Bengaluru’s garbage problem is spiraling out of bounds. With no effective solution in sight, we’d like to take you back to a December 2015 report which appeared in The Economic Times. Nirupama V and Bharath Joshi of The Economic Times had spoken to experts who had said that the problem can be tackled in ways that are simple and radical.
Bengaluru, the third most populous city in India is yet to find a permanent solution to the perennial garbage problem. The city generates about 4,000 tonnes of waste daily and authorities are aiming at a future with no landfills by hurriedly setting up waste processing units. But with only 30 per cent waste segregated at source and a supposedly strong garbage mafia, there seems to be no fix.
The experts had suggested:
Start an Online Consultancy
The problem of waste is some thing that needs to be handled on a smaller scale and aggregated to solve the bigger problem. Waste-pickers already contribute greatly to solving this problem. They are the leading recycling agents in the country. We need to tap into their capacity. An IT platform like I Got Garbage can build business models for waste-pickers so they become entrepreneurs who offer waste management solutions to the city. On the website, anyone can request for a service provider to deal with their garbage. Through them, one can do in-house composting of organic waste and donate dry waste. You would have reduced the burden on the city and provided livelihood to a rag-picker, who becomes your garbage consultant. It can be done in less than Rs 150 a month. An IT-based model can work. The conversation needs to shift from I-am-already-paying-cess to “what do I need to do to live in a healthy city.”
Do Away with Contractors
In Bengaluru today, the door to-door waste collection and secondary collection vehicles are given to contractors. So there is no accountability or transparency. Further, the contracts don’t reflect changes in policy. For instance, the current policy asks for segregation into three types (dry, wet and reject waste) but the contract focusses on collection and transportation. So the segregated waste gets mixed. The city has so many pourakarmikas who can do the door-to-door collection. We really don’t need contractors. Pune does not have door-to-door collection but a user fee model where the residents pay for services mostly done by the informal sector. This way, we can hold them accountable if they do not turn up or work properly. The payment is also regular unlike the present situation where for months pourakarmikas are not paid by contractors. Secondary collection, however, will ideally have to be done by government-owned vehicles.
A Composter for Every Home
If decentralisation is working well, let’s look at some 19 biogas plants authorities have set up. While many are not working, the capital cost for one plant comes up to Rs 1.1 crore. Instead of investing on this, the government can provide subsidy and give every home a composter. If not every home, every street should have a composter. If not a street, a local space or a public place within a ward. We have 200 large community composters in the city, with each generating 200 kg of compost. You can create an entire idea around this. Instead, we have the city’s money going towards buying vehicles and developing infrastructure to manage poison.
Pass the Dumping Saaku Law
The latest promise to make Bengaluru garbage-free was 19 months ago when Siddaramaiah declared it would happen within six months. Three sets of six months have come and gone but there is no sign of cleanliness. As long as governments try cleaning the city by doing the same things they always did and say they will do it better this time, the city won’t become cleaner. We need something dramatically different. Four years ago, the Dumping Saaku Bill was proposed. If passed it will bar transportation of waste outside the city without the permission of village panchayats. Think about what happens to garbage now: it gets transported to villages outside Bengaluru and dumped there. Imagine if a neighbour dumped trash in our house and if we were to protest, the police would arrest us! That’s what’s happening in villages. We have to accept that our trash is our responsibility and manage it within our localities and certainly within the city.
IoT-enabled Units to Turn Waste into Energy
The approach so far has been to build huge waste-to-energy plants on the outskirts of the city and to ship the waste from here to the plant. For a city like Bengaluru, with its distances and traffic, it does not make economic sense. That is the reason we have so many defunct biogas plants. If space is allocated to set up small biogas plants in every ward, the organic waste in that ward can be converted to biogas. These plants, connected by Internet-of-Things can be remotely monitored and therefore very reliable. They can coexist without any nuisance. The energy generated will be equivalent to about 50 cylinders of LPG and about 20% cheaper. A 10-tonne waste processing plant requires 1,000 sq ft. The energy we generate can be sold to nearby restaurants or power streetlights.
SocialStory has launched a campaign to help us come together and save the city from dying. Bring out those mobile phones and laptops and share with us the problems you see and start participating with those who are working for change. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with what you think you can do more to save the city, and we will share it with our audience.