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Why Bengaluru had a free fall in cleanliness ranking

Mounds of garbage, unsegregated waste, and untreated sewage finding its way into the lakes pushed Bengaluru to the 43rd spot in Swachh Survekshan 2022 ranking

bengaluru, bengaluru newsThe relaying of a key arterial road with white topping (cementing) in east Bengaluru is likely to throw traffic out of gear for a few weeks at Old Madras Road, Halasuru, Indiranagar and Old Airport Road.

At Ilyas Nagar, just a kilometre away from JP Nagar metro station in south Bengaluru, pedestrians are often seen covering their noses with handkerchiefs as they pass by the garbage kept on the footpath. The stench, they say, is unbearable.

Nearby, in Jaraganahalli, a pile of garbage lies next to a bus stop built on an encroached piece of land where a lake stood about a decade ago. Part of the land was also used to build a government school, and the area is frequented by office goers and school children.

In 2018, residents of Jaraganahalli had disposed of the waste and got the civic body, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), to penalise those found to be littering. Today the place is back to being one of the major ‘black spots’ in the city.

The dumping grounds, or the ‘black spots’, littered across Bengaluru have pushed the city’s ranking down from the 28th spot last year to 43rd this year in the Swachh Survekshan list released by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs on October 1. The list covers 45 cities with a population of more than 10 lakh, graded on the basis of cleanliness and sanitation among other parameters.

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A resident of Jaraganahalli, Mohammad Abdul said, “This is one of the major black spots in this area. From discarded furniture to food waste, everything is dumped here. The bus stop is used by school children. Can you imagine the impact it has on them?”

A BBMP executive engineer, who requested anonymity, said that repeated efforts by the civic body to fine the violators and clean the dumping spot have gone in vain, adding that the BBMP managed to stop slum dwellers living in the vicinity of Jaraganahalli and Ilyas Nagar from dumping animal waste but that did not help.

“When we clear the black spots and levy fines on the violators, they start dumping garbage elsewhere. Though segregation at source is mandated, it is not possible to visit thousands of houses in each ward and find which house has violated the solid waste management (SWM) guidelines. There are thousands of commercial outlets in the area as well, ” he said.

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Lack of CCTV cameras and manpower has also constrained BBMP from effectively monitoring the area.

The major ‘black spots’ within BBMP’s jurisdiction are Ejipura, BTM Layout, Kasturi Nagar, Ilyas Nagar, Kumarswamy Layout, Banashankari, Tavarekere, Bannerghatta and Wilson Garden, including areas in BBMP East and South zones.

Venting his ire on Twitter, former CFO and ex-director of Infosys, T V Mohandas Pai tagged Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, IT BT minister Dr Ashwath Narayan, and
said,“What a disgrace! India’s only Global city, richest city has become a garbage city! we are ashamed! Sir we need urgent reforms, strict action.”

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Reacting to the tweet, executive chairperson of Biocon Limited, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw said, “This is such a disgrace… Govt needs to treat this as a crisis n create a war room like it did for Covid. Citizens are angry and BBMP is getting away without any answers. @CMofKarnataka pls take urgent action.”

The cities in the Swachh Survekshan 2022 survey were evaluated on three parameters and a cumulative score of 7,500, with 3,000 points for service level progress (SLP), 2,250 points for certification, and 2,250 points for citizen voice. BBMP scored a total of 2,892.98 points.

Certification, as one of the three parameters, includes three sub-categories: open defecation free (ODF) status, garbage free cities (GFC) and water plus category (treatment of sewage and re-use of waste water).

BBMP officials admitted that they could not apply for certification under GFC and water plus category because of the presence the ‘black spots’ across the city, and Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board’s (BWSSB) failure in ensuring that untreated sewage does not enter the lakes and tanks in the city.

“They (BWSSB) have to ensure that sewage does not enter the lakes. If it does, it means that all households do not have access to underground drainage lines,” a senior BBMP official said.

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BWSSB officials, however, said that all households are connected to underground sewage lines.

An official from the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) refuted BWSSB’s claim, saying: “A large amount of untreated sewage enters almost all the lakes within the municipal limits. In Bengaluru, the lakes are polluted only due to untreated sewage finding its way into the water.”

