State of cities: Amritsar among country’s 10 filthiest big cities

Poor ranking in annual survey attributed to improper garbage collection and disposal besides delayed civic works
Garbage lying in front of the Arya Girls Senior Secondary School at Lohgarh in Amritsar on Tuesday.(Sameer Sehgal/ht)
Garbage lying in front of the Arya Girls Senior Secondary School at Lohgarh in Amritsar on Tuesday.(Sameer Sehgal/ht)
Updated on Sep 02, 2020 01:29 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Amritsar | By Mandeep Kaur Narula

AMRITSAR: Home to Golden Temple, Amritsar is one of the most visited places in the world but among the filthiest big cities in the country. The recent Swachh Survekshan rankings showed it slipped from 184th rank last year to 236th position in 2020.

With a population of 13 lakh, the holy city is ranked ninth among the country’s 10 filthiest big cities in the annual survey under the Swachh Bharat Mission. The city was ranked 39th among 47 cities across the country with a population of more than 10 lakh.

Amritsar was ranked 236th out of 429 cities this year, if we place the city in the more than one lakh population category, the pattern that was followed in previous surveys. In 2019, the city’s ranking was 184 out of 425 cities.

The poor ranking in this survey was attributed to improper garbage collection and its disposal and delayed civic works.

Amritsar managed to score 40% marks (2,459.31 points out of the total 6,000), in this survey and scored 1,046.27 points in citizens’ feedback, 838.72 points in direct observation, 373.32 points in service levels progress (SLP) and just 200 points in documentation. Each category was allotted 1,500 points.

However, the city scored 48% (2,406/5,000 points) in the 2019 survey and 50% (2,039/4,000 points) in the 2018 survey, in the more than one lakh population category. The city is losing marks in SLP and direct observation, every year, while the citizen’s participation is improving gradually.

PROBLEM AREAS

Garbage collection and disposal: The city has no planned system of garbage collection and disposal. Door-to-door collection facility is not available in the walled city area around Golden Temple and comprises 11 of the 88 wards. Sewerage lines in the walled city are choked, resulting in overflowing waste. Garbage collection in other wards is also irregular.

The city has failed in solid waste management as the concept of garbage segregation (separating wet and dry garbage) is not being followed. More than 15 lakh metric tonnes (MT) of legacy waste has been accumulated in the city’s Bhagtanwala dump near Golden Temple. The bio-remediation plant went non-operational soon after its installation. 400 tonnes of garbage is added to the site daily.

Inadequate funds and infrastructure: Amritsar member of Parliament Gurjeet Singh Aujla says, “Though municipal corporation officials are trying to make the city better and using resources, they are unable to generate more funds. Due to inadequate funds, we don’t have machines and infrastructure.”

Apathy of citizens: MC health officers Dr Yogesh Arora says of the required 26,000 people, 19,000 city residents downloaded the Swachh Survekshan mobile app. Only 1.69% of Amritsar’s population participated, while in Indore, the cleanest city in India, the percentage was 11.88.

Lack of maintenance: Unkept green belts, dirty public toilets, unclean water bodies and piles of garbage are for all to see. The city is not plastic-free and the number of dustbins in commercial and public areas is inadequate.

STALLED CIVIC PROJECTS

*Bio-remediation plant at Bhagtanwala dump

The project started in March 2019, aimed at recycling 15L MT of garbage but the project has been at halt since its inauguration.

Cost: Rs 3 crore

Status: Bio-remediation has started but at a slow pace.

*Public toilets

Most of the 225 public and community toilets built at 41 locations in the city don’t have water and sewerage connections.

Cost: Rs 3 crore

Status: Construction completed in March 2019 but lying locked and unused.

*Biogas plant at Golden Temple

Announced in March 2019, the biogas plant is yet to be set up at Golden Temple.

Cost: Rs 2.5 crore

Status: The MC is yet to get approvals from the Amritsar Development Authority.

WHAT OFFICIALS SAY

MC Commissioner Komal Mittal, who is also the chief executive officer of Amritsar Smart City Limited, says, “Amritsar lacked in processing and disposing garbage. We are focusing on this segment and have started composting wet waste at five places, including Bhagtanwala. Adequate budget allocation has been made with Rs 1.5 crore being paid every month for the collection and transportation of solid waste besides salaries to sanitation staff.”

The city is in an advanced stage of tendering to get equipment worth Rs 8.5 crore for door-to-door garbage collection from the walled city. Few public toilets are awaiting power connection and water supply. All public toilets will be fully functional by September 15, Mittal says.

Amritsar mayor Karamjit Singh Rintu says the MC is working to fix the water supply and sewer systems. To dispose the legacy waste, work has started for its bio-remediation and a solid waste plant will be set up at the dumping site.

Additional deputy commissioner Himanshu Aggarwal says the administration has ensured sweeping and lifting of garbage near Golden Temple round the clock. Efforts are being made to follow National Green Tribunal guidelines.

RESIDENTS’ TAKE

Solid waste management a concern

“Residents are not segregating waste and garbage is irregularly collected and disposed,” says Kulwant Singh, president of NGO Amritsar Vikas Manch.

Focus on beautification than cleanliness: The authorities emphasise on beautification but they are not concerned about its cleanliness, says Naresh Johar, a city resident.

Public participation a must: The government is not the only one to be blamed as people must cooperate to keep the city clean. They must start composting at home, says social worker Indu Arora.

City lacks greenery: Green belts, gardens and parks are full of litter. Ram Bagh is in neglect. Stray animals in public spaces make it dirtier, says local resident Shivam Joshi.

Staff mismanagement: “The city has the MC, Improvement Trust and Smart City project staff yet it lacks cleanliness and access to clean drinking water. Development projects are incomplete and councillors are not ensuring cleanliness in their wards,” says Sandhya Sikka, the MC leader of opposition.

Legacy waste should be recycled: Congress MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu had promised recycling of legacy waste. The project failed to take off and no political leader is working to shift the dump from the residential area though this was part of the election manifesto. “If Indore can recycle 13L MT legacy waste then why can’t Amritsar?” asks Sanjay Sharma, a city resident.

CITY FACTS

Population :13 lakh

Annual budget for cleanliness related works : Rs 82 crore

ODF Certification: Rectified ODF

SWACHH SURVEKSHAN RANKINGS

2020

39 (Out of 47 cities in more than 10 lakh population category) and 236 (out of 429 cities in one lakh plus population category)

2019

184 (Out of 425 cities in one lakh plus population category)

2018

208 (Out of 425 cities in one lakh plus population category)

2017

258 (434 cities participated)

2016

49 (only 73 cities participated)

NEXT: JALANDHAR

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Monday, October 18, 2021