A month after it launched the Adopt-a-Street initiative, BBMP has received 35 applications. “Of these, around 17 applications from various RWAs and corporate companies are serious. They are willing to sign an MoU with us and take the initiative forward,” says Randeep Dev, BBMP Additional Commissioner (Solid Waste Management).
Adopt-a-Street is a voluntary service initiative under which citizens and corporate houses can adopt specific streets, and maintain them regularly to ensure visual cleanliness. Launched on August 25th, the programme is supported by The Ugly Indian (TUI), an anonymous group of volunteers working for cleaner streets.
Dev says BBMP will shortlist only the applicants who are ready to sign the MoU, which will be floated very soon. “We are still in the process of developing the MoU. Once it is ready, we will invite serious applicants for a discussion and initiate the signing the MoUs, ” Dev says.
Geeta Nadkarni was among the first Bengalureans to apply under the programme. A resident of ST Bed Layout in Koramangala, Geeta says she was inspired by an earlier clean-up residents had done there; they had converted a small triangular park, abandoned and neglected, into a dog-park. “I saw a tweet about Adopt-a-Street and thought, why not do this, and applied for it,” she says.
Applicants to the programme have to do a ‘First Activity’ – a basic clean-up event by gathering a few neighbours and friends on a particular day. TUI and BBMP will judge the applicants based on this.
Geeta says that 40-50 residents turned up voluntarily for the First Activity in their layout. From school-going children to aged residents, they arrived on short notice on a Sunday.
“It was an eye-opener. In just 15mins, on perhaps one of the cleanest streets of Bengaluru, we were amazed to find garbage worth a truckload,” says Nitin Nayak, a resident who cleaned the 8th cross street of the layout that day.
Nayak says they painted trees, cleaned a corner plot where a vegetable seller had dumped rotten vegetables, repaired the broken slabs of a gutter and did much more in just a few hours. “This exercise brought a sense of belonging and community for us. Now, when I walk into the locality, it’s like walking into my house. I know everybody, and everybody knows me,” Nayak says.
What’s the initiative all about?
Through the programme, citizens can augment the efforts taken by the BBMP’s SWM, Forest, Electrical and Engineering departments to keep the streets clean, green and pedestrian-friendly. According to the co-ordinator of TUI, the practice of adopting streets is common throughout the world.
The aim is to help people solve their own problems in partnership with the existing government system, with no cost to the government. “Not a single tax-payers’ rupee will be spent as the programme is funded privately,” the co-ordinator says, adding this would bring more responsibility among citizens. He hopes citizens will then start treating the roads as their homes by doing small repairs and keeping it clean at a micro level, which may have a huge impact on the city.
In India, he says, there have been cases where citizens came together to clean streets, but Adopt-a-Street offers a formal structure for the same. “We hope the programme will unleash the entrepreneurial talent of Bengaluru to solve its own problems which, in this case, is restricted to cleanliness,” the co-ordinator says.
Scope of activities under the programme include:
- Conducting clean-up drives at least once a month
- Conducting daily street clean-ups through own staff, apart from those done by pourakarmikas
- Removing or reporting illegal flexes, banners, posters and cables
- Eliminating or transforming black spots
- Protecting and maintaining trees and plants on the footpath and median
- Planting new trees/shrubs after approval
- Reporting dead trees and branches that need trimming
- Identifying and executing minor repairs to damaged footpaths
- Assisting in removing minor obstructions from the footpath
- Preventing water-logging and facilitating water flow into drains
- Reporting non-functional street lights and supporting their repairs
The group can also support in adding street furniture such as waste bins and benches, with prior approval of concerned departments.
Dev says it is left to the applicant to do just one task regularly or a few from the list above. “Serious applicants are willing to do all of these, as these are not major repairs or tasks. We have also got applications where people have expressed their inability to do some tasks; we will look into those soon,” he says.
