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Thursday, Dec 12, 2019

Monday Musings: Lend a helping hand to improve Pune’s waste management

Even as the Pune Municipal Corporation’s Solid Waste Management (SWM) department needs to show better results, it’s high time that in addition to segregating dry and wet waste, we the residents, begin segregating the sanitary waste generated in our homes

pune Updated: Dec 02, 2019 16:11 IST
Abhay Vaidya
Abhay Vaidya
Hindustan Times, Pune
Residents and environmentalists clean the riverside at Salim Ali bird sanctuary to mark India rover day on November 30. There is an urgent need for residents to join in the effort to clean the city, including the riverside where garbage is being dumped regularly without any fear.
Residents and environmentalists clean the riverside at Salim Ali bird sanctuary to mark India rover day on November 30. There is an urgent need for residents to join in the effort to clean the city, including the riverside where garbage is being dumped regularly without any fear.(Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO)
         

In spite of the fact that the Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) solid waste management operations are supported by the Rs 120-crore Adar Poonawalla Clean City Initiative and the Swach solid waste pickers cooperative, it continues to be unsatisfactory.

There are numerous parts of the city, such as the suburbs in the city outskirts and areas like Bopodi and the Aundh-Baner-Balewadi ‘smart city’ where garbage is being dumped along the riverside without any fear of penalty.

Burning of garbage, especially garden waste, is rampant and unchecked. There is another kind of garbage-burning which is happening without any fear of the civic authorities: This is the horrific burning of rubber tyres and insulated wires by waste pickers and others to extract the valuable copper and other metals within.

The acrid smell that wafts in our localities with the early morning breeze is the result of the noxious and carcinogenic fumes that have been released due to the burning of discarded rubber tyres at night. Clearly, this too has been going completely unchecked in the city.

Pune today generates 2,100 tonnes of waste per day and the civic body claims that 1,400 tonnes of this is segregated. In 2016, the city generated 1,600 -1,700 tonnes of solid waste per day, which included 150-180 tonnes of construction and demolition waste, 50-60 tonnes of garden waste and 5-6 tonnes of biomedical waste.

The civic body spends upwards of Rs 400 crore on its solid waste management operations. A clean city is a blessing in more ways than one for all of us, the residents: A clean city uplifts the spirits with an air of positivity just as stinking heaps of rotting garbage does exactly the opposite. A city that has managed its garbage well will also benefit from better community health, less breeding of mosquitoes in stagnant water, and thereby better productivity and prosperity.

Since each one of us contributes to the filth and garbage that our city generates, it is only prudent that we and our families do our bit to help keep the city clean. This begins right within our homes with diligent garbage segregation.

The PMC, NGOs, the Adar Poonawalla Initiative, and organisations like Swach have been putting in a lot of effort to promote and encourage garbage segregation in our city.

Even as a number of housing societies and thousands of families have been following this diligently, this movement needs to expand and become bigger till people are habituated to segregate garbage.

Alongside, the PMC also needs to take firm steps with stiff penalties to deal with the burning of waste, and the dumping of garbage in isolated, deserted spots, such as river banks.

At least two such spots on the Aundh-Khadki road near the Ayyappa temple were cleaned up—and have thankfully remained garbage-free—after this newspaper repeatedly drew the attention of the Khadki Cantonment Board to the nuisance. The KCB went beyond putting up warning boards at these sites. It identified small vendors dumping garbage illegally, fined them heavily and got the place cleaned up. While one spot has been turned into a well-cemented parking lot, the other vacant plot has been barricaded with high fencing, preventing access to miscreants. The absence of garbage at these two spots also meant the absence of hungry, stray cattle which used to look for food at these dumps.

PMC ward officers need to do likewise in their respective areas.

Taking its garbage segregation drive further, the PMC has now decided to push for the segregation of sanitary waste by citizens. Thus, in addition to segregating dry and wet waste, residents would need to segregate sanitary napkins, child and adult diapers in clearly marked bags and bins, making it easy for waste pickers to dispose the sanitary waste. This is the least that we, the well-educated Punekars, who are also cultured and immensely privileged, should do for the poor waste pickers who have been forced to segregate our sanitary waste that we dump with our garbage.

It’s high time that this indignity is brought to an end by the people of Pune, setting an example for the rest of the country.