf litter and you will save your parks of a lot of money with fertilizers.

H. S. Balram:Like waste pickers, should not pourakarmikas too be trained in solid waste management?

Nalini Shekar: Yes. There is a contract, which actually says that they are supposed to train pourakarmikas and implementation of it is weak, but it is already there in the policy. It is already there in the contract that pourakarmikas should be trained. Just training is not enough because they have to provide the facilities and the system where they can actually use the training they have learnt. In the sense like if there is lot of dried leaves you have collected it, there should be a different setup of picking up of that to go to a place like what Pinky was saying to a place nearby where they can compost. If you have a lot of debris from construction work that should never go into municipal solid waste, but it is going now. Now, BBMP has just started planning how to collect the debris separately. So, these kind of things are also important, training and putting the system to use the training they have learnt, both are very important and it is already there and it has to be implemented.

H. S. Balram: Usually you find pourakarmikas are the ones who set fire to leaves?

Nalini Shekar: See I was telling you about the system that they have to put in place. They have this cards that is over engineered for the last long, which is so difficult to even push. They have broken buckets and even the repairing of that particular vehicle or the handcart has to be maintained them and they get Rs. 2500/- maximum. Many of them get only Rs. 2100/-. How do you expect that to happen? The buckets have not been given for so, so many days. It is not about BBMP. They have already out sourced it. If you have out sourced it, then it is your role to monitor it too. Just out sourcing is not enough. It is also important that citizen take note of it and informs BBMP and say “this is happening in my lane. I do not like it. This is not right.” Unless the demand comes from the taxpayers, it is not going to happen.

Pinky Chandran:That is exactly why I was saying that what happens very often is as a resident if there is a leaf litter right in front of my house, my immediate reaction would be to scream at the pourakarmika saying that you are not doing a good job, I am going to complain to your higher ups. So, that is the attitude that we have to stop first. Only if we initiate that, only then they will learn because for them they are scared of us. They believe that “oh! I will shout, so let me take all the leaves together, set fire, and my work is done.” That is the thing. If I as an individual say, hey listen it is fine. If the leaf litter is there fine, put it in the nearby park, I will not object or I as an individual will take responsibility to tell all my neighbors that the leaf litter is important then it will solve. You cannot have a blame-game approach.

H. S. Balram:Talking of blame game, we always do this. A blame game goes on everyday I think in every locality. Residents say if they segregate waste, garbage collectors mix them altogether, so it does not serve any purpose. Garbage collectors say residents just do not bother to segregate. Their only aim is to get rid of the garbage. How do you think this blame game can be resolved?

Pinky Chandran: Let me tell you one thing that if residents segregate and provide the waste, it is not necessary that all the auto-collectors mix it up. They have bags. If you notice all the autos, which collect your garbage have these plastic bags hanging from their autos. That plastic bag, if you happen to peep into it, you will notice that all these plastic bags carry only segregated waste. What do they segregate? Cardboard separate, low value paper separate, plastic separate, and pet bottle separate. Some of them even go to an extent of segregating your milk covers. So it is not that they mixup everything. They do mix up somethings, which are soiled; but more often than not, if you segregate basic and you give it to them they are very happy. They do put it immediately into the bags.

H. S. Balram: So instead of blaming each other, do your job. This is what you are saying?

Nalini Shekar: Even the whole concept of celebration Habba for recycling was that. We call it Nimbi theory – that is not in my backyard theory. Now we do not have bins anywhere in Bangalore. Before when we had bins, not in front of my house, you go there. I do not want to have landfill in my thing. That is an attitude that we have; but if you make sure that your fresh waste is processed, there is no smell and they can be absolutely useful for your day-to-day living so that nimbi theory or the attitude that not in my backyard should go. That is why we wanted to celebrate waste.

H. S. Balram:An RWA of an apartment complex in Kormangala has launched something called WoW – Wealth out of Waste. It has appointed ragpickers to help in scientific disposal of waste. It seems to be doing very well. When they can, why not others?

Pinky Chandran: That is exactly what we are trying to promote. In fact people driven it is a community approach and that is exactly what SWMRT has been promoting from a long time. If you do not have a very community driven approach, if it is only about being in the papers or if it is a blame game, it is never going to work. If you truly believe that if your locality is clean and if the community decides and segregates waste and then gives it out not just with livelihood. The Kormangala Block people, they are also doing a lot for street animals.

