Is the public’s money going down the drain?

  • Poorvi Kulkarni and Kunal Purohit, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Dec 15, 2014 00:33 IST

The city’s civic body, in its past five annual budgets, set aside Rs8,879.88 crore of public funds to keep the city clean.

Let’s put this into perspective: With this kind of money, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) can build a 36.5-km coastal road (at an estimated cost of Rs8,000 crore) stretching from Nariman Point to Kandivli, easing the traffic congestion between the island city and the suburbs. Despite delegating that much money to garbage disposal, what citizens are getting are litter-strewn streets and rising garbage piles.

Behind these huge costs are more than 28,000 sweepers and motor loaders who pick up and handle waste as well as more than 1,100 heavy vehicles deployed every day to ensure the city’s streets remain clean.

Five years ago, the BMC even launched a glitzy ‘Clean Up’ campaign and had inspectors parading the city’s streets to catch and fine anyone who tries to litter. Despite all this, why does the city not look any cleaner?

The answer lies in the BMC’s half-baked approach to the issue of tackling the city’s waste.“The machinery and the resources to collect and transport waste have been well-devised. But, for them to be effective, what is lacking is the inclusion of all areas in the city under the ambit of regular waste collection,” said Bhalchandra Patil, former chief engineer, BMC’s solid waste management department.

He said the unattended spots in private layouts and areas that fall under the jurisdiction of other government agencies must be brought under the scope of daily collection and stringent action must be taken against the owners of these areas.

BMC’s data shows house-to-house collection of waste has been executed only in 75% of the city. “This lapse multiplies with the absence of enough community bins. Most amount of uncollected garbage is generated by the unauthorised settlements and population living in the city and the BMC has not found a way to act against them,” said Patil.

The BMC has begun to set right its collection system by adding to its fleet of dry waste tempos to encourage segregation and send less waste to the dumping grounds.
“We plan to spread awareness and enforce complete segregation at source by 2016. Ward offices have already been asked to assess the need for more dry waste vehicles in order for them to be hired and provided accordingly,” said Prakash Patil, deputy municipal commissioner, solid waste management, BMC.

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