In a flawed strategy to replicate the urban infrastructure of large cities in the plains, the local bodies (municipal institutions) have themselves become the rule breakers as garbage dump sites have been created by them around water-bodies and public places. When the law enforcing agencies do all these criminal acts, what can we expect from citizens? We see women carrying their trash bins during evening time, and dumping this in open drains or small irrigation canals (Kulls). As per my personal study not even 2 % people in Srinagar city and other towns, segregate the waste in their residential houses or process the kitchen waste within the premises of their house.
The municipal institutions who lecture citizens to follow waste management rules are themselves guilty of not following them? We have hundreds of employees posted in the Urban Local Bodies across Jammu & Kashmir from Lakhanpur to Kupwara or Tral to Tangmarg, plus those working in Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC), how many of these employees have dug a compost pit in their house compound to process the kitchen waste? How many of these employees segregate waste in two bins? How many Executive Officers posted in different Municipal Councils or Committees across J&K, Ward Officers of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) or Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) segregate the waste at source or compost the kitchen waste when it comes to their own residential house? These officers always keep advising people to abide by MSW Rules 2016, but they hardly abide by it. Ironically the sanitation inspectors, sanitation supervisors who directly deal with waste management in ULBs also have failed to be the role models for citizens ?
I have seen many officers of SMC, JMC, or those posted in different towns (municipal councils and committees ) speaking during seminars on Swachh Bharat Mission -SBM etc. They keep advising school kids and people to adhere to waste management rules, but when they never adhere to the advice they give to people? We see the municipal officers and other senior officers carrying brooms during sanitation campaigns like Swachhta Pakhwada etc. Such actions look so awkward and awful as people know it is all a mockery? Except for a handful of officers, the majority of the municipal employees do not adhere to scientific waste management guidelines in their own residential houses? Even those who frame policies on waste management also sail in the same boat.
Agriculture landholding in Kashmir valley has come down drastically due to massive urbanisation. The shrinking farmlands may lead to food insecurity in the future but at present it has a direct impact on management of solid waste. There are no open spaces to create scientific landfill sites across Kashmir. For the last ten years the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) has not been able to acquire even 10 acres of land for creating an alternate landfill site as the existing site at Achan is already choked and emits terrible smell around Eid Gah, Zoonimar, Saidapora, Nowshahra and Soura areas. Not even 10 % funds available under the Rural Waste Management programme have been spent in J&K from the last few years. Irrigation canals, streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands are filled up with waste. The plastic waste has choked not only our wetlands, rivers or drainage system but this is choking our entire Kashmir valley.
Every road in Srinagar city is waterlogged these days. From the commercial hub of Lal Chowk, Jahangir Chowk, and other areas we see water everywhere. Although it has been raining only for a few hours during the last several days, this is swamping our residential and commercial areas of Srinagar. The situation is bad in other towns of Kashmir like Anantnag, Budgam, Pulwama etc. The situation is not good even in rural Kashmir as we witness water logging in small and big villages as well. Have we ever thought that unscientific waste disposal is also largely responsible for this. If we streamline the waste disposal issues that will give us relief not only from unscientific waste management but our roads and residential areas won’t get choked. From the last few years we have been witnessing water logging in such areas which are not located near wetlands or aabi awal land (paddy fields). The areas which are recorded as Bagh e Khushki or Maidani are also inundated during mild rains. The reason is that our drainage system has been choked with plastic waste. Unless we don’t wake up from a deep sleep our future will be very bleak. That is why I am suggesting municipal employees to work with missionary zeal and act as role models for their neighbours. All the drains in Srinagar, Jammu and all other towns need to be cleaned under a mega campaign.
If a person like Manzoor Wangnoo could do a successful pilot work under Mission Ehsaas to clean up Khushaal Sar and Gilsar lakes in Srinagar, why can’t the Govt launch similar campaigns across J&K? For the last 17 months he has been on the job. This is a sustained struggle and our Govt officers especially those working with municipal institutions must learn from such success stories. Why can’t municipal employees create small model in-house compost pits in their residential houses so that their neighbours can learn from them and replicate these models. In the last 17 months under Mission Ehsaas Manzoor Wangoo and his team Nigeen Lake Conservation Organisation (NLCO) have done a commendable job. Not only have the navigation channels been thrown open from Zoonimar Gil Kadal side but even though Zadibal area one can enter into these water bodies. The NLCO team created history by throwing open another choked entry point from the Sazgaripora area on Eid Gah Hawal Road in the old city a few months back. The team recently restored some dead and choked Springs in Ganderbal as well. This was only possible when there was a missionary zeal among the team NLCO. The Govt also came forward to support this mission especially Divisional Commissioner Kashmir who has been supervising Khushal Sar Gilsar restoration. LG Shri Manoj Sinha also appreciated the work done by Mr Wangnoo and his team. Pertinently team NLCO are not paid to do this work and in fact Mr Wangnoo has spent a huge amount of money from his own pocket. On the other hand Govt officials especially those working with local bodies (municipalities etc.) are paid to do the work. If they still don’t work or show results or don’t adhere to what they preach, I believe they are committing a crime. We need drastic measures to be taken to address the issue of unscientific waste management; that is why I suggest that all the employees of ULBs across J&K which includes SMC, JMC as well have to develop a kind of Ehsaas which means sensibility to do something good for society. Unless we as citizens don’t develop this character we won’t be able to succeed.
Kashmir is an oval-shaped valley which will turn into a trash bowl after a few decades as plastic and other waste is constantly dumped into Kashmir’s water bodies. We need to create an army of dedicated soldiers who will act as green warriors. The municipal employees, especially the officers, have to come forward to lead the people of Jammu & Kashmir in this direction. They have to become role models for citizens by starting in-house composting of kitchen waste. This will surely become a movement and I am sure other people will also replicate this model.
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is Anant Fellow for Climate Action and Acumen India Fellow. He is also Chairman Biodiversity
Management Committee District Budgam
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.