Overflowing garbage bins with debris and trash strewn all over the streets and pavements seem to be a rule rather that exception these days.

Ramky Enviro Engineers Ltd., (REE), a Hyderabad based conservancy agency, setup the Chennai Municipal Solid Waste Private Ltd. (CMSWPL) to cover Adyar, Kodambakkam and Teynampet zones of the Chennai Corporation, spanning 88 square kilometres. REE, having experience in managing solid waste in several cities was awarded the contract for seven years. The organisation began its operations with much fanfare and expectations on January 2012.

Unfulfilled promises

At the time of the operation, REE promised that a compactor would be deployed in each ward and depending on its size the ward would get 30-40 tri-cycles with six fifty litter bins for segregation of waste was to be provided along with 120 litter bins with wheels. A number of fully equipped sweepers to clean the areas and a supervisor to check the process was also promised. With each zone having 70 drivers and 22 compactors making many trips to dumping yards, the plan looked perfect, or so it seemed. But all in vain.

Right from its inception, complaints poured in as neither additional manpower nor equipment was to be seen. The bins continued to overflow and the dumping around the bins increased and the tricycle collection was not adequate. “The planning and implementation of a comprehensive programme for waste collection, transport and disposal didn't work out as we hoped for,” says Mr. Sankaranarayanan, a long time resident of Mylapore.

Strike

The recent strike has not gone well with the public and this sentiment is reflected by Varagalakshmi, a housewife who feels: “This is essential service; they need to find a better way to voice their grievances and not go on strike.” A vendor complains about the over flowing bins around business areas and says it puts off customers.

“Corporation should not be indifferent to the woes of the citizens. It is after all their responsibility to clean the city either through their workers or via private contractors,” says Rajat, a professional.

“What happened to CMSWPL? Their waste managed techniques are not up to the mark,” says Ramanathan, a senior citizen. He validated his point by saying that REE didn't live up to the challenges or expectations in managing its labour force due to wage problems leading to perennial shortages. He also said that the corporation asked to increase their work force and improve their night operations which the agency has not obliged.

Sans proper equipments

Another issue is shortage of equipment. “The sweepers are not given brooms and other essential equipment. How can one expect them to clean the roads?” questions Varagalakshmi. Also, she is worried about the conditions the workers would have to work in. “They don't seem to use any protective gear such as masks or gloves,” she adds. She feels that high density areas such as Adyar or Mylapore, which also see many foreign tourists visiting, will present a filthy picture with garbage piled up on the streets.

Meanwhile, the role of the citizen comes into focus. Does he not have any responsibility in keeping the surroundings clean? People continue to toss rubbish on the road. How many handover domestic waste to the worker when he comes calling? Control at this point will go a long way in keeping the bins fairly clean. With increasing population and a proportionate raise in garbage generation, the challenge gets tougher everyday. It is time the citizen did some introspection and pitch in with his contribution.

(Nivedita is a third year student of B.A. Journalism, MOP Vaishnav College for Women)

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Civic issues & HealthMay 14, 2012