The city roughly sends around 2,700 tonnes of recyclable, reusable dry waste to the dumping grounds of Deonar and Mulund where no mechanism to process and the waste has been put in place.
Now, consider this: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) pays around Rs29 lakh of the taxpayers’ money daily to the contractor who runs the dumping ground for each tonne of waste that is brought in (also called tipping fees).
Propelled by the Centre’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the BMC has now touted decentralised waste management and increased segregation practice among citizens as a solution to its mounting waste crisis, with long term goal of sending less waste to the saturated dumping grounds.
Earlier this month, it set up helplines in every ward for citizens to enquire about setting up compost plants in their premises. The civic body is also likely to announce steps to strengthen its 17-year-old Advanced Locality Management (ALM), setup to revive segregation practice among citizens.
Last month, additional municipal commissioner Vikas Kharage, in charge of solid waste management, announced that the current number of ALMs will be increased from the current 719 to 1,000.
But will such initiatives, which have been repeatedly announced, have any far-reaching impact this time? Activists don’t see any substance in these efforts. “The same kind of momentum was built when the ALM concept was first implemented. But over the years, many ALMs have stopped functioning. The BMC’s initiatives have failed to create a sustainable mechanism for segregation,” said Rajkumar Sharma, president, Advanced Locality Management and Networking Action Committee, a group of 45 ALMs in Chembur.
A survey conducted by the All India Institute of Local Self Government in 2006 showed how only 45 of the 700-odd registered ALMs were carrying out composting in their localities. “Many ALMs gave up after the BMC failed to support them in their efforts. Why should the ALMs take such efforts? The BMC should provide them with some incentives such as tax rebates,” Sharma said.
The BMC has now decided to identify plots in each ward and study the feasibility of processing waste in a localised manner.
“We will ask the ward offices to assess the requirement of the number of compost pits that need to be set up based on the extent of generation in their wards. We have set a target of streamlining segregation and composting among citizens by 2016,” said Prakash Patil, deputy municipal commissioner, solid waste management, BMC. He, however, maintained the hurdle of finding such large-size plots in each ward to set up compost pits persisted.
Experts said proper planning could solve much of this problem. “For a city like Mumbai, there need to be plots reserved in the development plan where compost plants can be set up,” said Bhalchandra Patil, former chief engineer, BMC’s solid waste management department.