H. S. Balram:There appears to be a lot of disconnect. What are the factors?

Pinky Chandran: If you have a decentralized approach, the disposal becomes easy. The 10% will go that cannot be recycled. All we are saying is that what should go into the landfill. Only your rejects must go to your landfill. That is your compost rejects have to go into your landfill. Everything else there is a solution. There is a solution and if we do it ward level and you have a recycling center wherein it acts also as a centralized collection source where everyone can come in and drop their recyclables, you can have all our community composting done, and you have all your leaf litter in the parks. It is simple. That is exactly what we are talking in terms of disposal. So you are also saving the Government and you are saving yourself a lot of money.

Nalini Shekar: The management is only one part of the whole thing. It is just not the science to it. Waste disposal - it has to break all the social paths to do what we need to do. So, I do not think disposal in that sense is we do not want to call it a disposal of waste. It is only rejects. There is some packaging that right now is not recyclable because either it is too expensive to collect and transport or because the material itself does not allow very cheap recycling, it is very expensive recycling. For example, your Kurkure packets, your chips packet and anything that is metallic inside. Now that may be keeping some material or the food inside very hygienic, that is what we think. I do not whether it is or it is not, I am not saying anything; but actually it is creating so much waste. In Bangalore City alone, we have so much tons of these waste nothing can be done with it at this point of time. It cannot be recycled at this point of time. So we have requested one of the companies to try out something and we have given them half a ton of these packets to see whether something can be done. So, it is also important the creation of waste has to be addressed. The producers have to be responsible for what they produce for just not what is inside the packet but also packaging. It is very, very important to remember that.

H. S. Balram:Have you approached these companies?

Nalini Shekar: We have not approached them directly, but in the Habba actually we had a panel discussion of EPRs, Pinky was talking about. What is the responsibility of the producer, i.e., extended producers responsibility what is it. One of the things we really learnt from there is companies are willing to do but if it cost well I cannot do it, but if the laws says we have to do, we will do it. So that is what we learnt from this particular exercise, but we have approached Pollution Control Board. We have listed all the things in Bangalore that is produced, and we do not have a solution to. So, we have gone to BBMP, and we have given this list to Pollution Control Board. There are somethings that they can do locally. Otherwise, they will have to push the Central Pollution Board to bring in some kind of regulation because during the plastic rules now gutkha packets are banned. So if you ban it, the industry will wake up and say let me think about some eco-friendly material to do it. So, it is a long, long fight, but we are already into it; and we

H. S. Balram: You have played an active role in Radio Active, a community radio. Is it still active? What are the objectives?

Pinky Chandran:Yes. The whole idea of a community radio station is voice for the voiceless. So, we are looking at catering to different marginalized communities who often do not have access to mainstream media. We have variety of RJs like we have Priyanka who is from the sexual minority from the LGBT community. We have Salma and Siddique from the waste picker community. We have RJ Auto Shiva kumar who is an auto driver and who is also nominated for the Namma Bengaluru award. We have RJ Jaydev who is visually impaired, and now we have RJ Lavanya who has just joined in. We have RJ Vimala who is from Dayanand Nagar slum, and she is working on HIV AIDS issues. We have RJ Manjula and Divya from Dasarahalli slums. Now, we have recently had Praveen who is an animal activist. There are different groups of people who come together who make programmes.

H. S. Balram: You also co-founded Stray Pals, a project on dog management and welfare. Can you some throw light on that?

Pinky Chandran:Stray Pals again stemmed, like I said, in the very beginning we are animal lovers and that was one of the reasons why we believe that animals also have to have a very dignified access to living. We often call them strays and then people throw stones at them, and most of the times you see little puppies all over the roads. That was the reason why we founded these two projects, and we are looking at fostering if there is an injured animal on the road then we look at taking care of them or taking that initiative to taking them to the nearest vet or even fostering puppies for adoption and the likes. So that is the main initiative.

H. S. Balram: You also co-founded Stray Pals, a project on dog management and welfare. Can you some throw light on that?

Pinky Chandran:Stray Pals again stemmed, like I said, in the very beginning we are animal lovers and that was one of the reasons why we believe that animals also have to have a very dignified access to living. We often call them strays and then people throw stones at them, and most of the times you see little puppies all over the roads. That was the reason why we founded these two projects, and we are looking at fostering if there is an injured animal on the road then we look at taking care of them or taking that initiative to taking them to the nearest vet or even fostering puppies for adoption and the likes. So that is the main initiative.

