Monday Musings: Pune 5th cleanest city in India, but how much of that is reflected on the ground?

Since 2016 when the ‘Swachh Survekshan 2021’ was launched, feedback by citizens appears to be driving cleanliness rankings more than municipal claims and independent verifications
Adar Poonawalla Clean City initiative by the Serum Institute has already pledged <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>100 crores towards solid waste management and sanitation initiatives under which e-toilets with five years of maintenance are being installed at 100 different public places across Pune city. (HT PHOTO)
Adar Poonawalla Clean City initiative by the Serum Institute has already pledged 100 crores towards solid waste management and sanitation initiatives under which e-toilets with five years of maintenance are being installed at 100 different public places across Pune city. (HT PHOTO)
Updated on Nov 22, 2021 04:57 PM IST
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Pune jumped 10 spots to be ranked India’s fifth cleanest city in the ‘Swachh Survekshan 2021’, results of which were declared on Saturday (November 20). If the citizens are satisfied with the results and want their city to further move upward next year, it might be a good idea to begin by downloading a government mobile phone application.

The survey’s findings are based on more than 25 parameters divided into three sections. Some of the key indicators are segregation, processing and disposal of garbage, and sustainable sanitation. Besides this, a crucial parameter that influence rankings is citizen engagement. Since 2016 when the ‘Swachh Survekshan 2021’ was launched, feedback by citizens appears to be driving cleanliness rankings more than municipal claims and independent verifications.

The parameters of cleanliness chosen for the survey seem adequate and its assessment that Swachh Bharat Mission is succeeding in making urban India cleaner might be correct, the on-ground situation may contradict a bit as the methodology used to rank cities appears flawed. The methodology can certainly point in the direction of whether the overall situation has improved or not, the problem arises when political parties ruling the municipal corporations engage their workers to generate positive feedback. Another issue is it relies on declarations made by municipalities concerning the management of solid waste, community and public toilets and efforts undertaken to raise awareness and effective engagement of sanitation works.

For Pune, the overall score has been 4,900.94 with 1,540 points out of 1,800 coming from the citizen voice category. The city has received a three-star rating in garbage management with 2,258 points out of 2,400 in trash processing.

Pune with an approximate population of over five million is among the largest cities in India geographically. Recently, 23 villages on the outskirt were made part of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) limits, taking its area to 520 square kilometres

After the inclusion of 23 villages in December 2020, the city’s daily garbage generation went up by 300 tonnes, reaching a little over 2,100 tonnes. If garbage lifting is a problem in some areas, processing it also is an issue many are complaining about. As reported by Hindustan Times in October, at least ten thermal composting plants in the city are non-functional for the past five years. The civic body has decided to recover 9.71 crore from a private firm for the non-functioning of these plants.

On one hand, garbage is not being processed at 100 per cent capacity, there are many areas where trash is seen lying unattended. Warje, for instance on the Pune-Bengaluru highway, can be a case in point. Despite several complaints by locals, garbage is often seen dumped at the roadside. To dispose it off in their own way, people burn it, adding pollution to already deteriorating air quality.

For cleanliness ranking, assessments by field officers to see the situation on garbage disposal is mandatory. They should visit the areas where garbage is lying so that civic bodies can be pointed to improve the situation, as a result of which rankings will reflect the on-ground status.

Adar Poonawalla Clean City initiative by the Serum Institute has already pledged 100 crores towards solid waste management and sanitation initiatives under which e-toilets with five years of maintenance are being installed at 100 different public places across Pune city. As a commendable move, the PMC on its part started mobile toilets ‘Ti toilet’ project to address the shortage of women toilets in busy public places in the city areas. These toilets are designed by modifying Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML) buses which are not in use for commuting purposes.

However, the civic body has received complaints of misuse of toilets, lack of maintenance and some not being in use.

Earlier this year when Pune was tagged the second-best among 49 cities in the country considered on the “Ease of Living Index” drawn by the central government, not many in the city took it seriously as the overall quality of life in Pune has been declining over the years.

For any survey, if the methodology is flawed, people’s trust in it may diminish. For Swachh Survekshan, the credibility of the survey will receive a boost if some of the issues pointed here can be addressed.

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Saturday, November 27, 2021