With less than a fortnight for the much-delayed garbage tenders from being opened and finalised, the 15-member committee formed to look into the tendering process has recommended that a single contractor be vested with the responsibility to collect both wet and dry waste.
This is the exact opposite of what the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has envisaged.
A few months ago, the civic body had issued tenders for ward-wise collection of wet and dry waste by two separate contractors with the sole aim of improving segregation of waste at source, and ensuring that the streams do not get mixed. The tenders are likely to be opened on May 10 after which they will be finalised.
BBMP's opposition leader Padmanabha Reddy, who is a member of the committee, said that after much deliberation, they had concluded that having two contractors collecting wet and dry waste separately would result in ‘some conflict between them at the ward level’.
“Work will not get done and the contractors will only blame each other,” he said, justifying the recommendation.
The recommendation has come as a shock to BBMP officials and members of the Technical Guidance Committee (TGC).
“The tender conditions were framed as per the mandate specified in the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016. By restricting the collection of different streams of waste to separate contractors, we hoped to avoid aggregation of the segregated waste, which would eventually help improve segregation levels across the city,” said senior civic officials.
Many questioned the committee’s U-turn.
Sources pointed out that in two previous meetings, the committee had taken decisions in favour of separate tenders for wet and dry waste.
“Clearly, some vested interests are at play. Either way, we cannot change the tender conditions now. Also, with the model code of conduct in place, such policy decisions cannot be made. We will open the tender on May 10 and finalise it based on the response,” sources said, and added that the Election Commission had exempted the BBMP in this case.
A member of the TGC, who did not want to be named, expressed disappointment over the committee's recommendation.
“The tender norms were fixed after a detailed study. It is not just the TGC, but even the earlier SWM Expert Committee had stated that the only way the garbage issue could be solved is by separate collection of wet and dry waste,” the member said.
The member blamed the development on the ‘nexus between councillors and garbage contractors, and the lack of political will’.
Segregation level has dropped: experts
With the level of segregation dropping across the city, the BBMP is still largely dependant on quarry pits and landfills to dispose the city’s waste.
A member of the BBMP’s Technical Guidance Committee said that where once segregation level was nearly 50%, it has dropped by almost 20%. “Had the BBMP managed to maintain the tempo, the segregation level would have improved to nearly 80% in a couple of years,” the member said.
Waste management experts, who have been highlighting the problem, point out that often citizens segregate waste at home only to see it being aggregated at the time of collection.
Priya Thippeswamy, a resident of Malleshpalya, said that residents in her locality segregate waste, but the pourakarmika who comes to collect it, mixes it.
Though Commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad had earlier admitted in the BBMP council that the civic body had received a lot of flak from the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal for sending mixed waste to landfills and quarries, the situation on the ground has not changed drastically.
According to waste management expert V. Ramaprasad, most of the garbage generated in the city is being sent to landfills, with approximately 500 tonnes going to the 140 Dry Waste Collection Centres and another 800 tonnes being sent to waste processing plants.
“No one is insisting on segregation of waste, neither is the segregated waste sent as it is to the processing units,” he said, adding that though citizens are willing to help improve segregation levels, their efforts are being stonewalled by the bureaucracy and the political system.