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Under the SLP category, an evaluation of segregated waste collection and sanitation is done by the urban local body, and it is later validated by the citizens.

Senior officials in the BBMP said that a private consulting agency was given the contract to upload the required details on ‘service level progress’ once every four months, but it failed to do so.

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“We got just 600 points under certification, 1309.61 points under service level progress and 983.37 points in the citizens voice category. We could not meet public expectations under the citizens voice section but we will improve next time,” said Harish Kumar, BBMP’s special commissioner, solid waste management.

Kumar admitted that the civic body needs to work on securing points in the water plus and GFC categories.

“With a population of 1.2 crore, Bengaluru is competing with cities which have just over 10 lakh population. That has also impacted our ratings,” Kumar said.

Problems: low waste processing and violations

Over 6,000 metric tons of garbage is generated within the BBMP limits daily. Less than 50 percent of this garbage is currently being processed at the solid waste processing centres across the city, with the rest dumped in landfills.

“We have more than 1,500 garbage dumping spots in the city. We are trying to clear the black spots. Two years ago, the safai karamcharis, or pourakarmikas, used to make rangolis at the dumping spots in a bid to deter violators from throwing garbage but it failed to deter them,” the senior BBMP official said, adding that the mandatory segregation of waste is also not being done at apartments and houses.

“While big apartments comply with the order, small residential households, eateries and hawkers do not segregate waste. We levy fines on them but this does not stop them from repeating the offence,” the official said.

A resident of Kasturi Nagar, Harsha Kumar, said, “I have been complaining to the BBMP about burning of garbage in the open since 2017. While the frequency of such incidents has reduced, littering of garbage at night is still on. Nothing has changed on the ground. People living in the area should also stand against the dumping of garbage on the streets.”

Of the eight garbage processing plants in the city operated by the BBMP, the plant at Haralakunte village was shut down earlier this year by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) on the charge of violating environmental norms.

Residents staying close to the plant at Chikkanagamangala and HSR Layout are now also demanding its closure, saying that the stench emanating from the waste processing unit makes the place inhospitable.

The residents complain that the plant receives mixed waste, which is against the solid waste management rules, and leachate – the liquid formed when waste breaks down in the landfill and water filters through that waste – from the plant enters a nearby pond contaminating the groundwater.

A BBMP official said that the demands of the residents are unreasonable.

“We are taking measures to reduce the stench but closing the plant is ruled out. We are also constructing a leachate treatment plant at Chikkanagamangala. We are already running these waste processing plants below their capacities, so their demands are unacceptable. It is because of such activists that we lost points in the Swachh Survekshan survey,” he added.

The way out: Clear ‘black spots’, increase monitoring

Ram Prasad, member of BBMP solid waste management committee and a citizen activist, said that it is not fair to compare Bengaluru with other cities included in the Swacch Survekshan survey owing to its large population.

“However, the civic body should conduct citizen participation campaigns such as spreading awareness on segregation at source, reducing black spots, and also take strict action against those found to be dumping garbage on the streets,” he said.

“The BBMP and the residents should also work together to solve the environmental issues at the waste processing plants. Solid waste management rules should be implemented at all costs. Strict monitoring of violations should also be done,” Prasad added.

Srinivas Alavilli, a civic activist, suggested the BBMP should set aside ward wise budgets for waste management, and identify land to set up waste processing plants.

One of the lingering issues, though, is untreated sewage finding its way into the city lakes. With Bengaluru’s civic agencies at loggerheads, it could take a while before a solution is found.

An environment officer with the KSPCB said, “The job of the BWSSB is to see that not a speck of untreated sewage enters the lakes. There have been several incidents of fish dying in the lakes. This itself was enough for the BWSSB to come up with a solution. As a regulatory agency, KSPCB has reprimanded the officials from BWSSB but there is little more we can do.”

Bengaluru ranking in the survey vis-a-vis the top six cities

Ranking  | City  |  Score

1 | Indore  | 7,146.41

2 | Surat | 6,924.84

3 | Navi Mumbai | 6,852.91

4 | GVMC Visakhapatnam | 6,701.18

5 | Vijayawada | 6,699.30

6 | Bhopal | 6,608.41

43 | Bengaluru | 2,892.98

First published on: 06-10-2022 at 06:48:27 pm
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