Garbage crisis, a dirty game

Garbage crisis, a dirty game

Garbage crisis, a dirty game

Uncleared mountains of garbage have sprung up across the city for a different reason this time: A dirty intra-government power struggle for dominance over the city’s development! A closer look...

Bengaluru is in garbage crisis mode, yet again. Sparked by an avalanche of nasty pile-ups across the city, the problem has assumed monstrous proportions. But this time, the trouble is not just at the landfill sites. A dirty intra-government power struggle for dominance over Bengaluru is apparently spilling out on the streets, deliberately amplifying the crisis!

Uncleared mountains of stinking garbage have given the city’s image a severe beating. But caught in a deadly ego clash with a casteist tinge, the political biggies in-charge of the city has let it sink. For proof, check what top Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) officials themselves admit anonymously: Garbage contractors lifting waste from different wards are being threatened by some public representatives!

The trigger for the current crisis could be traced back to October 22, when the State cabinet reshuffle was on the cards. Seeking a cabinet berth, the then State Congress president G Parameshwara had insisted on the Home portfolio. But KJ George, holding that key portfolio was reluctant to give it up.

The Congress then worked out a formula wherein George would be the Bengaluru Development Minister, a post held by BTM Layout MLA Ramalinga Reddy. Until then, Reddy was overseeing all development projects in the City.

Post-festival pile-up

It was during the Dasara season when the portfolio formally exchanged hands. Once curtains fell on the festival, the City had its first taste of the latest garbage crisis. For almost three weeks, garbage lay wherever they were. Mountains of muck mushroomed everywhere. The BBMP administration, it seemed, just had no idea what was going wrong.

On normal days, the City generates about 4,500 tonnes of waste. Palike officials say this rises by 20 per cent during festivals such as Dasara and Deepavali. It usually would take two to three days to clear the waste. But this time, the waste lay uncleared, exasperating the problem. The filth that had piled up since Dasara could hardly be lifted till Deepavali on November 12. Post Deepavali, the scene turned nightmarish for Bengalureans. The Palike panicked.

Today, the problem has only worsened, and there is no immediate solution in sight. A Palike official dealing with the Solid Waste Management confirms that the crisis that began with the two festivals has not yet ended. Says he,“We are working hard, but there are challenges galore.”

Summing up the tricky scenario, BBMP Commissioner G Kumar Naik says: “There are layers after layers in this entire garbage problem. We did read a report in a newspaper about a garbage contractor being threatened from lifting the waste. We have no idea who these people are.”

Pourakarmika protests

The protests that broke out at all the places where the Palike dumps the City's filth in the name of waste processing, only amplified the crisis. Terra Firma and MSGP waste processing units on Dodda Ballapura Road have been in trouble. There is also tension at places where the new processing units are coming up. Further complicating this are frequent protests by the Pourakarmikas over non-payment of wages and lack of basic facilities.

Citizens and the BBMP are often at odds on the issue of waste segregation. Residents in many parts of the City say they have tried segregation of garbage at source, but the pourakarmikas mix up the different parts and dump them into the trucks.

However, Naik sees the non-segregation of waste at source as a big challenge. Mixed waste, he says, is now being collected from every household and segregated elsewhere.

He hopes the source segregation concept would gain wider acceptability in the coming days. “We are micro-managing the garbage. We intend to start two separate vehicles- One for wet waste and another for dry waste. Further, the new waste processing units coming up in the City will change the way Palike had been dealing with the waste,” explains Naik.

The Palike hopes the new processing units at Seegehalli, Kannahalli, Lingadheeranahalli, Doddabidarakallu, Subbarayanapalya and Chikka Nagamangala, now almost ready for operations, might just change the tide.

Yelahanka experience

But past experience clearly shows this is easier said than done. Take the Yelahanka assembly constituency, for instance. Many localities and apartment complexes here had started segregation at source in a big way. It had shown promise of scaling up, before systemic lapses killed it.

Recalls Yelahanka MLA, S R Vishwanath, “Many people, especially apartments, used to segregate wet and dry waste. We had even set up a plastic unit involving NGOs. But the system broke down when garbage workers struck work for non-payment of wages. When there is a break in regular pickup, public stop making segregation a habit.”

Why can’t the system be made robust enough to withstand such breakdowns? It is tough, says Vishwanath. Garbage contractors, he contends, take up contracts at unrealistically low prices. “In Yelahanka, while calling tender itself, the contractor quoted 45 per cent and won it. They then try to cut costs on machinery and labour.” Payments are then delayed, leading to irregular pickups.

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