H. S. Balram: Nalini, you lived in the US for a decade almost and worked on violence against women and children. You also facilitated passage of a legislation against human trafficking in California. Are you doing some such thing in India?

Nalini Shekar: Right now, I am not doing anything in that particular field in India, but I am associated with a lot of groups. Domestic violence, specifically what I do now is there is lot of cross-national marriages and women are deserted here and men are in United States, and many of the lawyers here do not know the laws of United States and often advised something different from what it should be and not necessarily in the favor of women. So those kind of cases when it comes, I work with women and try to connect them with groups in the US. If there are some cases in the US, they refer them to me and that is in the volunteer capacity. On an average, I have about 20 people that I support.

H. S. Balram:You also work with immigrants in the US particularly those from Asia. You received several awards too in that. Can you explain how you went about it?

Nalini Shekar: Actually, I used to work on specifically battered women survivors of violence who are immigrants in the US and also survivors of human trafficking who are in the US. So, I worked not only with Asians, but I worked with Africans and I worked with Latin Americans. So, basically looking at how immigration legislation is actually helping the batterers to use that as a weapon to keep them under control. We pushed and facilitated I would say a passage of legislation in California for supporting the victims and also nationally to support visa called U-visa. It is given out to victims of violence. So, it was not really popular in the beginning but even the Bush administration which is quite conservative with the immigrants agreed to do this, and I was involved in a huge trafficking case, which is women had come from Andhra Pradesh; and with that learning we did some amendments to the legislation itself. Learning from that I really thought there is so much vulnerability for women who have come without a proper visa if it is in case of South America and with a dependent visa, which often happens with Indian families and that particular vulnerability should be broken. That is where we really pushed for U-visa in the United States.

H. S. Balram: What is that one message to the residents of Bangalore as far as waste is concerned?

Nalini Shekar: I would say waste has to be an integrated approach and it should have everyone who creates waste, who manages waste, who dispose and process the waste should be included; and also recognition to the whole informal sector of waste. It could be waste picker, it could be sorter who is an itinerant buyer, or the stockist, or wholesaler or, the recycler - the whole informal sector is in front of us but we do not recognize. So, it is important to recognize that livelihoods are also included in waste. We just do not have to go and say “oh! we can sell waste and make money which you never made before, so do not take away the livelihoods of waste packers but integrate them in an appropriate way within your own waste system. I would really encourage people to just stop by, talk to one waste picker on your street and understand what they do. If you understand what a waste picker does, this whole waste management in Bangalore will be very easy.

Pinky Chandran: It is very important for each one of us to actually appreciate what the waste pickers are doing, and like what Nalini said do not look at money. We spend Rs. 100/- in a Coffee Day, we give Rs. 10/- tips. What is Rs. 6/- a kg for newspapers to people like us. Why do we get nit-picky and say but I am getting Rs. 6/- for newspaper here, I will get Rs. 8/- for newspaper there. If you can afford to spend Rs. 100/- in a coffee shop and pay Rs. 10 as tips then do not steal away the livelihood opportunities for that particular waste picker by bargaining. It just makes your whole attitude to the whole thing. It does not reflect positive on an individual as such. As I said, you have to learn to see the beauty in everything, take that initiative and starting doing it yourself. It is difficult when you start it off, but then perseverance pays. Start by simple things, when you can keep newspaper aside, you can definitely as you rinse your coffee cup rinse that dosa atta packet or your curd dabba and keep it there. It is that simple. It is very, very simple to practice waste management.

H. S. Balram:: Ms. Nalini Shekar and Ms. Pinky Chandran, many thanks for your inspiring talk. I on behalf of the Namma Bengaluru Foundation wish that the Solid Waste Management Round Table grows from strength to strength and helps Bangalore become a garbage-free city. Once again congratulations on winning the Namma Bengaluru award.

Namma Bengaluru Awards is an initiative of the Namma Bengaluru Foundation to honour ordinary citizens for their extraordinary contributions to the city of Bangalore. It is a way of saying thank you to all those real heroes who are devoted to our city and residents. The uniqueness of this award is that the nominations are made by the citizens and the winners are selected by an eminent jury. The Namma Bengaluru Foundation aims at addressing concerns of Bengalureans through partnership, advocacy, and activism. To know more about the foundation, log into www.namma-bengaluru.org


To know more about the foundation, log in to Namma Bengaluru Foundation

Connect with HS Balram on   

(Email your feedback on: hsbalram@namma-bengaluru.org)