Trash management is reaching a critical point in Bangalore.
In Mandur, a village less than 20 km from Bangalore, about 500 garbage trucks stream in daily in the dead of night, carrying hundreds of tonnes of city waste to the massive landfill there. Recently, in what is Bangalore’s biggest dumping ground, agitating villagers have blockaded the garbage trucks piled high with waste and demanded that the government find alternative sites for the city’s refuse. The authorities have responded in typical fashion, clamping prohibitory orders forbidding villagers from assembling or protesting. Dozens have been arrested and then released on bail. In an ironic turn of events, police now guard mountains of trash in Mandur.
Meanwhile in the city nearby, the alliteration “garden city-garbage city” is again rolling off the tongue. Mounds of refuse have piled up in many street corners because the private trucks contracted to pick up garbage have ceased to do so as they have nowhere to dump. Bangalore’s garbage crisis, its third in less than two years, is almost becoming a bi-annual drama where the lead actors — the city corporation and the state government — stir for brief periods, but have not been able to come up with any effective or long-term solutions. It has been over a year that the Karnataka government assured the villagers of Mandur that it had set a year’s deadline to stop the dumping and find alternative dumping sites.
Though it is just one of several satellite trash-dumping sites outside Bangalore, Mandur is fast becoming a symbol for India’s ineffectual urban waste disposal systems. It is a festering sign that Bangalore’s garbage problem could be a recurrent theme in other Indian cities as land becomes an increasingly pricey commodity — making landfill sites hard to find. As urban population explodes, trash management is reaching a critical point in several cities and posing an administrative challenge.
Still, experts say it is not too late and the challenge of garbage-handling in Indian cities is within reach of practical solutions. “Somebody needs the political will to execute the solutions that specialists come up with,” said Poonam Bir Kasturi, who calls herself “compostwali” and runs the Bangalore-based Daily Dump, which sells eco-friendly organic waste disposal solutions to households and corporate firms in the city.
Bangalore has still not become stringent with rules that require households and communities to dispose organic waste on their own premises through composting, or segregate other waste for proper disposal. The public is pushing back and only a tough law can be expected to spur habit change. Shops and establishments, for instance, still violate the rule that bars the use of plastic bags of less than 40 micron thickness.
Simple solutions could lend continued…