Much to the shame of Mumbaiites, a 2010 survey report by the National Urban Sanitation Policy voted your city as the filthiest metro in India. Two years later, little has changed.
Red patches of gutkha stains on the streets and sidewalks, packets of biscuits and chips strewn across train compartments and railway tracks, leftover food, half-eaten fruits, and egg shells spilling out of roadside garbage bins have given Mumbai a notorious reputation. “In Mumbai, public spaces are treated like massive open trash cans. A person who recklessly tosses a chocolate wrapper out of a rickshaw here will think a hundred times before doing something like that abroad,” says Ruben Mascarenhas, 24, a civic activist from Juhu.
This abject lack of civic sense not only makes the city look ugly, but makes a mockery of the crores of rupees, your money, that the BMC collects as taxes to keep the city clean.
A few years ago, in a bid to stop people from spitting on the pavements, some organisations painted pictures of religious figures on the walls. But the endeavour failed miserably. “In the building I live in, the walls have ‘Do not spit here’ inscribed on every floor. But I’m embarrassed to say that there are paan masala stains right across it,” says Shalini P, who lives in Borivli.
Back in 2007, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) launched a clean-up campain eponymously named Chakachak Mumbai with much fanfare. Clean-up marshals were appointed, and assigned the job of slapping fines on people caught spitting, urinating and littering across the city. But the initiative lost steam quickly, as allegations of arrogance and corruption among the marshals came to light. “I agree there were drawbacks but you cannot blame the system entirely. When we heard that anti-social elements were misusing the campaign, we made police verification of every marshal compulsory. So people should come forward with suggestions for making the campaign more effective,” says Seema Redkar, officer on special duty from the BMC’s solid waste management department.
Civic activist Aftab Siddiqui feels that the lack of bins in public spaces leaves people with no choice but to litter. “If plastic bins get stolen, as the BMC alleges, why don’t they install permanent animal-shaped bins made of iron?” she asks.
Since 2005, active citizens’ groups or Advanced Locality Management (ALMs) have launched cleanliness drives and environmental preservation programmes all across Mumbai. “We organise regular campaigns on waste recycling and rainwater harvesting, to make people aware of these concepts. We also identify places that are most littered and alert BMC officials about them,” says Dr Vijay Sangole, joint secretary, Pestom Sagar Advanced Locality Management Group.
Are you willing to do your bit?