Monday Musings: Public funds wasted yet again in Pune

Strategy to eliminate garbage bins and de-centralise garbage collection has largely failed in the city

pune Updated: Aug 21, 2017 16:57 IST
Abhay Vaidya
Abhay Vaidya
Hindustan Times, Pune
monday musings,abhay vaidya,garbage civic funds
The garbage plant at Sus Road.(HT PHOTO)

Citizens also to blame for failure of solid waste management strategy.

Civic contractors and not the citizens of Pune seem to be the biggest beneficiaries of the Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) spending in a large number of instances.

The latest case in point is the PMC’s grand, solid waste management (SWM) strategy to substantially reduce the quantum of garbage going into the landfills, predominantly at village Urli Devachi. As things stand today, the strategy to eliminate garbage bins and de-centralise garbage collection, segregation of wet and dry waste and further processing through vermiculture, composting and biogas-electricity generation has largely failed in the city.

Kalyaninagar is among the localities with the best record because of the deep commitment of the Kalyaninagar Residents Association to civic issues. But in most parts of the city, PMC’s SWM (solid waste management) strategy has failed because citizens, restaurants and other establishments are not segregating garbage and dumping it on the sly in the open- as reported prominently by Hindustan Times, in the case of ‘Smart city’ Aundh.

Today, the PMC administration has become overwhelmed with the rapid rate at which garbage is being generated in the city (1,700 tonnes per day) and many of its components of the de-centralised system have failed or are not working. The result of all this is the ugly sight of heaps of garbage across the city and the near-total of the SWM strategy.

Take the case of one part of this strategy to erect small, two-five tonne capacity biogas plants for processing the organic generated by households, hotels and restaurants in various localities.

This strategy was unrolled seven to eight years ago in cooperation with the waste-pickers cooperative SWaCH and the first plant was put up in Model Colony about eight years ago. Since then, 24 more plants were installed in localities ranging from Aundh to Katraj (2) to Ahmednagar Road and Dhanori. The total investment including cost of plant, installation, maintenance and operational costs could well work out to around ₹30 crore.

To be fair to the PMC, this was a sound strategy aimed at reducing the 45% or organic waste from the 1,200-1,500 tonnes of garbage generated daily (now 1,700), from going to the landfills. Biogas plants came up one by one with the support of citizens and environmentalists, and the PMC received a string of national awards for good work. Fresh investments were being made so there was much excitement and support from PMC bureaucrats and politicians, too.

However, as things stand today, this strategy has sadly failed. As reported by Hindustan Times in a front page report on August 19, five plants located at Peshwe Park, Hadapsar, Katraj Zoo and Baner have stopped functioning. The others are functioning far below capacity.

Who is to be blamed for the failure? Firstly, the technology is imported so the plants don’t work in Indian conditions where garbage segregation is very poor. Secondly, there is fierce opposition from citizen- and therefore corporators- to have these plants in their locality. Thirdly, the recurring maintenance cost and operational costs are now proving to be unaffordable. Thus, if five plants are not working, the PMC really doesn’t care.

Jagtap now says that instead of small two-five tonne plants, they will go in for fewer but bigger processing plants- of course at much bigger investments (!). More spending means more happiness to PMC’s contractors, bureaucrats and politicians…Will it once again lead to public wastage of funds with no accountability from any quarter?

First Published: Aug 21, 2017 13:18 IST