The State government is keen on taking away solid waste management (SWM) from the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and instituting a parastatal agency for the same, along the lines of dedicated agencies for power, water, bus service, and metro service outside the ambit of the city’s civic body.
However, the BBMP is all set to propose the formation of a Bengaluru Solid Waste Processing Corporation, that will be tasked with only waste processing in the city, while retaining street sweeping and garbage collection to itself.
“Street sweeping and garbage collection is one of the fundamental responsibilities of any civic body, which we will retain. But there is an expertise gap in managing processing plants, which we feel can be bridged with a dedicated corporation. I will be submitting a proposal for the same this week,” said BBMP Commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad.
However, a senior Urban Development Department official in favour of an SWM parastatal, said processing being given up would only be a half measure. “How will this processing corporation function if the civic body does not provide segregated waste? Ideally, the entire gamut of SWM operations should be brought under one parastatal agency,” he said.
The government is yet to take a final call on the issue, sources said. Though a similar proposal was made a few years ago, it never gathered momentum as the garbage cess that the BBMP collected along with property tax was only a small fraction of what was spent on SWM — over ₹1,000 crore annually — over the last two years. However, that has changed with a new provision to impose a user fee of ₹200 per household as per the new SWM bylaws. This is expected to generate an annual revenue of over ₹700 crore, reviving the proposal.
The move to create a parastatal agency has drawn the ire of urban governance activists and political parties. Even as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) termed this “wishing away of primary responsibilities”, the former leader of the Opposition in BBMP council Abdul Wajid (Congress) said, the BJP-led State government had been eating into the autonomy of the civic body and this was only the latest instance.
Mathew Idiculla, a lawyer and urban policy advocate, said, “Most of the existing parastatal agencies pre-date the 74th amendment, which should have been ideally merged into the civic body, but never happened. This is a legacy problem we have. Instead of clearing this, taking away more functions from the civic body and creating more parastatal agencies will be directly contradicting the 74th amendment.”
However, the proposal has garnered support from several solid waste management activists. Sandhya Narayan, member of the BBMP Technical Advisory Committee on SWM, said the processing corporation would increase the efficiency of asset management in processing and help build new capacity.
Not everyone agrees though. N.S. Mukunda, founder president of Citizens Action Forum, said parastatal agencies lacked a structure of accountability. “The de-politicisation of utility services may find popular support among the middle classes, but it lacks structures of accountability and will only fail in the long run,” he said.