From Garden to Garbage City, Where is Bangalore’s Solid Waste Management System Headed?

Bangalore has seen an exponential increase in the rate of waste production, exceeding the other fast-growing cities like Delhi and Mumbai. The difference, however, is that unlike the other cities, such a change in Bangalore was unexpected. Being privileged as the IT capital of the country, Bangalore has been speedily expanding. It has found the limelight due to a sudden internationally and nationally maneuvered success. However, historical factors that make a city’s importance felt are not present here. Due to this, the city’s traditional machineries have not developed in tandem with the lifestyle of the people. Inevitably, development not only increases the lifestyle but also the garbage production.

The Solid Waste Management system of the city is handled by two main bodies; the ‘Solid Waste Management Department’ of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike and the ‘Health Department and Engineering Department’. Their functions range from timely collection of waste, segregation of the garbage, assembling them in the authorized common dumping stations to appropriate treatment and disposal in accordance. The entire chain consists of a complex network of participants and Bangalore is seeing problems at all possible stages. In this article, we shall explore the structural problems associated at each level.

Any resident in the crowded locality of Saddagunte Palya in Southern Bangalore has not failed to see the increase in police patrolling throughout the locality in the face of increased crime rates. However, crime is only one of the problems that the residents face. If the government is vigilant enough to promptly execute patrolling in the locality throughout the day and night, what makes them blind to the increasing garbage menace which is an equally pressing problem stretching throughout the city? The local governing bodies have clearly failed in executing a timely collection of garbage across the city. The lorries or the small trucks fail to come regularly. Most of the times they are so overloaded with garbage that they keep dropping it at every corner of the road causing trouble to the commuters. Bangalore is a largely unplanned urban city with small and narrow lanes. In localities like Saddagunte Palya, sending a large-sized truck is also not an option.

The deficit in the legislations has translated into its poor and inefficient execution. The policies are outdated and no longer suffice the magnitude and nature of the waste that the city generates. The BBMP is only responsible for 30% of the total collection and the remaining 70% is contracted to private players. A proper mechanism to inspect that these private players are doing their job regularly, timely and correctly needs to be improved. This brings us to the role of the pourkarmikas. A lot of resentment regarding non-payment of wages has led to the pourkarmikas missing from their work. This issue has been raised multiple times in the discourse about the local politics of the city in the last few months. This further aggravates the problem of unclean roads and streets.

Having looked at the institution per se, the entire analysis would be incomplete without taking the actions of the public into account. If one walks on the streets of the city early in the morning, one sees the women sweeping and washing their verandas or the street in front of their home-gates and beautifying it with a colorful rangoli. While one finds such a tradition appealing, it would be interesting to see this diligent effort with a different perspective. Due to the absence of the timely collection of garbage from the households has resulted to the residents dumping the waste on a common dumping spot, usually one corner on the end of every cross road. Every household is a participant in this exercise where they beautify their share of the road and forget about the rest. A laxity from the administration’s side has cultivated indiscipline in the people. Not a single day passes where the residents don’t find garbage bags getting in their way while walking on the roads. These piles of garbage also consist of human faeces either dumped openly or packed in a plastic and thrown.

The sewage system also requires immediate renovation. The drains often get clogged. Almost all the times, they tend to be manually restored for the sake of functioning temporarily. The city needs an infrastructure boost and not temporary fixtures. This is a multi-faceted and a complex problem. It needs to be addressed with two approaches; the systemic and the agent-approach. As rightly stated by Venkatesh Kannaiah, an activist working in the Janaagraha civic organization, a systemic approach would be the local governing authority being aware of the issue and taking appropriate steps to change and improve the system. While, the agent-approach is that of the public, where every person disciplines themself and commits to proper disposal of household waste and refrains from piling them on their roads.

The local government elections between the three parties; the Janata Dal, Bhartiya Janata Party and the Congress are preparing for a fierce competition, it will be interesting to see how the coming administration and political actors deal with this nuisance. With parties like JD(U) and Congress trying their best to assert and win, they must take up this issue seriously just like several others including drug trafficking, vehicular traffic, public posting of unauthorized advertisements, etc. and also protect the interests of the pourkarmikas.

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