After the official launch on August 25th, BBMP and TUI has done preparatory activities with a few RWAs and corporates, but the aim is to persuade citizens in all 198 wards to adopt at least one street in their ward, Dev says.
How to apply
The application process is easy. Any group of individuals, RWA members, or a corporate can fill in the adopt-a-street application form available online, and e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following details.
- Name of the organisation/group
- Name of the contact person and his/her phone number and e-mail
- Name of the street one wishes to adopt, with location details including landmarks, start and end points
- The BBMP ward where the street is located
The adopted street can be a small stretch of a road, periphery of a public area like a lake boundary, a school boundary or any other public space maintained by the BBMP.
Dev says the application is available only online, and all communications including the responses to queries will be via e-mail. He says there’s no eligibility criteria for applicants, and that anybody willing to take responsibility and conduct regular clean-ups can adopt. “There is no limit on age or the number of volunteers. We expect at least 6-7 people, minimum, in a group. But in case the number is lesser, TUI volunteers will assist them in the clean-up,” Dev says.
How applicants are selected
Once the application is accepted, applicants will be asked to share some photographs of the place/road they wish to adopt, and the problems there that they want to address.
After getting BBMP’s nod, the applicant must conduct the First Activity; TUI will support them with basic materials and guidance. “This will give us a fair picture of whether the applicant is action-oriented or not,” the TUI co-ordinator says.
After the First Activity, TUI will send a report to BBMP regarding the seriousness of the applicant. If applicants satisfy certain basic criteria, they will be asked to sign an MoU and an Expression of Intent, that will formally designate them as adopters of their preferred streets. They can then can continue their clean-up drives regularly after informing BBMP about the dates. BBMP may also send its officers to support the drives.
Geeta says that the First Activity in her layout has encouraged residents to do clean-ups regularly. “We are doing it this Sunday too,” she says, adding they keep vigil of the street and have a WhatsApp group to flag issues related to it.
When asked if manpower and funds would be an issue after they adopt the street, Geeta says she is optimistic considering the response so far. She is confident that the enthusiasm would grow as all procedures were transparent.
Creating history or repeating history?
For Bengaluru, the concept behind Adopt-a-Street is not entirely new. The city has seen such government-corporate-citizen partnerships in the past which started off with much fanfare but fizzled out later.
BBMP had launched the Namma Bengaluru Nanna Koduge (NBNK – Our Bengaluru, My Contribution) programme on July 2014 with the support of the state government. Under this programme, corporate houses and other organisations could adopt parks, subways, lakes and other public properties, and maintain them as part of their CSR (corporate social responsibility) activities.
Adopt-a-Mile was a platform under NBNK to improve the city’s roads through CSR. Under it, corporates signed an MoU with BBMP to take up activities that improved amenities on streets and also enhanced their aesthetic beauty.
Unfortunately, BBMP failed to continue the projects under NBNK. Former Mayor B S Sathyanarayana, who had started NBNK, later said no records of the initiative had been maintained. “None of the successive Mayors was interested in conducting meetings to monitor the programme,” he told The Hindu in 2017, three years after the launch of NBNK.
Sridhar Pabbisetty, Chief Enabler of the citizen collective Centre for Inclusive Governance, says Adopt-a-Street is a noble idea but pothole-free roads are the need of the hour, to add to the visual aesthetics of a street. And for this, contractors need to be held accountable. Besides, the initiative will be successful only when there are regular ward committee meetings where the problems identified during clean-ups can be discussed, he says.
Pabbisetty says initiatives like NBNK had failed since they were not systematised through a mechanism that could be repeated, and regular updates weren’t provided on how well each intervention worked.
The TUI co-ordinator says the people who came forward for NBNK did not have the right intent. “Most of them wanted some benefit out of it or some publicity.” He says Adopt-a-Street has filters to prevent this – the application form where the exact length of the street has to be mentioned, follow-up with pictures and social media posts after the First Activity, and judging the seriousness of a group before signing the MoU.