Action came on garbage only when people around landfills couldn’t take it any more

That segregation of waste at source is important and a solution to the city’s garbage problems is a no-brainer. It is something that the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) should have enforced years ago.

However, it was the protests by communities living near the landfills that came as a wakeup call that the BBMP needed to scientifically manage the increasing amount of garbage the city generates. The civic authority has finally taken a step in the right direction by making segregation of waste at source mandatory.

Let off the hook

However, the larger question that remains unanswered is why the BBMP failed to nip the problem (garbage mismanagement) in the bud, and why it failed to act against the garbage contractors who did not keep their end of the bargain. The BBMP’s failure to take tough decisions and initiate action against private garbage contractors is the main reason for the problems the city is facing today, aver Opposition leaders.

This issue was discussed during the recent BBMP Council meeting. Yediyur councillor N.R. Ramesh reiterated that the garbage mafia’s stronghold had to be broken to scientifically manage the city’s waste. The contractors are liable to segregate the garbage as per the conditions laid down in the 2007 tenders.

However, the BBMP officials did not bother to initiate any action against the contractors who have clearly failed to segregate and process garbage. They failed to take action against the companies managing Mavallipura and Mandur landfills for not setting up waste to energy plants, as mandated by the contract.

Damning report

Pointing out to the report by the Bangalore Metropolitan Task Force (BMTF), which had indicted both contractors and officials for not implementing the terms and conditions, Mr. Ramesh said that he filed a complaint with the Lokayukta in this connection 10 months ago. “Some officials have been asked to appear before the Lokayukta court, which is hearing the matter,” he said.

Meanwhile, of the three landfills — Mavallipura, Mandur and Terra Firma — saddled with the 4,000 tonnes of garbage spewed by the city daily, only Mandur remains operational as of now. However, this will see a closure with the protesting communities being reassured that dumping will cease in a few months.

Citizens’ cooperation

BBMP Commissioner Rajneesh Goel told the council that the only option before the civic body was to take steps to make segregation at source a success, thereby reducing the pressure on landfills. Sources said that the BBMP was banking on citizens to give away only segregated wet waste daily, which could be sent to Terra Firma where a biogas plant has been set up.

There are several waste-to-energy and waste-to-gas projects in the pipeline; some have been approved by the State government, while others by the BBMP.

BBMP sources said that it would take at least another year-and-a-half for these projects to be commissioned. Even the 16 biomethanisation plants within the BBMP limits will take at least three months to be set up. “So, what is to happen till then? Where will the garbage be sent?” they ask.

Back to Mandur

So it’s back to Mandur. Mr. Goel said that the BBMP and the State government would urge the community there to accept the city’s garbage for a while longer till the alternative plans are in place. The BBMP will send segregated wet waste to the private garbage processing facility at Chintamani, near Kolar.

Mr. Goel told The Hindu that the BBMP would ensure there are temporary dry waste collection centres in as many wards as possible. The civic authority was working towards having an arrangement with the kabadis who will be able to pick up the dry waste from residences directly. “Once people realise that dry waste generates money, no one will mix it with wet waste,” he said.

The BBMP’s plans look good on paper. It remains to be seen if it will be effectively implemented with the setting up of new processing plants and citizens segregating garbage at source.