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Transfer May Negate Gains – Clearing Tonnes of City Garbage Is a Real Uphill Task

It has been over four years since the infamous New York Times article -“India’s Plague, Trash, Drowns Its Garden City During Strike“ where our dear “Garden City“ earned a global reputation of being a “Garbage City“ -was published. For a city that is known as Silicon Valley of India and houses some of the world’s best managed firms, four years would have been a reasonable time to set such a pressing public health problem right. While one government organisation, the Indian Space Research Organization, launched 20 satellites in one go last Wednesday making news globally , another organisation, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) did a latenight transfer of a government of ficial on Friday that sent Bengalureans into a tizzy.

Though transred a routine af fers are considered a routine affair in Indian bureaucracy , this transfer resulted in an online petition that was started on Saturday and has garnered over 2,400 signatures overnight.Sunday saw two protests in different parts of the city where over a hundred people were in attendance.

While many officials of BBMP are at the receiving end of people’s ire for the gross mismanagement of civic affairs, Subodh Yadav , the Special Commissioner for solid waste management in BBMP , has over the past eight months, earned the goodwill of concerned activists, waste management experts and resident welfare associations by trying to improve the system and processes in a collaborative manner. This transfer, many fear, will bring to nought these improvements.

The seemingly uphill task of cleaning Bengaluru’s garbage mess needs a dedicated and disciplined action plan that’s spread over a minimum of three years.For starters, there is no reliable data on something even as basic as the amount of garbage the city generates every day . Even senior bureaucrats who have been at the helm of city management do not believe the projected estimate of 3,500-4,000 tonne per day . A wardlevel daily dashboard showcasing the amount of garbage generated is the first step.

While outsourcing has become the norm, BBMP needs to consider maintaining a critical mass of manpower and machinery to tide over the prospect of resistance from contractors, as experienced in the recently announced tenders. BBMP should set up ward committees as mandated in the 74th Amendment and enable them to oversee the contractors’ adherence to contractual terms.

A firm resolve to segregate wet and dry waste, reduce the generation of waste, recycle as much of the dry waste and compost the wet waste must be taken. We should put an end to the culture of unscientific disposal of waste.Only inert material needs to go to scientific landfills. All this must be managed in a transparent manner with stringent checks and measures at various stages of waste handling.

Unless BBMP gives up the mindset of looking at garbage management as a mere function of transport and holistically builds an environment for responsible management, the task will remain uphill.

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