A general civic sense among residents and the strict imposition of fines on those dirtying public places ensure the world’s cleanest cities maintain their high standard of living, said Mumbai residents, who have lived abroad. It helps that they also have a foolproof waste collection system, they added.
Megha Kaul, who lived in Hong Kong for five years, recalled an incident when a young man threw a cigarette stub on the pavement. “A police officer walked up to him, took his Hong Kong identity card, and gave him a ticket that asked him to appear in the court on a particular date. No arguments, no pleas,” said Kaul. Cleanliness, she said, is a mandate for everyone in building the corporate and social image in Hong Kong.
“The cleanliness agenda is integrated in the lifestyle. The waste collected door-to-door is processed properly, and every commercial and housing society makes sure they have proper channels for garbage disposal. Also, there is a general awareness about not creating much waste, which the residents religiously follow.”
Geeta Tuli, who worked in the retail fashion industry in the Middle East, lived in Bahrain, Dubai and Kuwait for a decade.
“In Dubai, all the residents’ data is recorded with the government, and the systems are computerised and inter-linked. If anyone is caught flouting the rules, including littering, it gets updated in his/her records. I remember a case where a man was forbidden from taking a flight at the airport because records showed he had not paid up for an offence,” said Tuli.
“These cities have a number of closed-circuit television cameras (CCTVs) installed at various spots, and catching the offender becomes easy,” she added. “The people who chew tobacco, spit only in a wash basin, and never on the streets. They can’t, unless they are ready to pay a fine of Rs 2,000-Rs 3,000,” Tuli said.
Shrikant Krishnan, a Chembur resident, who lived for a decade in Switzerland and then Sweden, said the sense for cleanliness is ingrained in the residents from childhood. “Schools, in particular, put a lot of emphasis on civic sense. This is one area where our educational institutions can play an active role,” he said. “Europe is not so big on imposing fines and penalties, unlike, say Singapore. But I haven’t seen people litter there,” he added.
Arlene Chang, a freelance media professional who has lived in New York, US, said she never saw garbage openly lying on the roads. “There is garbage on the streets at times. But it’s always packed in bags, and never thrown openly,” she said. Chang said the homeless in New York find space in one of the several shelter homes provided by the government, and thus people do not sleep on footpaths, eventually dirtying public spaces.
Vishwesh Khanna, a chef who lived in New Jersey, said cleanliness is a result of a proactive approach by the residents, who readily complain to the civic body about any person or family flouting rules.