BMC officer on a mission to stop years-long practice of dumping garbage
Shirish Kunde, a junior officer in Mumbai, has successfully reduced garbage dumping in several locations by using awareness, education, and fines.
Ever since Shirish Kunde, a junior officer with the solid waste management department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), joined the ward office in Bandra three months ago, he has taken up the task to change people’s decades-long habit of dumping garbage in the open.
And if you live in Bandra, you’ve probably noticed the change.
A good case in point is Dukkar galli, the lane that connects Hill Road to Chapel Road and is flanked on both sides by schools - St Peter’s KG and Stanislaus High School clubbed with St Peter’s church. Tonnes of garbage would lay strewn in front of a wall painting of St Peter’s KG.
Using a mix of awareness, education, vigilance, a little help from citizens, and the threat of a fine, Kunde has ensured that the garbage dump has dwindled to barely a few garbage bags. This is a recipe that he has repeated in five other locations in Bandra: near the gate to the Jewish cemetery on Kadeshwari Marg; Rajaram Wadi; BJ road in Ganesh Nagar; near Jude’s bakery on Waroda road; and Mehboob studio.
The call to clear the dump opposite St Peter’s KG came from the parents of a few students. “They were unhappy that their children had to walk past the garbage every day and bear the stench emanating from it. It turned worse during monsoon. So, we had them sign a petition and we submitted it to BMC,” Natasha Rodricks, a supervisor at the school, said.
After getting to know of an open garbage dumping site, Kunde first speaks to the locals and informs them of BMC’s door-to-door pick-up policy. “If it is a building, I ask them to keep their garbage bins at the gate. If it is a slum, I inform them of the door-to-door pick-up organised by NGOs,” he said.
If these methods don’t work, Kunde then enlists the help of Swachchhata Doot, an initiative started by the civic body in July 2023. “The three volunteers for Bandra – Janardhan, Renuka and Avinash - patrol the area from morning to afternoon, checking who comes to dump waste, how many and from where. To those who come by, they explain the reason for not dumping in the open and offer them alternatives.”
A common refrain many have, Kunde said, is they’ve been carrying out the practice for years. “The work is not easy; you meet all sorts of people. Some even try to get into fights.”
After trying out every option, Kunde then explains the rules with a voice of authority. “Only the threat of a fine has been used till date and it usually makes them comply.”
Kunde also has the help of an active citizen Lillian Pais, who is part of the Care for Creations group. Pais was instrumental in clearing the waste in Dukkar gali and in front of the gate to the Jewish cemetery.
“We helped install CCTV cameras to observe the spots, and that’s how we figured out who dumped when the Swachchata Doot volunteers were not on watch,” she said. She herself checked the recordings of the cameras installed by St Peter’s Church and trustees of the Jewish cemetery.
Another alert citizen Joe Rego, who lives adjacent to the cemetery, said, “I would send pictures of the garbage collected. Then either I’d look through the footage to find the offenders, or Lillian would.”
The garbage had also caused a rat infestation which spread into Rego’s building. With the place being clean now, it is all set to be transformed with benches and flowerpots.
At another spot, opposite A Topas Paper Mart and A book shop on Waroda road, the book shop owner himself keeps an eye out for offenders. “People come on bikes and aim their garbage directly at the dump. I go and tell them that it’s not allowed,” said Birju Shaw.
The spot is not entirely free from garbage, as the Swachchata Doot volunteers still do their rounds every day there. Garbage is still dumped at night which BMC’s dumper comes to pick four times a day, Shaw said. “I would have to spend countless days next to the stink of garbage and mosquitos. Now it’s much better.”
Meanwhile, Kunde already has plans for a few more spots to tackle after the festival season. “My work will continue.”