This year, garbage seemed like the albatross around the neck for the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). The issue that seemed insurmountable became the reason for the transfer of one palike Commissioner, even as uncleared mounds threatened to affect public health. The issue, though not unique to a growing city such as Bangalore, was even featured in the international media.

The garbage problem began when the communities living around the landfills in Mavallipura, Doddaballapur and Mandur on the city’s outskirts began protesting against the dumping of city’s waste in their villages. The communities resisted dumping and consequently, tonnes of garbage started mounting across the city. It is pertinent to mention that the city generates around 4,000 tonnes of garbage every day.  

The BBMP has failed to ensure that the companies managing the landfills processed the garbage scientifically. This was the main reason for the communities to protest against the BBMP, as the indiscriminate dumping of unprocessed garbage in their villages had not just contaminated groundwater, but also affected their health.

The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board noting that the garbage was not being processed scientifically, as prescribed under the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, ordered the closure of Mavallipura dump yard.

The civic body, waking up to the need of the hour, framed the garbage bye-laws and even made segregation of waste at source mandatory. Though it became mandatory on October 1, very few citizens are actually segregating the waste that they produce. It is a different matter that it failed to ensure that garbage contractors took steps to further segregate the garbage and keep the city environs clean.

The High Court of Karnataka has, on several occasions, taken both the Government and BBMP to task for failing to solve the crisis. The BBMP has now identified land for setting up processing units. The government’s expert committee is looking at various technologies to process the waste that is generated in the city every day, besides clearing the nearly 40 lakh tonnes of accumulated garbage in the landfills.

Soon after the garbage crisis intensified in the city, the BBMP proposed to set up dry waste collection centres (DWCC) across the city and 16 bio-methanisation plants. However, four months after it was proposed, there are just 24 collection centres. BBMP sources claimed that there are 20 more in other parts of the city that are ready to be commissioned. The BBMP had also asked the bulk generators, including hotels, restaurants and multi-dwelling apartment complexes, to manage the 1,500 tonnes of waste generated within their premises.

It has now proposed to set up waste processing centres in each Assembly constituency. So far, all these proposals have remained on paper and it remains to be seen when they will actually be implemented.

Meanwhile, measures taken to break the garbage cartel have yielded little result. The BBMP spends nearly Rs. 500 crore on garbage disposal, double of what other major metropolitan cities actually spend. This year saw the BBMP float new garbage tenders with stringent terms and conditions. Some conditions were relaxed to ensure more people could participate in the tenders. Consequently, the new tenders received good response from new contractors. However, the BBMP’s hopes of breaking the old cartel’s hold on the garbage disposal system were dashed, as the new contractors are still not able to take up work on the field, having failed to mobilise the required men and machinery.

The new contractors have blamed the old contractors and allege that they (old contractors) have been threatening to damage their vehicles and instigating workers from joining them (new contractors). The new contractors have now been able to take up work only in two zones — Yelahanka and Rajarajeshwarinagar. BBMP sources said that the civic body was now thinking of re-tendering the other packages in six zones where the new contractors are yet to take up work.  

BBMP sources point out that the citizens too had the responsibility of helping the civic body keep the city environs clean. “The citizens should not litter and dump garbage indiscriminately. Garbage must be segregated into wet and dry and handed over to the pourakarmikas who pick it up every day,” they said.

So will the New Year see better waste management in the city? Will the BBMP’s grand plans to dispose of garbage actually work? Only time will tell.

More In: Bengaluru