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PMC should ensure that in situ composting is done everywhere, says expert

The PMC has approved the public health and sanitation bye-laws 2017, which it will mainly execute with the help of SWaCH. Suchismita Pai, SWaCH Outreach, speaks more about these bye-laws.

pune Updated: Jan 18, 2018 14:52 IST
Abhay Khairnar
Suchismita Pai, SWaCH Outreach.
Suchismita Pai, SWaCH Outreach.(HT Photo)

The PMC has approved the public health and sanitation bye-laws 2017, which it will mainly execute with the help of SWaCH. Abhay Khairnar spoke to Suchismita Pai, SWaCH Outreach, to understand more about these bye-laws.

Can SWaCH reach each household in the city?

Yes, absolutely. In fact, Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP) has more than enough members to be able to reach each household for waste collection. Many members of KKPKP are in fact waiting to get an opportunity to get integrated with SWaCH. The waste pickers who cannot get integrated into door to door collection (DTDC) will start offering composting services or other value added services to citizens to ensure an environmentally robust, decentralised, accountable, low cost model that is economically efficient too. There are already 2,900 waste pickers working in different parts of Pune.

What is the action plan for slum areas? How will garbage be collected from there?

Exactly like they do now. SWaCH already covers about 85,000 homes in slums/ vastis. They take push carts and go door to door. Slum residents are expected to pay them around Rs.35 a month and PMC is supposed to give a subsidy of Rs.10 per month per slum household. Some issues are that slums generate less recyclable waste - so revenue from this is less. But they are denser so it is possible to cover more homes. However, the PMC subsidy takes a long time to come so if a waste picker is dependent on only Rs.35, then it is difficult for her to sustain, as even that does not always come on time. PMC subsidy must get processed much faster- ideally a fund created for SWaCH to be able to pay waste pickers this amount directly without much delay as otherwise slum collection starts dropping and has to be started afresh. Evidence shows that when the subsidy is paid promptly coverage is more regular and efficient, without breaks.

Though PMC has made it mandatory to give user charges, do you think that people will pay user charges? What is your experience while getting the user charges from citizens?

Generally people do pay if they get a good service. There is a small percentage of people who may be reticent and never pay but usually they stand out and their non-payment does not generally affect those who pay. The issue arises where there is a dual service. Currently, for instance PMC itself runs free collection services in some pockets via ghanta trucks as well as via corporator sponsored vehicles- there are many people who legitimately object to paying - or ask for the free service. This model is unfair to the citizens who do pay. There is also less recycling in such areas as waste pickers diligently pick out every last bit of recyclable waste.

What are difficulties mainly faced by waste pickers while conducting door to door collection? What are your expectations from the civic body for better results?

Although waste pickers in Pune have earned an identity for themselves through their autonomous organisations KKPKP and SWaCH, and for the large part enjoy dignity of labour and respect, there are many issues they face like delayed payment by citizens of user fees, delayed delivery of PMC equipment, delayed payment of SWaCH instalment by PMC causing turnover of immediate support staff of SWaCH which play a critical role in supporting waste pickers and sorting out their day to day issues. Non-provision of sorting sheds is another issues- which is critical in this model - as sale of scrap is one of the sources of income for the SWaCH waste picker. Without a shed, she travels longer distances daily to sell the scrap, thereby incurring higher cost of transport per kg of waste sold. There are also perception issues. Sorting sheds are rarely up to the mark and waste pickers are held responsible for their poor aesthetics. If every society provides segregated waste and a basic sorting area, it would help recycling efforts. To ensure a truly decentralised model that strengthens SWaCH further, the PMC should make every effort to ensure in situ composting is practised in every household, society, or ward, at the optimum or most appropriate level of decentralisation possible. This not only significantly reduces the PMC cost in transport and management of organic waste, but also provides larger scale employment for urban poor, and significantly reduces emissions in motorised transport of waste. Such a model will require large scale up front investment by the PMC either directly or through the support of corporates- a cost that will see immediate financial, employment and environmental returns.