Waste Management Demands Public Participation

DC Budgam’s passion needs to be converted into sustainable action
Waste Management Demands Public Participation
File Pic: Aman Farooq for Greater Kashmir

Solid & liquid waste management is a new assignment for the officials of Rural Development Department in  Jammu & Kashmir. This main focus of the department was implementation of national flagship schemes like MG-NGREGA, PM Awas Yojna (PMAY) and other schemes, but after the launch of Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin in 2014, there was a paradigm shift in working of Rural Development Department and Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) across country including J&K.

Scientific and sustainable waste management programmes are no more a prerogative of people living in cities and towns. Like municipal institutions providing sanitation service to people in urban areas, the gram panchayats in association with NGOs, Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and Self Help Groups (SHG) will now be working at the grassroot level to ensure solid and liquid resource (SLRM) management. The national flagship programme, Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) has already launched a solid liquid waste management programme in several states of India. In Jammu & Kashmir this programme was launched last year but Govt officials and PRI members are facing lots of challenges to make the programme operational on ground.

The SBM Gramin  was started to accelerate the efforts to achieve universal sanitation coverage. Under this mission launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 2nd October 2014, all villages, Gram Panchayats, Districts, States and Union Territories in India declared themselves “open-defecation free” (ODF) by 2 October 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, by constructing over 100 million toilets in rural India.

Important guidelines

The guideline number 6.10.7 of SBM Gramin says that every state or UT should have at least one Solid Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) Consultant at the State level and one SLWM Consultant in each district to guide the preparations of the SLWM projects for each Gram Panchayat (GP).

Assistance of professional agencies/NGOs may be sought to prepare/develop/test/implement such projects. The project preparation, supervision and monitoring costs of SLWM projects payable to such agencies may be made a part of the project cost itself. Maintenance costs for the first five years of operation may be made a part of the project cost. These projects can be made financially viable by dovetailing funds from other programmes and sources of funding like MG-NREGS, MPLAD, MLA-LAD funds, Finance Commission, CSR contribution, Swachh Bharat Kosh, donor funding, etc. Funding from programmes of other Ministries and departments may also be converged.

The guideline number  6.11.3 says that State / UT  Governments are advised to post a government officer as a full-time Block Sanitation Officer (BSO). Until that is made operational, the State governments may officially assign SBM(G) activities to a senior official posted at the Block level. He/She may be assisted by a Block Coordinator and a Data Entry Operator engaged on contract who shall be provided emoluments to be decided by State. This Block level arrangement shall be tasked with handholding, supervising and  monitoring every Gram Panchayat (GP)  in the implementation of SBM-Gramin scheme. SBM G guidelines has made it mandatory for every Gram Panchayat (GP) to have one Support Organization (SO) like an NGO member etc associated with it for assisting in furthering the sanitation programme. The State and District Missions are supposed to take necessary steps for providing supporting organisation to each panchayat.

Stakeholders Conference

Only a few days back the Deputy Commissioner Budgam Dr Syeed Fakhrudin Hamid organized a stakeholders’ conference on waste management in rural areas. During the conference Deputy Commissioner sought public feedback to make the programme successful.  He passionately spoke about waste management and sanitation and his dream to work on managing the waste in rural areas of Budgam especially. He narrated a story of his college days  when he would travel through villages of Budgam that were filled with trash.

“ I would think within myself that had I the power I would clean up this waste. Now I am in power, but I know how challenging the task is. We need public support to make this happen” he said

During his speech DC Budgam said that waste in all the villages across the district has to be cleared by January 15th 2023 at any cost. The conference was attended by Govt officers, PRI members, activists, NGO members and several public spirited citizens.

DC Budgam said that by January 15th 2023 all the waste dumped on road sides , open plots , agriculture fields , streams and forests would be cleared by officials of RDD in collaboration with local panchayat members. He emphasized the role of awami shirkat, public participation (Jan Bhagidari) in ensuring scientific waste management. Director RDD Kashmir Mr Khalid Majeed was also present during the function sought support of religious leaders in making waste management in rural areas operational and sustainable activity.  

In-house composting

During the conference this author urged the Deputy Commissioner Budgam to make in-house composting of kitchen and other organic waste compulsory by way of a circular. This is the need of the hour as composting and processing the biodegradable waste reduces 85 % of the total waste generated from every household.  The sincerity shown by DC Budgam vis a vis rural waste management is appreciable but this needs sustainable efforts for which DC has to hold constant review meetings after every week. In villages we have enough space around the residential houses and we can dig a pit to compost the kitchen waste. This will reduce pressure on segregation sheds set up in villages under SBM Gramin ODF plus programme. Once the food waste isn’t taken to segregation sheds / collection points / dump sites the dog menace will also be controlled. If in-house composting doesn’t happen the segregation sheds will invite all the street dogs to the site and this would be a serious challenge in every village.

Sensitize Imams & religious leaders

Religious leaders especially the preachers and imams have a great role in sensitizing people on waste management.  The Government must hold workshops for masjid Imams , temple & gurdwara priests so that they are made to understand the scientific waste management programme. Once they are trained during a series of workshops they should be asked to deliver speeches on sanitation and waste management in masjids and other community places. Imams and religious scholars can spread the message of cleanliness in a more dignified way as these people have social acceptability within their communities.

Conclusion

The Chief Secretary Dr A K Mehta is himself heading the Apex Committee on implementation of Rural Waste Management programme under SBM Gramin phase-II. If all the Deputy Commissioners, Chairpersons of DDCs also take up this work on mission mode I am sure our rural areas across J&K will be neat and clean in a few years. We all know that only 5 to 6 years back the majority of us could not even operate an android phone , but now even our senior citizens have become familiar these gadgets. Similarly waste management is also an art and we have to learn how to segregate the waste , how to process kitchen waste etc. I am sure once we learn it, we will be part of a big change. It is the duty of Govt , NGOs, activists,  social media influencers and journalists to create awareness about scientific waste management. DC Budgam has a passion for waste management which needs to be transformed into a sustainable action. The role of PRI members especially the Chairpersons of District Development Councils (DDCs) is also very immense as DDC Chairpersons are the heads of District SBM Gramin committees and they too need to be sensitized about their roles and responsibilities. If we all join the hands together I am sure we will definitely counter the menace of unscientific waste management.

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow. He is also the Anant Fellow for Climate Action

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