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Spotlight- Karnataka

Will a single agency for collection of waste in Bengaluru work?

Presently, wet waste and dry waste are collected by two separate agencies in two different vehicles

May 14, 2022 02:38 pm | Updated 08:44 pm IST - Bengaluru

The garbage segregation centre at Domlur in Bengaluru.

The garbage segregation centre at Domlur in Bengaluru. | Photo Credit: SUDHAKARA JAIN

In what will be a reversal of the Solid Waste Management (SWM) strategy in Bengaluru for nearly a decade now, if it goes through, the civic body will likely revert to a single agency/contractor collecting all streams of waste from the doorstep under the new tenders being drafted.

Presently, wet waste and dry waste are collected by two separate agencies in two different vehicles — wet waste every day by contractors and dry waste twice a week by those managing Dry Waste Collection Centres (DWCCs). “Today we have different agencies responsible for wet waste, dry waste, sanitary waste, medical waste, construction and debris waste, animal waste and waste from bulk generators creating a multitude of agencies making it tough to hold anyone to account,” a senior civic official said, arguing for a single agency to collect all streams of waste.

Garbage collection vehicles of the BBMP parked at Ganganagar in Bengaluru.

Garbage collection vehicles of the BBMP parked at Ganganagar in Bengaluru. | Photo Credit: SUDHAKARA JAIN

Back in 2012, after segregation of waste at source was made mandatory by the Karnataka High Court, contractors drew the ire of citizens as even when households gave segregated waste, collectors poured them into one container mixing it again. This led to the experiment of DWCCs, managed by ragpickers and NGOs, being given charge of collecting dry waste in 2013, separating collection and processing of wet and dry waste. Those managing DWCCs and a section of SWM activists have opposed the reversal of this policy, raising fears that segregation levels in the city will drop again.

“Separate collection of dry waste twice a week has worked well for nearly a decade now and the city is able to empower ragpickers through this programme. Households have also got used to giving dry waste twice a week. Going back to contractors collecting both streams of waste in a single vehicle will only amount to undoing all the good work done over the last decade,” said Nalini Sekhar of Hasiru Dala, an NGO working with ragpickers and managing over 36 DWCCs and collecting waste in those wards.

Streams of waste collection

SWM expert Sandhya Narayan said “one-size-fit-all” would not work in the city. “In commercial areas and slum pockets where garbage is collected every day for the first time, a single vehicle collecting both streams of waste will work. But in residential areas with middle and high income groups, which make up 80% of the city, there is already a working system where streams of collection are entirely separate and why should they go back to a single vehicle system. We have done time and motion studies earlier which clearly show the single vehicle system won’t work,” she said. 

However, not all seem to agree. “Despite all streams of waste collection being separate, we are still collecting majorly mixed waste dumping it at landfills and blackspots in the city are only increasing. Evidently, this experiment to separate streams of collection of waste to boost segregation has failed and needs a rethink. Moreover, NGOs running DWCCs and collection streams have also developed conflict of interest by indulging in business through waste processing,” said V. Ramprasad, a SWM activist in the city. 

“The contractors are the bedrock of SWM in the city and cannot be kept out branding them as mafia, especially when they are ready to reform and implement transparency measures. Contractors have also realised there is money if waste is segregated,” said a senior civic official, indicating a move back to contractors.

Indore and Ahmedabad models

Senior garbage contractor Balasubramanyam said they had proposed to the civic body to follow the Indore model where four-wheeler vehicles with three distinct compartments for wet waste, dry waste and sanitary waste be deployed for doorstep collection.

“This will mean we need to discard all the existing vehicles and buy all new vehicles, which we as contractors are ready to do. This will resolve the unpredictability and multiple time slots for garbage collection that has created confusion and emerged as a pain point for households,” Mr. Balasubramanyam said.

“We are ready to implement all tracking and transparency measures as stipulated by the civic body,” he said adding: “We have also proposed that an RFID swipe card be given to each household, where the houseowners swipe the card after collection of waste. It will help the civic body monitor both contractors and house owners and penalise either of them for slip-ups”.

If this model goes through, DWCCs will be managed as per the Ahmedabad model, senior civic officials said. “Like in Ahmedabad, contractors will dump all dry waste they collect at the DWCC in that particular ward. Ragpickers have to register at these centres and pick whatever they want for free within a week and the civic body will dispose of the remaining. This way ragpickers will be integrated and rehabilitated,” the official said. 

Collection by single agency

The policy to revert to single agency collecting all streams of waste has not been officially finalised yet, said Dr. Harish Kumar K., Special Commissioner, SWM, BBMP and CEO of Bengaluru Solid Waste Management Ltd (BSWML), the company now in-charge of collection and processing of waste in the city.

“We have formed a technical advisory committee which is reviewing the policy currently. We have an open mind and will go by what the TAC recommends to us. As per its recommendations, the new tenders will be drafted,” Dr. Kumar said.

However, sources said that the TAC is also in favour of the single agency being put in charge of collection of all streams of waste in a single vehicle and the report would be submitted soon.

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