Earlier this week, the Madhya Pradesh government made a rather astonishing claim.
“Madhya Pradesh has become the first state in the country to achieve the 100% door-to-door garbage collection target in urban bodies,” Maya Singh, the state urban housing and development minister, informed the press at a “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan 2018” review meeting held on Monday.
PTI reported that the MP government also claimed that solid waste management at landfill sites and processing in partnership with private ventures, is an ongoing exercise in urban areas.
It is imperative to take the government’s claims at achieving 100% door-to-door garbage collection with a pinch of salt, as the Swachhata Survekshan (survey) carried out under the aegis of the Centre is still underway in the state.
The survey was conducted in 26 urban local bodies in the first phase. In the second phase, urban local bodies across 51 districts will come under the survey.
Although scepticism of the Madhya Pradesh government’s claims is warranted, there are some success stories. Take the city of Indore, for example. Only a few years back, the city, which is the commercial centre of the state, was like any other north Indian city and people had stopped making trips to once-popular hangout spots.
Thanks to a diligent municipal commissioner (an IAS officer, Manish Singh) and a supportive mayor, the city was able to achieve a remarkable turnaround as the cleanest city in India, according to the Swachh Survekshan 2017.
What precipitated this change? The answer begins with ensuring what municipal corporations do, which is door-door-garbage collection.
Generating 1,100 metric tonnes of the municipal solid waste per day, efficient garbage collection is a necessity. Today, municipal authorities offer collection services at Rs 60 per month (added to the property tax), which is lesser than what private ventures charge. These services are on offer irrespective of where people live—from slum areas and illegal colonies to posh colonies.
The city’s road to success, however, was a long and hard one. In 2015-16, the city decided to begin the process of removing all dustbins. A curious start one would think. Starting on a pilot basis with two wards and slowing extending the process to the other 83 wards in the city, the city’s municipal corporation went about their task.
“Here, we first laid emphasis on the door-to-door collection of waste. At this point, we kept waste segregation out of the picture as this would lead people to see the whole exercise as extremely burdensome and keep them from extending their total cooperation,” said Ajai Jain, director at Eco Pro Environmental Service, and a consultant to IMC (Indore Municipal Corporation), to The Hindu.
Residents earlier had little option but to collect all their garbage in plastic bags and dispose of them into public dustbins, since door-to-door collections had nearly come to a grinding halt.
During the disposal process, residents would chuck these plastic bags into the dustbins, while not bothering to check whether it landed inside or outside. What this resulted in was more garbage strewn outside the dustbin than inside, attracting a plethora of rag pickers and stray animals, and leaving behind a filthy mess even in upscale areas of the city, besides releasing an unbearable stench.
Instead of big public dustbins, the city has built smaller litter-bins built for pedestrians to use. “Removal of dustbins is in some ways proof that door-to-door collection is happening and is efficient,” explains Manish Singh.
After the first phase, when the two wards started to show results, other wards began instituting this ‘bin-less model.’
From two wards, this model was extended to 10, and so on. It was only months after the initiative took off that the IMC began insisting that residents must now practice segregating their waste, and this gradual process has also started to show results.
The city’s 600 garbage trucks now come with clear markers pointing to the separate collection of organic and inorganic waste. Also, those found littering on the road are fined anywhere between Rs 50 to Rs 500.
“Though the penalty was small, it helped bring about some discipline, especially among commercial establishments. Whenever a commercial establishment would be penalised, the media would highlight it. It also focussed the spotlight on those who were managing their waste efficiently, and this helped to create awareness,” said Ajai Jain to The Hindu.
He goes on to add that those establishments that set up bulk waste converters to compost organic waste could enjoy a 5-10% discount on their property tax, while those who didn’t have the requisite space to install one, would be charged a monthly collection fee ranging from Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000.
The work of these urban local bodies and vigorous awareness campaigns run across social media, television and even on the radio, has spread awareness among citizens. As a result, many of them want to just learn how to maintain those standards of cleanliness, making it sustainable. Local NGOs are also getting involved in helping the IMC with waste segregation practices.
This joint venture between the authorities and the citizens has made Indore a much cleaner and hygienic city, and it remains to be seen if other cities and towns can emulate this model.