Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Whether Bengaluru is reeling under the depression in Bay of Bengal could be debated, but the city is undoubtedly reeling under severe Garbage crisis once again. BBMP and the relevant authorities have failed to address the Garbage situation in the city yet again; they have handed over the city and citizen health to Garbage mafia. Heaps of Garbage are quickly turning into mountains, out-break of an epidemic is inevitable if the apathy and mindlessness continues for few more days.

Throwing money at every problem seems to be the only idea BBMP comes up with; unfortunately BBMP spending over Rs 400-500 crores on Solid waste Management (SWM) annually has not stopped the Garbage crisis that hits that city every 2 years. Bengaluru is probably the only city with such high spending on SWM and it seems like BBMP is busy ‘applying lipstick on a pig’.

The villages around Bengaluru have chased out BBMP Garbage trucks, after BBMP converted the land near the villages into toxic dump yards and landfills, with absolutely no intention of processing, treatment or clearing the Garbage. Why only neighbouring villages the Karnataka Compost Development Corporation (KCDC) that is located in Ward 190 has been opposed by the residents around due to faulty policy and complete contempt of court ordered Standard Operating Procedures.

Every time there was a Garbage crisis, hundreds of truck loads of Garbage was sent out to neighbouring villages for dumping, but now with that option ruled out, the streets of Bengaluru are raising the stink.

So why is Garbage such a big issue for Bengaluru? In simple management terms it’s ‘Garbage In, Garbage Out’, how can one expect better result from a toothless SWM policy and faulty Garbage tender?

A good look at the SWM policy and the Garbage tender will not only expose the lack of holistic approach, but lack of intent. When Garbage tender is not in sync with SWM policy the policy is designed to fail on all fronts.

The key guidelines of SWM policy that includes Source, Collection, Transport, Processing and Disposal should be implemented in totality, but today the policy is gathering dust with no connect to the Garbage tender what so ever.

Segregation at source is the first and crucial step to addressing the Garbage crisis; even though currently less than 15% households segregating waste at source, it’s more due to the waste collection method, lack of awareness and lack of sustained localized campaign in the communities.

Collection & Transport
Even though the tender has certain guidelines on collection, handling and transport, ambiguity in the clauses is completely exploited by the Service Provider, who have an incentive to transport un-segregated waste. Three critical aspects that need a revamp in the tender are:

  1. Shift the policy from collection of segregated waste to collection of the Wet & Dry waste separately by two different Service Providers, thereby defining the roles and objectives for the two Service Providers.
  2. Mandatory use of leak proof containers by all primary collection vehicles, and sync the transfer timings between primary and secondary collection to avoid creating dumping at secondary collection points.
  3. Move from the term Treatment to Processing (Composting, Recycling, Reusing)
The SWM policy has to change form Treatment to Processing, which will lead to reduction in creating newer landfill or dumping yards. Processing should include Composting in case of wet waste, Recycling in case of dry waste and Reusing to produce energy/bio-gas.   

Debris and waste that cannot be processed needs a clear destination, there is rampant illegal dumping of the debris on the Lake beds and into Storm Water Drains across the city. Construction debris is a reality and unless there is a specific destination identified the city Lakes will suffer at the cost of construction.

One does not have to read an encyclopedia to realize that Pourakarmikas (PKs), SHGs, Informal sector waste-pickers (ISWPs) play a critical role in a successful implementation of SWM policy. PKs, SHGs, ISWPs can be linked directly to various state & central livelihood programs by making them the stake holders in the SWM policy.

The SWM policy needs a highly decentralized approach, it should emphasize on multiple Service Providers and SWM Entrepreneurs to create not only competition but to push for continuous improvement on a yearly basis in infrastructure and technology.

State Government and BBMP are currently on a ‘Frog Kissing’ mode, they have announced yet another high cost experiment of Waste-2-Energy plant, but unless the SWM policy, Garbage tender are not in sync, Waste-2-Energy plant will be yet another white Elephant just like the Sewage Treatment Plants that are running 60-70% below capacity.

A good policy alone cannot guarantee better result, the skill is in implementation, hence there is a need to shift focus from spending on tenders to spending on manpower, resources, training, campaigns, awareness programs and incentive policy.

Garbage mafia has to end and to do that BBMP should start investing on setting objectives, targets and achieving results and stop throwing taxpayers’ monies on Garbage trucks.

- Kavitha Reddy
Environmental Activist & Entrepreneur 

Republished in Citizen Matters