12 Jan Achieving Swachhata – a step at a time
Illegal garbage dumping along the roads in and around cities and villages today is an indicator of two things happening simultaneously. First is that the waste collection system established by the local municipal body or the grampanchayat is not efficient and second, is that people are unaware/reluctant to participate in the formal waste collection system.
Recently, I had a chance to look closely at this issue in case of such an illegal dumping site on the fringe of Pune city. The tricky part was that the dump was right on the boundary where the city ends and the Bhugaon grampanchayat boundary begins. So whose waste collection system was not working and which citizens were disposing the waste on the road? I was keenly involved in the issue and was speaking to the elected representatives of Pune’s ward 10 and also to the elected gramsabha members of Bhugaon. Here I must say that there was a great consensus and a genuine interest to resolve this. All this needed was a push, of something or someone!
Around the same time, under the Swacch Bharat Mission, Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) came up with the Swacchata App. Any citizen could register on this app and upload photos, with location of such waste dump sites. These complaints were automatically forwarded to the nearest local ward office. And surprisingly any complainant received a call back for details within 10 minutes of uploading a photo. It is interesting to note that the Annual Cleanliness Survekshan that was established for cities gave a score /awarded points to the response given to complaints. The monitoring of this App by MoUD gave this system a certain credibility and brought in accountability.
For about 15 days, I uploaded a photo of the Bhugaon dump every morning when I went to the office. That’s how met Shri. Ghatkamble, who was responsible for the cleanliness of this area of Ward 10. After every complaint/uploading of photo, the PMC garbage van was promptly deployed and the dump was cleared. But much to everyone’s irritation, the dumping returned with a vengeance. Sometimes, I felt like the garbage almost doubled every night just because someone removed it in the morning! After about 5 uploads/complaints in a span of 10 days, Shri. Ghatkamble and I became friends. Every morning when my complaint reached him, he gave me a customary call back and started pouring out his problems. These tele conversations also made me realise that the garbage dump issue was not an easy one. And it was not just about establishing a cleaning system everyday. The issue needed a more in depth work if it was to be really resolved.
That’s when, I with Shri.Ghatkamble, initiated meetings with the Bhugaon grampanchayat. Here I must give credit to Corporators Alpana Varpe and Kiran Dagde-Patil whom I approached for help and they gave me quick responses.
Today, the garbage dump is completely removed. We see some persistent citizens still dumping in the middle of the night, but it is a negligible quantum and easily cleaned. I am sure slowly, this too will go away. But the removal of the dump required actions at all levels.
1. Shri. Ghatkamble stationed himself in and around the dump and stopped each person who was seeking to dump waste here. He took down names and addresses to identify possible areas where waste collection was not happening. There was some threatening to charge fines, but Shri. Ghatkamble told me later that fines never work. If he fines a person and stops him/her from dumping at one location, they will just go a few meters ahead and dump there.
2. Pune Municipal Corporation and Bhugaon grampanchayat worked closely to identify areas which did not have a proper waste collection/door to door waste collection system. This was established by Bhugaon which I feel solved 60% of the issue.
3. Bhugaon along with PMC conducted an aggressive awareness drive, with waste collection personnel knocking on doors if they observed that some homes were not giving waste to them. This I feel is a feat, to be able to get this kind of committed personnel.
4. One morning, PMC deployed JCBs to clean up the spot and level it. Dirty areas are dirtied more, while Clean spaces tend to remain clean.
5. Janwani, an NGO working under MCCIA stationed two people at this spot for 8-10 days, which discouraged people from dumping at this spot.
This experience gave a very important and useful insight into waste dumping and cleaning. One, is that the MoUD Swachhata Survekshan is a great motivator for cities to work towards cleanliness. The Swachhta App ensured accountability and the scoring under it is a great encouragement. Thirdly, I also realised that waste cleaning requires a Task Force and a consistent effort by the government, to bring about a behavioural change in citizens. This cannot be done overnight and thus government mechanisms cannot lose patience despite repeated failure to keep areas clean. Lastly, the top down government’s focus on Swachha Bharat has made a huge difference in perspectives of elected representatives and government officers. Due to our PM Narendra Modi taking a keen interest in cleanliness, the importance of resolving this issue has reached to the lowest levels. So much so that the swachhata kamgaar are personally taking pride in ensuring door to door waste collection.
Pune has once again revived the use of Swachhta App and hence I felt I should pen down this experience. So aware citizens out there, do use this App liberally and stay connected to “your dump” till you see it disappear! 😉