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HT Investigation : Pune municipal corporation’s waste segregation is a mix of mismanagement and apathy

Dry and wet waste segregated diligently by housing societies and Swach waste pickers carelessly mixed by civic conservancy staff

pune Updated: Sep 14, 2018 14:26 IST
Parth Welankar
Parth Welankar
Hindustan Times, Pune
Swach waste pickers collecting waste door-to-door and then segregating it, at Shivtirth nagar, ward 11, Kothrud. (HT PHOTO )

On September 11, the Pune municipal corporation (PMC) was presented with the United Nations climate and clean air award, 2018, at San Francisco, for its innovative waste segregation model in partnership with Swach (Solid waste collection and handling).

This latest award for the PMC’s much-celebrated waste segregation model was received ceremoniously by mayor Mukta Tilak, standing committee chairman Yogesh Mulick, leader of the house, Shrinath Bhimale and zonal commissioner Suresh Jagtap, who headed the solid waste management (SWM) department till recently.

An investigation by HT has, however, revealed a ground reality that is starkly in contrast: In many wards, dry and wet waste segregated diligently by housing societies and Swach wastepickers is being carelessly mixed by the civic conservancy staff.

This mixed garbage is then dumped in land-fills. When confronted by HT , Jagtap, who headed SWM department till last week, admitted that this is exactly what was happening.

This was also confirmed by Mangal Pagare, CEO of Swach, which has a Rs 5.22 crore annual agreement with the PMC for door-to-door waste collection from more than six lakh homes, through its army of 3,000 waste pickers.

Pagare said, “Swach wastepickers collect garbage from door-to-door in residential societies from across the city. After we segregate the waste, we then load it in the PMC vehicles which then carry it to the dumping ramps.”

Pagare said that Swach’s responsibility ends the moment the segregated waste is loaded on to the PMC vehicles. “However, when the trucks reach the ramps, we find that the garbage which was segregated by us again comes in the mixed format.”

While the PMC collects 2,100 metric tonnes of waste daily, the civic body has claimed that more than 50,000 tonnes of waste is recycled annually. Pagare said that while the waste segregation model is very good, owing to various loopholes in the mechanism it has failed to deliver its objectives.

Last week, an HT team tracked garbage that was segregated by housing societies near Shivtirth nagar, Ward 11, Kothrud.

Swach waste pickers collected segregated door-to-door waste from different housing societies, and then, segregated it further before loading it on to the PMC garbage collecting truck.

While on its way to the Kothrud dumping ramp, this truck collected un-segregated garbage along the way which was mixed with the segregated garbage. From the Kothrud dumping ramp, the entire load was then taken to the landfill site near Uruli Devachi, thus, defeating the purpose of waste segregation.

Requesting anonymity, a PMC official from the SWM department told HT that of the total 2,100 metric tonnes of garbage generated in the city daily, over 60 per cent is dumped in the landfill at Uruli Devachi.

PMC admits segregated waste mixed by civic staff

When confronted by HT about the ground reality of PMC’s garbage segregation claims, zonal commissioner Suresh Jagtap, who headed the solid waste management (SWM) department till recently, admitted that the system had loopholes.

“This is one of the problems the department has been facing. There are cases where we have witnessed mixed garbage coming into the vehicles. However, PMC has been working to the best of its capacity to keep the waste segregated,” he said.

Jagtap requested HT to share details of its field visit with the department for corrective action.

A senior PMC official requesting anonymity said, “Owing to the failure of the civic administration’s model of waste segregation, the burden on the landfills at Urli Devachi has been increasing over the years. The waste can go to the treatment plants only if it is segregated thoroughly. Treatment plants do not accept mixed waste.”

Facts to ponder

• Annual Budget of the PMC’s sold waste management deparment: Rs 400 crore.

• 70 % budget is utilised for payment of salaries, pensions, etc.

• 30% spent on waste segregation, purchase and maintenance of garbage collection vehicles, billings

First Published: Sep 14, 2018 14:25 IST