For a city aspiring to be like Shanghai, the lack of clean, litter-free public spaces in Mumbai is alarming. Be it beaches, gardens or railway stations, Mumbai’s public face is rather ugly.
If you think shortage of funds is the problem, think again. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), caretaker of most public spaces in the city, spends Rs7 lakh a month merely on keeping the popular Juhu beach clean.
Shortage of manpower isn’t to blame either. The civic body hires 60 sweepers for every square kilometre of the city.
So then what explains Mumbai’s dirty beaches, filthy railway stations and rampant littering in parks? Lack of civic sense is at the root of the problem.
“Even as we sweep the area in front of people, they don’t think twice before littering seconds later,” said Tariq Ansari, a sweeper. “It is important to learn the basic courtesy of throwing waste in bins.”
Then there’s the authorities. The BMC and railways derail the cleanliness mission with poor manpower management, bad planning and failure to implement its laws and schemes. A quick comparison between the metro, railways and BMC highlights the difference in the way in which they marshal their respective resources.
Operators of the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar metro line have a workforce of 350 workers to keep 16 trains and 11 stations clean. For every five sweepers, there is one supervisor to oversee their work. The BMC, meanwhile, has one supervisor monitoring the work of 123 sweepers. Central Railway and Western Railway have 1,250 sweepers cleaning stations and no supervisors.
A lack of basic equipment also doesn’t help the cause. There is a severe shortage of litter bins in the city. Only a quarter of the required 20,000 bins have been installed so far. At most public places such as bus stops and tourist spots, there are no dustbins at all, as the Mumbai police feared bombs could be planted in them.“We deploy workers in three shifts round the clock at such locations and it is still insufficient. The roads are littered within an hour of being cleaned,” said a senior civic official.
Authorities, too, are reluctant to crack the whip. The Clean-Up Marshals scheme empowered personnel to fine citizens for throwing rubbish in public places. This could have ensured an end to littering. However, this scheme failed, owing to poor implementation.
Now, the BMC finally seems to be waking up to the problem by undertaking a study of high footfall areas, peak traffic and linking it to sanitation management.
“Studying the footfalls of the area to decide the manpower and the dustbins to be used is the study that should have been done by the BMC years ago,” said Rajkumar Sharma, AGNI activist.
With no out-of-the-box solutions by authorities, poor implementation of existing laws and absolute lack of civic sense, it’s a long way before Mumbai’s public places can remotely resemble its counterparts in Shanghai.