Despite spending a combined estimate of ₹3,119 per capita on sanitation services, Delhi’s three erstwhile municipal corporations – North, South and East – continue to rank poor in the Swachh Survekshan 2022 (annual cleanliness survey), while the city of Indore, which spent an estimated ₹4,073 per capita, has retained the top spot in the rankings for the sixth consecutive year.
The latest cleanliness survey was completed prior to the merger of the three civic bodies in May this year. Officials at the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) expressed varying views over the struggle of the civic body to gain better rankings, with some stating that the funds allocated for sanitation purposes were insufficient.
Most civic officials told The Hindu that the larger problem lay in the improper segregation of waste, which was a result of poor enforcement of solid waste management rules, and minimal public awareness.
The latest cleanliness rankings, which featured 45 cities, placed the erstwhile North, South and East corporations at 37, 28 and 34, respectively; in the 2021 rankings, the three civic bodies stood at 45, 31 and 40, respectively, out of 48 cities. The 2020 rankings also show a similar trend with the South corporation retaining its 31st rank, while the remaining civic bodies found themselves in the bottom 10 (out of 47).
The latest survey – which saw its maximum score being increased to 7,500 from its previous year’s total of 6,000 – is based on three parameters: service-level progress (SLP) based on the data provided by urban local bodies; certification based on waste management, sanitation – garbage-free city (GFC) and open defecation-free categories (ODF) – and citizens feedback and engagement (citizens’ voice category).
“Going by the 2011 Census figures, the erstwhile East Delhi corporation spent roughly around ₹6,200 per capita for a population of 17 lakh, which is smaller than that of Indore. However, the East corporation found itself in the bottom 10 of this year’s rankings. There has to be a strong will to enforce change but this is clearly missing in our [MCD’s] case,” said a senior MCD official.
According to Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) Commissioner Pratibha Pal, the “golden rule” that continues to contribute towards the Swachh Survekshan ranking was ensuring 100% segregation of waste at the source.
“We started by segregating waste into two categories – wet and dry -- and currently we are doing it in six categories. This includes wet, dry, plastic, domestic hazardous, sanitary waste and electronic waste. It is a mandate from the IMC for people to segregate their waste into these categories,” said Ms. Pal, adding that this was followed by ensuring that 100% of the waste is collected and further processed on a daily basis.
Ms. Pal said another crucial factor that helped IMC in maintaining the position was the strong political will displayed by Mayors and councillors who placed sanitation as a priority regardless of the political party they represented.
In the ‘garbage-free city’ category, the three erstwhile civic bodies scored zero (out of 1,250) while Indore bagged full marks; in the open defecation-free category, which has a maximum score of 1,000, Indore scored full marks while the erstwhile North Delhi corporation scored 400 and the South and East Delhi corporations scored 600 each.
According to Satish Sinha, associate director at Toxics Link, a city-based group focusing on environmental issues, the poor performance of the erstwhile North, South and East corporations is also because they “never pushed” people to segregate their waste and there have been no changes in the methods to increase the awareness.
“Even in Indore’s case, they [residents] did not get it right from the get-go, but they tried and improved their model, including better coordination and instilling a change in people’s mindset”.
While the three erstwhile civic bodies of Delhi had announced initiatives to improve waste management, such as segregation of waste at the doorstep, shutting down the open three-walled garbage collection points (dhalaos), and moving towards fixed compactor transfer stations for processing waste, civic officials said that initiatives were yet to reflect a massive change on the ground.
“Even today, there are multiple instances where either people don’t segregate their waste or the garbage collectors mix the segregated waste. This is possibly the most simple step to ensure a larger change but the former Mayors and councillors showed no will to enforce this,” said another MCD official.
When reached for comment, MCD’s director for press and Information Amit Kumar admitted that improper waste segregation remains one of the biggest issues but stressed that the civic body’s funding is insufficient and serves as a contributing factor to the struggle.