Want Swachh Pune? Begin with garbage segregation at home
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Want Swachh Pune? Begin with garbage segregation at home

With 1,700 metric tonnes of garbage generated in Pune daily, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has attempted various initiatives to handle Solid Waste Management (SWM) in the city

pune Updated: Sep 08, 2017 14:17 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, Pune
waste management,garbage segregation,pune
A society worker mixes the wet waste collected from the houses in the society to cook up compost in Pune.(Sanket Wankhade/HT PHOTO)

The transportation and dumping of garbage at Uruli Devachi was replaced with the installation of waste-to-energy biogas plants in different localities. An MoU was signed with the waste-pickers cooperative, Swachh to collect garbage systematically, segregate it and dispose of it locally in biogas plants. As reported by Hindustan Times over the past few weeks, only parts of this strategy have succeeded and the PMC stands overwhelmed by the challenge of managing Pune’s garbage.

Kalyaninagar-based citizen-activist Sheila Christian is among the pioneers of waste management efforts and initiatives in Pune. A former vice-president of the National Society of Clean Cities (NSCC), Christian was experimenting with dry-and-wet garbage segregation in the Boat Club area in the late 1980s and persuading nearby housing societies to use vermin-composting methods to process wet garbage locally. Under her guidance the residents of Kalyaninagar follow a very systematic plan to segregate dry, wet and electronic waste and dispose it appropriately. She regularly conducts workshops across the city to help people manage their wet waste locally, without burdening the civic infrastructure. This is the model that different localities in the rest of Pune need to follow.

Following are excerpts of a discussion between Christian and the Hindustan Times editorial team:

Two of the biggest issues faced by Pune are acute traffic congestion and the problem of garbage management which is growing by the day. Your thoughts?

I think, garbage is a bigger issue than traffic. Traffic you can get through and after a point it reduces. But, what are you going to do about garbage? When you come to areas such as Boat Club road, Koregaon Park, Kalyaninagar and parts of Vadgaon Sheri, you see awareness regarding garbage and cleanliness. But, in places such as Bhavani Peth, Katarkhana and Ramoshi Gate, the situation is pathetic. There is garbage on the streets. It seems like there is no waste management system in the city. How can you call Pune a ‘smart city’ when no one is bothered about littered streets? Everyone is throwing garbage outside their homes. Now, we are talking about segregation and asking people to separate wet and dry waste. I used the term ‘segregation’ in the 80s and everyone thought I was mad.Now it has become a mantra.

Where do you think the Pune authorities have gone wrong with the garbage management?

Segregation is the key to waste management. Sadly, this is where they are lacking. Now they are trying to impose it on people, but they are not doing anything to promote it. The real change will come in only when residents become aware. People from every locality need to take it seriously and work towards segregation. You cannot expect the local body alone to handle your waste. When I started requesting people to segregate garbage in Kalyaningar there were 13 containers of waste on the streets, each had mixed garbage. It was tough to make people accept segregation. However, it happened. I showed them the benefits of vermicompost and slowly people accepted it. I demonstrated a step-by-step method to segregation leading to composting and over the years people have taken to doing it.

PMC workers collect segregated waste from Goodwill Society in Pune. (Sanket Wankhade/HT PHOTO)

What is the solution to the rising problem of garbage management faced by Puneites?

I think everyone must start waste management segregation at source. Composting must be done in the compounds, terraces and gardens. People need to adapt the technique of composting in housing societies. Every building generates so much of waste on a daily basis, if segregated at source and used for composting, there will be an end to this garbage issue very soon. It is a slow process but it is an easy and beneficial one. Citizens need to think of it as a personal issue too. When I visited New Zealand, I attended an event called Christmas in the park. It had 25,000 people who had come with their picnic baskets. I waited till the end just to see how much waste will be strewn in the park once everyone leaves. To my surprise, every one was taking all the remains and plastic items with them in their cars. No one littered. Now, we need a system like this here in our country.

What is it that the people and the PMC need to do about the situation?

Let me give you the example of what we did in Kalyaninagar. We told people to put their dry waste for the PMC vans to pick up and their wet waste for composting. We told them to put it in the vans and not in the bin containers on the road. One by one people started following that, and today you come and see, the roads of Kalyaninagar do not have overflowing garbage bins. It was a lot of hard work. I did that for Koregaon Park, Boat Club road and Model Colony. We were approaching a few more areas but then at that point we were called for a meeting to launch Swachh. Now, Swachh has been a total failure and regressed our entire plan completely. What we managed to change in so many years, we are going back to the same vicious cycle of ragpickers and non-segregation of waste. Segregation is such a scientific process that you cannot rely on ragpickers. People need to keep their garbage at home. Give away plastic and electronic waste to responsible organisations like Rudra and compost the wet waste. Gardens out of garbage is the best way to find a solution. Wet waste from the kitchen can be extremely useful and beneficial for your plants and trees. I have a beautiful terrace garden of fruits and vegetables purely through wet waste.

National Society for Clean Cities

Established in the 1980s, National Society for Clean Cities (Pune chapter), took inspiration from the Mumbai-based organisation started by Begum Ali Yavar Jung, wife of the then Governor of Maharashtra Ali Yavar Jung.

Her concept of a ‘Clean City’ extended to healthy governance and elimination of corruption, along with the goal of making Mumbai a pollution-free city.

NSCC, Pune, which works independently shares this basic vision. The concept of ‘Mohalla Committees’ or RWAs – Residents Welfare Associations – was born out of the idea that every locality would focus on the locality issues.

It was the eminent Pune industrialist SL Kirloskar who met her in Mumbai and invited a group of Pune citizens to work on the same lines. Anjali Patwardhan, Sunita Kalyani were among the early members along with Sheila Christian.

There were no ward offices in Pune in the 1980s and the late Gita Vir would sit for hours at the PMC building looking for answers. “We formed mohalla committees in Koregaon Park, Kalyaninagar and Boat Club (Residents’ Forum). We still meet on the first Thursday of every month,” says Christian.

Solid waste management including garbage segregation and vermi-composting, preserving open spaces, leading the fight for the Green Development Plan for Pune, preventing indiscriminate dumping in the river, cleaning the river, saving water bodies from destruction, citizens’ participation in budget-making for their wards, voter registration drives and organising a platform for voters to meet and discuss with their electoral candidates are among the initiatives taken up by NSCC.

Unplugged@Sheila Christian

First Published: Sep 07, 2017 23:23 IST