Deepika Arwind

A meaningful gesture by an individual or a small group can prick the conscience of litterbugs

BANGALORE: For all the accolades that Singapore gets for being an impeccably clean country, citizens pay an equally high price, and literally so. Fines for littering keep citizens in check and the occasional street-cleaners in fluorescent suits are actually those serving punishment to those littering the streets. However, many citizens of Bangalore, a city which years to be compared with Singapore, say that imposing fine is not the only way towards a litter-free city.

Prashanth Jha, a young software professional who lives on Old Airport Road, says: “In our apartment complex, we generally do rounds to ensure no one litters. In the beginning, when we were really enthusiastic, volunteers for the month were given whistles and they would blow them if they saw anyone littering.”

Now there are no whistles though the informal litter police does its rounds.

Then, of course, there is the smart ploy of plastering images of various deities on compound walls or in corridors to desist people from spitting, relieving themselves or littering. However, this method may work in pre-empting people relieving themselves, but is not fully foolproof when it comes to littering. One can often spot a whole pile of litter right under these images.

Other efforts by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahangara Palike are also often paid no heed. The sign “Do Not Litter Here”, found on so many walls around the city, is so nondescript no one even notices it any more.

Youngsters’ campaign

Even so, not all is lost and it has taken future citizens — our children — to launch a campaign to spread the message about reducing, if not stopping, the habit of littering. Young members of the Children’s Movement for Civic Awareness (CMCA) regularly try to evoke the conscience of people about various civic issues. Says Priya Krishnamurthy of the CMCA: “Children receive a message better and also give it out better.” She adds that their impact on adults is also much more effective.

Students from Sacred Heart Girls High School held an anti-litter campaign recently. With slogans like “Technology owes ecology an apology” and “Don’t dirty the compound walls, they are not toilets”, they urged people to take care of their surroundings. “In fact, children run anti-litter campaign within their campuses all year around,” she adds.

Voluntary organisations such as Clean and Green have been working towards a litter-free environment by cleaning up picnic spots and reaching out to shopkeepers and vendors about these issues. Roopa Sankaran, Co-founder of Clean and Green, says “We now have the support of Jungle Lodges and Resorts, a wing of the Forest Department. The Managing Director will help us in out cleaning initiative by providing his staff,” she adds.

Missing: dustbins

And then, where are the good old dustbins? It is absence lack which also encourages people to litter. “I live off Kamanahalli Main Road and on three parallel roads, there is not a single dustbin,” says Shiva S., a college student. “We don’t want a fancy bunny or monkey dustbin – any simple bin will do,” he adds.