Can BBMP meet the garbage challenge?

Momentous orders have been issued to the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) by the Karnataka High Court in the garbage case, restricting itself in the interim, to the mode of collection and storage of garbage. But will the BBMP face the challenges posed in implementing the orders? 

First of all, the court has said that source segregation and segregated collection of wet,
dry and sanitary waste are mandatory. It would have been salutary if the Palike had also been directed that the collection of wet and dry waste should be through separate streams through separate vehicles and personnel.

The court has also asked the BBMP to adopt the 2-bin-1-bag model advocated by certain
civil society groups (green bin for wet waste, red for sanitary waste and a bag for recyclables). But it is not clear who will supply these to householders or whether they are to invest in them themselves. In many countries, the municipality gives the bins with lids to each householder, with a unique number on the bin, which helps identify whose garbage it is, in case of any violations.

The bins and bag have to transfer the contents loosely into the collection vehicle. As a first step, they are an improvement over the existing practice.  But if the plastic milk and curd sachets etc, which make up much of the recyclables, are unwashed, there is bound to be fungus or flies and mosquitoes emanating from the open bags.

Rules in cities across the world prohibit giving of loose garbage as it is unhygienic. Garbage has to be always given and collected in closed condition in those countries in sturdy garbage bags or bins that are mechanically lifted. Until alternatives are devised, it may be necessary to specify that at least the recyclables should be handed in securely tied sturdy bags which cannot be ripped open.

The next challenge is, it may not always be possible for every householder to meet the waste-collector at the specified time to hand over the bins and bag - unless bins hung on the gate are not stolen, or the householder allows the waste-collector to enter their private premises to collect the bins.

Other countries provide flexibility of more than 12 hours to the householders by allowing them to place their bins at the kerb-side any time in the night, and remove their emptied bin before a fixed time in the morning.

The court has also directed, as prescribed by most countries, that: (1) garbage should be collected in closed, containerised vehicles; (2) garbage should not be visible to the public or workers, or be exposed to the environment; and (3) garbage should not touch the ground, that is, littered on roadsides. 

But given that most currently used push-carts have mats hung over them instead of lidded bins, and auto-tippers expose garbage to the environment — and both stink — the BBMP has a massive job on its hand, equipping the push carts and autos with containerised, lidded bins, which can be lifted mechanically. And, if we find the BBMP and its own workers dumping mixed garbage on the ground at collection points, as is being done ubiquitously now, we should ask the body to impose fines on itself for littering!

Storage bins
To overcome littering by the BBMP, the suggestion that colour-coded, secondary waste collection storage bins should be placed at collection points, as mandated by the rules, has been accepted by the court, but with the proviso that these bins should be placed, as an exception only, when door-to-door (primary) garbage collection vehicles do not directly transport garbage to processing facilities. 

But with there being no local processing facilities in every ward, the likelihood that primary waste collection vehicles can go directly to the processing units is remote. The colour-coded, secondary waste storage bins may have to thus become the rule rather than the exception. The BBMP will have to make the commitment to make the huge investment in all the necessary infrastructure if it has to obey the court’s orders.

The request that manual handling of garbage should be specifically banned, as per the existing rules, and that the entire process should be mechanised — as manual handling amounts to manual scavenging — was not made part of the current orders by the court. But if the BBMP follows the first four orders strictly, then there will be no possibility of manual handling.

All the above provisions were already there in the Municipal Solid Waste (Management & Handling) Rules of 2000 of the Ministry of Environment & Forests, but were never implemented for 15 years by the Palike, and their implementation was never monitored by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board.

The same provisions are there in the fresh, proposed Central rules as well.   It is up to the citizens and resident welfare associations now to insist that the BBMP follow the court's orders. We may then see some visible change in the lives of the poura karmikas and gangmen and a more hygienic and aesthetic city.
(The writer is Executive Trustee of CIVIC Bangalore)

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