By 2050, billions of people in the world will be living in smart cities. This is mentioned in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. In view of the present management styles in cities, we cannot claim that our cities will be smart in real sense. Due to the present climate crisis and other important factors like the weak infrastructure in our cities, many cities won’t be smart in real sense even 20 years from now. Can Srinagar ever be a waste free city also known as Zero Waste City? Having done a lot of field research on solid waste management for the last 8 to 9 years now, plus having written over five dozen well researched articles for several local, national and international publications, I am of the opinion that Srinagar will be the city of trash in next 5 years if Govt does not wake up now.
Smart Cities Mission
The Smart Cities Mission was launched by Prime Minister Modi on 25 June, 2015. 100 cities were to be selected for Urban renewal and retrofitting with the objective to promote cities that provide core infrastructure, give a decent quality of life to their citizens and apply smart solutions to improve services and infrastructure. As per the official statement of Govt which has been highlighted on the official website of Smart Cities Mission the main objective of the Mission is: “to promote cities that provide core infrastructure, clean and sustainable environment and give a decent quality of life to their citizens through the application of ‘smart solutions”
The statement further says that Smart City Mission aims to drive economic growth and improve quality of life through comprehensive work on social, economic, physical and institutional pillars of the city. “The focus is on sustainable and inclusive development by creation of replicable models which act as lighthouses to other aspiring cities. 100 cities have been selected to be developed as Smart Cities through a two-stage competition “ the statement further reads
Waste Management not a Priority ?
Under the leadership of young IAS officer Athar Aamir who is the CEO of Srinagar Smart City project, lots of work is being executed in Srinagar city. The city is getting a huge facelift. People are criticizing the authorities at helm for making roads narrower around MA Road, Residency Road and Lal Chowk area, but the engineers and architects associated with the Srinagar Smart City project claim that final results would be totally different. Several projects have already been completed like the Jhelum riverfront upgradation. The Jhelum river ghats have been developed with devri stones at many places along with pedestrian walkways and footpaths. Works like Jhelum cruise and passenger transport is a priority for the Srinagar Smart City Limited (SSCL) which is a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) that was incorporated on September 08, 2017 under the Companies Act, 2013. The SSCL company is limited by shares. Srinagar Smart City Limited is governed by the Board of Directors. Gilsar lake rejuvenation has been taken up under Srinagar Smart City. Thanks to Mission Ehsaas launched by Nigeen Lake Conservation Origination who initiated cleaning of Gilsar and Khushal sar lake few years back. Retrofitting and heritage conservation is also a priority for SSCL along with drainage projects, developing sports infrastructure etc, but when it comes to scientific waste management I don’t think any major activity is being undertaken now ?There is a limited scope for scientific waste management under the Srinagar Smart City project.
What is a Smart City?
Technically there are several definitions of Smart City, but for me a Smart City is an urban place where we have a proper scientific system in operation that fulfils basic requirements of the inhabitants of that particular city. It should be mandatory for Government authorities in a smart city to be first accountable to citizens of that city, rather than being answerable to the senior officers etc. A smart city has to have:
} Proper & adequate water supply
} 24 x 7 electricity supply
} Better sanitation, including solid waste management facilities
} Better public transport service
} Affordable housing, especially for poor
} Best Internet and IT services.
Let us now analyze these one by one. Unhygienic water continues to be supplied to people in Srinagar from Pokhribal, Nishat and Doodh Ganga water supply schemes. They need to be augmented by SSCL by collaborating with the Govt under Jal Jeevan Mission. Lot of liquid waste flows in Doodh Ganga from Branwar- Chadoora downstream and my petition on this issue is pending before the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The water from Pokhribal and Nishat water supply schemes is lifted from Dal Lake and we all know what is the condition of this water? With regard to 24 x 7 electricity supply, it seems to be a dream for the people of Srinagar. Sanitation and solid waste management is again a huge challenge. The Achan Saidpora landfill site in Srinagar is already choked and the waste to energy project is yet to take up in spite of the orders from NGT pronounced in 2017. Public transport (bus service) is hardly seen on Srinagar roads. From the last few months some new electric buses have been introduced by JK Road Transport Corporation, but at least we need 100 more such buses in Srinagar in the next 6 months. People in Srinagar city are unaware of Urban housing schemes like PMAY. Lot of awareness needs to be done by Govt. The internet facility has been better for the last 4 years and that is the only positive thing we see as of now.
Scientific Waste Management
Srinagar cannot be developed into a Smart City unless our authorities, especially Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) addresses the menace of solid waste. As per data available on SMC website 450 metric tons of solid waste is generated within the SMC limits on a daily basis. Due to various reasons this waste is not at all treated and is finally dumped at Achen landfill site in Srinagar . All the waste generated in Srinagar city is lifted in SMC vehicles and dumped unscientifically without any treatment . It is not only the responsibility of SMC , but citizens also have a role to keep two separate bins in their house and those people who have little land available around the house can treat the kitchen waste within the premises of their houses by creating small compost pits. The Solid Waste Management Rules of 2016 lays special emphasis on source segregation of waste that mandates to channelize the waste to wealth by recovery, reuse and recycle. All hotels and restaurants have been directed to segregate biodegradable waste and set up a system of collection or follow the system of collection set up by the local body (SMC etc) to ensure that such food waste is utilized for composting and bio methanation. In Srinagar city almost 90 % of the municipal waste gets collected but not even 10 % of waste is processed or treated. If this continues for another 5 to 10 years , Srinagar will be a filthiest city and no tourist would like to visit this place. We have even failed to treat the fruit and vegetable waste that gets generated in tons in Srinagar’s Parimpora fruit mandi. Under smart city a Compressed Biogas (GBG) plant should have been set up inside the mandi itself?
In addition to giving a facelift to the city roads, footpaths and heritage sites, the Srinagar Smart City Ltd (SSCL) must also focus on managing municipal solid waste scientifically along with construction and demolition waste. The Achan landfill site in Srinagar is completely choked and Govt is unable to identify a new site. The reason is obvious, Kashmir valley has less landmass and there is not even 100 acres of land available in Srinagar city where a new landfill site can be set up. In such a scenario , what future do we see for Srinagar in the next 20 years ? It will be a disaster, let us wake up now. Srinagar will never be a Smart City , unless we don’t have a smart waste management system in place. Let the Govt focus on it now without any delay.
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow. He is Anant Fellow for Climate Action , Anant National University Ahmedabad
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.