Trash Talk from Bangalore

Everything is garbage until it is segregated. However, despite a never-before crisis staring it in its face, the government doesn’t seem to have realised that there can be answers to what seem to be gigantic problems. As for the one that has pushed Bangalore and of course, surrounding villages like Mandur and Mavallipura over the edge, the answer is simple: The problem has to end where it begins.

So, as usual, it is looking for misdirection, instead of solution. It is searching for new landfills as if people living in surrounding villages are sub-humans meant to find solace in living with the garbage dumped by their urban counterparts. It’s so shocking to hear how one important official after another says urbanites will be more troubled than the villagers if the crisis persists. The truly aggrieved villagers have taken to streets and, rightly so.

In another attempt, the government shunted out the BBMP Commissioner to strike off an item on its desperate to-do list. How can one person, no matter which position he is in, have answers to a crisis the entire city is responsible for?

Silver Lining

Crises like these always give an opportunity to come up with radical solutions. If the government truly wants a lasting solution, it should make waste segregation at source mandatory. The onus of creating a better living space should be on each individual household who generates garbage. It should be on each individual who contributes to the crisis day in and day out.

According to activist N S Ramakanth, except for cadmium and arsenic, everything else can be recycled. Setting up waste recycling units in each ward can mitigate the crisis at an astonishing speed. Everyone will fall in line if the waste collectors refuse to lift the garbage that is not properly segregated.

Menace of Garbage Mafia

But then, what’s preventing the government from hammering out a solution? It can’t somehow wriggle itself out of the contractors’ mafia—as simple as that. Even as garbage mounds multiply in the city, it’s the stench emanating from a scammed administration that will spell doom for all of us.

Back to Basics

This crisis has gone out of control. We are no strangers to how our officials take us for a ride with one scam after another. To expect any practical solution from the administration is just futile. Let’s take pride in segregating waste in our own backyard. Nothing can be more fulfilling than the realisation that it takes simple habits and a bit of determination to live light on this beautiful earth.

Savita Hiremath

Savita Hiremath is an experienced journalist who has worked with Deccan Herald, The Times of India, and The New Indian Express. She has also headed a journalism institute and authored "The Positive Story" on insurance for HIV-positive people in 2008. She has written extensively on issues like corruption, red-tapism, casteism, poverty, health, sustainable development and environment. Savita blogs at http://www.savitahiremath.com and can be reached at savita.reverberations@gmail.com

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7 thoughts on “Trash Talk from Bangalore

  1. Dear Savita,

    I greatly appreciate this article and the message that the public should start separating garbage. Indeed if there was just one word you would want me to tell the public, which could save Bangalore and the rest of India from the garbage mess, it would be “separate”. However, we should realize that public action is not enough. Infrastructure to transport waste in its separated form should be finally provided by government authorities. If that’s not happening, we can encourage informal waste recycling coops to a good extent to pick the separated waste directly from households. They will not pick up all the trash, as all of it is not valuable for them. The rest of it can where it is going right now.

    Good article

    • Dear Ranjith,
      Living in a 200-strong community, I can tell you for sure that our dependence on BBMP for waste disposal is minimal (sanitary waste and construction debris). We segregate our dry waste into 15 categories and are trying to compost kitchen/garden waste through vermiculture process. Two previous experiments have failed but we are sure of succeeding this time.
      Given the way our public sector works, to wait for them to take the first step would mean loss of years of time. Instead, we can carve out a small space for these activities in our own apartments/individual households and find our own way out of this mess.
      But yes, if we put pressure on the government to set up ward-wise waste collection centres, it will help a great deal for those few committed souls who segregate but often see all the waste lying mixed up in BBMP trucks.
      Thanks for your comment. 😉

      • 200-strong! Wow! That is inspiring.
        But, 15 categories! What happens to the waste after it is segregated? Are waste pickers collecting the segregated waste from you? Or to put it simply, what would you calculate your recycling rate to be?

        I think you are doing some great work. Great to see your determination to make things work. Very important. Please share with us your experiences in vermi-composting once you succeed. All the best with it.

  2. Problem in India is that mixed garbage is generated and dumped in certain outskirts of that town. Lot of money have already been spent on Solid Waste Management facility in Public Private Partnership model but they also failed to address the problem. Reason of failure is there are no research on Indian mixed garbage and how to recycle that garbage. Plants are designed by copying the western units. There were stiff competition amoung the private firms to get SWM projec. They quoted much lower rates for collection and transportation of garbage and processing as well. Now all those firms willing to pull out themselves from that PPP ventures. Local corporation also do not have enough land to create new facility. The Cement Industry can play a vital role in consuming the non biodegradable waste by burning them in their plant. For that they also required investment and pollution control clearance to built a plant near those garbage dump.Another solution is to have waste to energy plant but in India as I said garbage is mixed and half of the garbage is organic matter and containing moisture. In other word non biodegradable items has to burned in order to reduce the size of garbage. This discussion required lot of support and research by Government and Private organization. All corporations must keep some land for recycling of garbage other wise they will have to shift garbage to nearby villages which ultimately would be very costly.

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