Why is Mumbai an overflowing bin?
The garbage dumps that lay piled up just beyond the highway from the cricket ground in Nagpur to the luxury hotel where we are lodged was an unedifying sight to and fro every morning and evening.mumbai Updated: Dec 17, 2012 01:25 IST
The garbage dumps that lay piled up just beyond the highway from the cricket ground in Nagpur to the luxury hotel where we are lodged was an unedifying sight to and fro every morning and evening.
The big boons of economic development, as I have written earlier, appear to be under severe threat from environmental and ecological degradation. True, there are activists and NGOs working hard towards redressing the situation. But, unless this is backed by a rise in awareness and consciousness in such matters among the majority, there is peril ahead.
This is already and most obviously manifest in cities across the country. Fuelled by economic growth, big cities are becoming lodestars for those seeking livelihood and growing fast, but haphazardly, with inadequate focus on quality of life.
Almost every city – big or small – appears to be faced with this problem; Mumbai perhaps more than any other. A first time visitor here would think – and rightly so considering the mess and dirt visible everywhere – that the maintenance of the city is dysfunctional.
In the 1960s and 70s, I remember global surveys would find Dhaka, Karachi and Calcutta as the world’s dirtiest cities. Bombay (as it was then) was never among the cleanest, but at least within the country it ranked high. So much has changed since then – and for the worse.
For instance, a recent TripAdvisor survey of 40 cities as tourist destinations has found Mumbai to have the dirtiest streets (Tokyo, even more densely populated, was cleanest) and the most difficult to get around (Zurich was the easiest). What a comedown for the country’s financial hub!
According to NGO and BMC figures, Mumbai apparently generates some 8,000 tonnes of garbage a day, of which 2,000 tonnes is construction waste and 4,000 tonnes is food waste. Rich people, it seems, generate 600gm of waste a day, twice that of poor people. And while 60% of Mumbaiites live in slums, they generate only 60% of the garbage.
There is of course empirical evidence of this and of the old joke that south Mumbai is treated better than the rest. On Marine Drive for instance, they’re strict about doggie poo not littering this premier promenade. But on pavements and streets across the rest of SoBo it’s hop, skip and jump with one hand holding a handkerchief to the nose and fingers of the other hand crossed.
Three-four decades ago, the streets (of south Mumbai at least) would be regularly washed. This practice seems long gone though the BMC has some labour and some machines and vehicles to this end. Evidence of their hard work, however, is sadly thin on the ground.
Of Mumbai’s 1,800 km of road surface, the BMC cleans 1,200 itself and outsources the rest. These brave men and women can sometimes be seen sweeping away, but the dirt accumulates quicker than it is gone.
All said and done though, a lot of the garbage on the streets though is down to us: we like to litter and seem not to be ashamed of it. Paan is meant for spitting, packets are meant to be thrown and soft drink cans to be chucked out of car windows.
Is there a way out to salvage Mumbai? I am not an expert and I don’t want to be pointlessly preachy. But those with good ideas need not be coy. Any suggestions?