Time for a Solid Waste Management board in Bengaluru

Failure of waste management in Bengaluru

Bellahalli/Mittgenahall quarry, November 2016: mixed garbage dumped over a shabby liner and capped with mud. Pic courtesy: SWMRT

BBMP’s outsourced garbage contract system failed continuously to deliver and rampant corruption and malpractices the order of the day. Yet the Council has again proposed that the tenders be called for again, supporting the comeback of contractors!

As explained in Part 1, the stranglehold of the BBMP Council on the implementation of effective waste management, therefore, still continues, leading to a virtual paralysis in the SWM delivery and implementation. No new SWM proposals have been passed by the Council in the last five months and status quo is being maintained. This is a testimony to the lack of willpower to do the right thing.

For a clean Bengaluru in a Swacch Bharat

Public health of a global city will be in good shape only with pollution-free air and water. Cleanliness and sanitation cannot be compromised because of fiefdom politics and its compulsions.

Solid Waste Management (SWM), cleanliness and sanitation is a big ticket and high visibility item on the Central and State Government agenda and budgets. The generous, performance-based funding available through the Swachh Bharat Cess to the Municipalities for setting up SWM infrastructure, and the large grants and funds by the Government of Karnataka for setting up possibly the largest SWM infrastructure facility in the country, befits the global city status that Bengaluru has.

The pioneering and progressive directions of the High Court of Karnataka since 2012, based on the Bengaluru SWM Model, has also given the country a holistic and comprehensive SWM policy governed by the SWM Rules 2016.

Council protecting the interests of contractors

The present system is notorious for delayed payments, building up arrears even on salaries of the Pourakarmikas and the waste workers and bills of its service providers. Controlled and limited officers dealing with finance, disbursements and labour will greatly help in streamlining, controlling irregularities of bill passing and release of payments to vendors, operations and maintenance, and audit of the income and expenditures.

The Council is protecting the interest of the contractor mafia and is working against the interests of the pourakarmikas, waste pickers, citizens, environment protection and civic efficiency.

The present system of SWM administration, governance, control, authority being superseded by the Council and decisions vetoed is causing a paralysis and deadlock in the progress of implementation of Solid Waste management. If we are to see real change and improvements, it is important to bring in independent, functioning authorities and systems.

Solid Waste Management should have an independent Board

1. Garbage should be managed with the pressures and influences of populist politics.

Bengaluru City has embarked on a laudable and ambitious path of implementing a detailed comprehensive solid waste management plan which needs a high level of technical and managerial intervention and administration. An independent SWM Board headed by a Chairman and a governing board, just like the KSPCB, BESCOM, BMTC, is necessary for the city. This should be responsible for the City SWM Policy and its implementation, and should carry out daily functions without the pressures and influences of populist politics. The technical and scientific nature of SWM cannot be administered by general policymakers.

2. Expensive infrastructure needs to be kept safe, functional and managed efficiently.

SWM Infrastructure is being set up with substantial funds. Increasingly it is being seen that the ownership of these assets, installations and facilities needs to vest in a central board to have better diligence, accountability, full utilisation and safeguarding of these assets. BBMP is scattered with many zonal offices and ward offices, and cannot hold the forte effectively.

3. If BBMP is contributing barely 10% of the cost, why should the council make the decisions?

The present annual budgeted SWM expenditure is approx Rs. 940 crores. The contribution from BBMP Solid waste management cess is around 65 crores (less than 10%) while the main funding is from State Finance grants, Nagarothana grants, Swachh Bharath funding and Government of Karnataka grants. There is no justification therefore for the Council to be in a position of decision-making. Right now its approval is re    quired for every SWM operation and programme implementation, and on operational and capital expenditure sanctions. Right now the Council is opposed to every step aimed at bringing in transparency and monitoring, and is keen only on long-distance transportation of waste.

4. Waste management has to be handled scientifically.

For its effective implementation, SWM needs dedicated suitably qualified officers, specialists with permanent tenures in the organisation. The present porous borders of inter-departmental transfers with no hold on the transferability of officers greatly comes in the way of capacity building. The dual accountability of the department officers to the elected representatives and its own department, often with conflicting interests, severely hampers the independent daily functioning of the SWM officers with contradicting and diluting approaches to the SWM mandate and requirement.

Solid Waste Management in a fast-growing megalopolis, is about cost efficiencies, providing coverage, efficient and optimal use of technologies, building adequate SMW infrastructure, having in-house specialists and dedicated staff. Only a SWM board, independent of politics and vested interests can deliver a Clean Bengaluru. The writing is on the wall, but is anyone looking?

About Sandya Narayanan 8 Articles
Sandya Narayan is a citizen of Bengaluru, and a member of Solid Waste Management Round Table (SWMRT)

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