In June, when the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) approved a user fee of Rs 200 per household for waste disposal services, not too many believed in its implementation. The BBMP has now decided to go ahead with the new fee-for-service model from January 2021. This has sparked a debate among citizens.
Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 introduced the concept of a user fee by local bodies officially. They specify that a local body, such as BBMP, has a duty to “prescribe from time to time user fee as deemed appropriate and collect the fee from the waste generators on its own or through an authorised agency”. The BBMP is going for the user fee model under this rule.
However, this leads to a lot of questions. Suryaprakash B S, programme director at Daksh, a Bengaluru-based NGO, points out a key aspect. “BBMP is finding it difficult to collect the property tax, how are they going to collect this fee?” he asks. Maintenance of implementation is the challenge across the governments, he says.
“In my view, we should encourage such charges,” he says. If garbage is not getting collected when the user fee is being paid, there is a stronger likelihood of people demanding better services, than people who just pay blanket property tax and crib about the city not managing waste properly, he feels.
However, since the efficiency of BBMP in enforcing rules has always been a problem, he suggests a model of competition between many service providers, who households can choose for waste disposal services, based on pricing and services. In this model, however, the BBMP has to make sure people don’t throw garbage on roads, and penalise violators, he says.
V Ravichandar, an urban expert who was a part of BBMP Restructuring Committee, says that based on the polluter pays principle, charging a fee for garbage services is not unfair.
He talks of a different system where waste can be given to licensed waste disposal service providers which citizens can rely on for a fee, where the BBMP would play the role of enforcer of garbage disposal rules for citizens as well as service providers.
Nalini Shekar, the founder of Hasiru Dala, an NGO focused on waste management, says that the charges collected will help streamline payments for existing waste service providers.
“Every now and then we see good services and services getting disrupted because of lack of payment. Right now pourakarmikas are getting paid before 6th of every month, but auto drivers and dry waste collection centres are saying that they have not been paid. The charging of user fee will help make all such payments on time and help the BBMP manage it well, it will help streamline the city’s waste management process,” she says.
Pranay Kotasthane, head of research at The Takshashila Institution, explains the downside in case people do not agree to pay. If people start dumping waste outside because they don’t want to pay, the economic and health cost of this will fall on other people who pay the charges. Being the government, it is the BBMP’s duty to provide the service, with a charge or not, he says.
There is an unofficial user fee already in place where people pay the pourakarmikas to take away the waste. The BBMP, determined to go ahead, is working out the modalities of the official plan. Whether this will be materialised or not remains to be seen.