Wake-up BBMP, and your waste plants, too

The Karnataka High Court directive to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to get its seven solid waste processing plants fully functional within four weeks is a welcome order that came not a moment too soon. Bengaluru has seven solid waste processing plants that began functioning in 2005. However, these units have not been working to capacity. This is a pity as the government invested around Rs 350 crore in these plants. It isn’t as if there isn’t enough solid waste to process. The city generates 3,500-4,000 tonnes of rubbish every day. Much of this lies around. Not only is such waste a visual eyesore but also, untreated garbage is the source of countless diseases. To allow our waste processing plants to work below potential thus amounts to a criminal waste of available processing facilities. It is in this context that the High Court directive assumes importance.

This is not the first time that the court is intervening to get the BBMP to get its act together on the city’s waste management problem. But what sets apart the latest order is that it gives the BBMP a deadline, a time-span of a month within which the directive must be implemented. What is more, the court has pinned accountability on the joint commissioners (JCs) of the BBMP’s seven zones. They will be held responsible for the functioning of the processing plants and their security. The High Court has called on the JCs to hold monthly coordination meetings of plant operators, manager, local people and elected representatives. Such meetings are important. Among the main reasons for the below-par functioning of processing units is that locals opposed to dumping sites near their villages have attacked workers and prevented the functioning of plants. A monthly meeting where waste processing workers and civic authorities interface with locals should help reduce grievances and improve the functioning of processing plants.

Making waste processing plants functional is a step in the right direction. However, this by itself will not solve Bengaluru’s waste problem. There is confusion about how to approach waste disposal. At present, the BBMP insists on segregation of waste at source. It collects segregated waste from citizens. However, the waste treatment plants are meant for mixed waste. Clearly, the BBMP is confused in its approach and needs to sort this out first. While the court’s directive to the BBMP is welcome, it is worrying that the civic body lacks the initiative and the drive to act on its own to resolve the city’s problems. Why does it need to be prodded by the judiciary time and again to stir into action?

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