By launching an aggressive campaign around issues such as garbage and cleanliness, AAP’s national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has put Delhi’s waste management at the centre stage of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections, which are scheduled next month.
While AAP hopes to deny the BJP its fourth consecutive term at the MCD by promising a ‘garbage-free city’, senior MCD officials say that a mere change of guard in the municipality will in itself “not bring about any change” in how the city collects and disposes of its waste.
Several MCD officials told The Hindu that while a shortage of funds is a roadblock in the civic body’s efforts to provide better services, the fundamental reason behind the “poor state” of the city’s cleanliness is the poor enforcement of solid waste management (SWM) rules.
State Election Commissioner Vijay Dev had last week announced the poll dates for the elections to the MCD — with the voting scheduled on December 4 and the counting on December 7 — which coincides with the Assembly election in Gujarat.
“Door-to-door collection of segregated waste, which is not being done right now, has to be strictly enforced. Either people do not segregate the waste that they generate or it is mixed by the waste collectors. Along with some changes required in the civic body’s functioning, there is also a need to instil a change in the people’s mindset. And this may not happen without taking proper action against violators,” said a senior MCD official.
He added that lack of political will by councillors, (when they were still in power in the three erstwhile civic bodies before they were dissolved and merged into a unified MCD in May this year, 10 years after its trifurcation) irrespective of their political affiliations, has been a big reason behind the lax waste management system in the city, causing the city’s erstwhile civic bodies to consistently fare in the bottom half of the annual cleanliness surveys (Swachh Survekshan).
“The councillors were the first to resist punitive actions against violators in their wards. The civic officials also refrain from taking action against violators due to the stiff resistance they face from the public. At the same time, fresh waste continues to be dumped at the three big landfills,” said the official.
How numbers stack up
The three landfills, managed by the MCD, house a total of 203 lakh tonnes of legacy waste. The tallest of the three — Ghazipur landfill — is just eight metres short of the iconic Qutub Minar, which is 73 metres tall. The civic body says it has reduced 77 lakh tonnes of waste from these landfills in the past two years.
The city generates 11,000 tonnes per day (TPD) of fresh waste, out of which the civic body has a processing capacity of 8,213 (TPD); this results in a daily shortfall of 2,787 TPD.
Acknowledging the daily shortfall, MCD’s director for press and information, Amit Kumar said the MCD aims to close this gap by increasing its waste processing capacity by 3,400 TPD by August 2025. He added that an increase of 400 TPD will be achieved in the next “eight to 10 months”.
When asked if the 2025 target of disposing of an additional 3,400 TPD would be sufficient to meet the daily waste the city would generate three years from now, Mr. Kumar said, “With waste segregation at source becoming our way of life sooner rather than later, it is felt that the total solid waste generated by the city wouldn’t be more than the current quantity.”
Mr. Kumar, however, dismissed the idea of the city’s cleanliness being in a “poor state”, despite the results of the recent Swachh surveys. 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. The 2020 rankings also showed a similar trend. He said the civic body has been “largely successful” in keeping the city clean.
Mr. Kumar added that the MCD ensures regular sweeping in residential and market areas, and cleaning of garbage collection points ( dhalaos). He also said the civic body has been “dedicatedly promoting” segregation of waste at source.