Some of northern India’s prominent cities are among the dirtiest in the country, and ‘City Beautiful’ Chandigarh is among them, says a study by a top non-government organisation (NGO).
This categorisation is in contrast to the latest Indian government rankings wherein the city, a built-to-plan union territory that serves as capital of both Punjab and Haryana, was declared India’s second cleanest city after Mysuru.
Faring poorly in solid-waste management, Chandigarh, Delhi and Shimla sport common sights of garbage dumped in the open, while Alappuzha (Kerala), Bobbili (Andhra Pradesh), Mysuru (Karnataka) and Panaji (Goa) down south top in collection, disposal and treatment of garbage, says the findings by Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
Tracing root cause
The problem in Chandigarh is directly traceable to city MC’s shortage of manpower and equipment. Worse, the only garbage-processing plant, run by Jaypee group, has ceased operations since July 11 as the MC has refused to meet its demand of Rs 1,000 a tonne as processing fee. The original pact signed a decade ago only gave it the right to produce refuse-derived fuel used in cement factories and other industries.
Even when operational, the plant was receiving 250 tonnes of garbage per day against a capacity of 300. This makes it hard to calculate the city’s garbage production. RD Sharma, the plant in-charge, blames the MC: “The garbage-collection system has collapsed as workers burn it instead of throwing in bins.”
Collection of problems
The MC has outsourced the door-to-door waste collection to private firms, who transport it to the sehaj safai kendras (SSKs) and garbage bins. The SSKs are only 35 as against a target of 132 set in 2002. From there, MC’s dumpers carry garbage to the dumping ground and processing plant in Dadumajra.
“Chandigarh may outwardly look clean, but that city suffers from an absence of garbage segregation at source,” said Swati Singh Sambyal, co-author of the report with CSE director Sunita Narain. “Facilities to transport and dispose waste are poor,” she said.
Segregation is not taking place because the MC has not placed colour-coded dustbins, even in the meat and vegetable markets, in spite of instructions from the Chandigarh Pollution Control Committee and the UT administration in 2010. In comparison, the “cleanest” city Alappuzha along south-central Kerala’s famed backwaters has its households provided with portable biogas units to treat waste at the source.
Who are the others?
Besides Chandigarh, Agartala (Tripura) and Gangtok (Sikkim) in the Northeast and the IT hub of Bengaluru (Karnataka) in the south fared the worst in the report, titled ‘Not in My Backyard: Solid Waste Management in Indian Cities’, based on a 2014 survey. It was released by Union urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu in New Delhi on Monday evening.
The survey had five criteria: segregation, collection, transportation, recycling and disposal. It then categorised the cities into best, mediocre and worst performers. “Instead of doing a ranking, we grouped the 14 cities that were shortlisted for the study through an online poll into the three categories,” Sambyal added.
MC joint commissioner Rajiv Gupta said, “We do not agree with this report and do not know the parameters taken.” He cited the urban development ministry survey released in February that declared Chandigarh the second cleanest in India.