Get garbage out of railway land, try social forestry

Garbage city and train_illustration

As travellers from across the country step out of the Banaswadi railway station to enter the city they are treated to quite an ugly experience- the sight and smell of piles of garbage at the entrance. For many, it is the first impression of the city- a ‘Garbage city’.

“The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) periodically clears the garbage but it is back within half an hour. The nearby slums and even people passing by in cars and scooters throw their waste there. New trains are being introduced to the station but this pile of garbage will be the first thing the passengers will see in the city,” says Jacob Verghese, Vice President, Vivekananda Welfare Association.

It is not just the entrance of railway stations that sees large scale garbage dumping. On either side of the tracks that criss-cross the city, the scene is no different. For instance, residents of Malleswaram 11th Main Road have been battling with the authorities for many years now to prevent garbage dumping along the tracks.

Read more: City Railway Station: A nasty welcome by rail

“Residents have been throwing their garbage and all kinds of waste along the railway track for several years now. We have consistently written to the Railways about the menace but they have taken no initiative. Passengers travelling in the trains are witness to this ugly sight,” notes Rekha Chari, President, Malleswaram Swabhimanaa Initiative.

With the city turning into a large dumping ground, these large swathes of unguarded land along the tracks have inevitably turned filthy. Not only does it make for an ugly sight, the dumping also turns the land into breeding grounds for diseases with mosquitoes and rats infesting them.

“Garbage dumping along railway tracks is a common phenomena across the country. Often we see people throwing garbage from the road overbridges onto the tracks. Either the civic body’s contractors do this at night to save on transporation costs or it is done by nearby slumdwellers. The civic body needs to devise better ways to deal with the garbage issue,” says Subodh Jain, a former Railway Board member.

There are strict regulations to prevent such misuse of the Railway lands. “When I was in the Board, we had formulated a policy that the tracks be guarded by pucca walls in urban areas and wire fencing in rural areas. There are designs that can ensure that the wall cannot be broken,” he says.

However Chari says even the presence of a wall had not deterred people from throwing garbage onto the tracks. “People would fling the garbage across the wall on to the track. After our constant pleading, the local corporator has put up wire fencing above the wall. With that we have noticed the dumping has reduced considerably,” she says.

Over the years, the railways have experimented with different schemes to protect their areas. Among them was a proposal to tie up with the Forest Department to take up social forestry along the tracks.

“This would not only guard the area it also give environmental benefits. Since the Railways are only experts in running tracks, we collaborated with the Forest Department. They would cultivate Jatropha, which is a good source of biofuel, on the land. We would give them 10 percent from the yield as management fees and the rest would form our earnings. However, we found that under political pressure from the state government they would get the land encroached,” says Jain, who has worked for a short duration in the city.

He suggests that the Railways take up vegetable cultivation along the tracks to guard it from dumping. “An initiative started by Lal Bahadur Shastri, Grow More Food, has been found to be successful.”

It is widely practised in Mumbai. “We allot the land adjacent to the tracks to our Class Four employees for cultivation. Since they have their own interests in protecting it, they ensure it is not misused and it also provides an additional source of income for them,” says Jain.

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Get garbage out of railway land, try social forestry


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