Recently SMC engaged NGOs for its IEC programme on solid waste. The scheme was rolled out on 26 March, 2018 at a daylong function. It is expected these NGOs along with municipal staff at ward levels shall engage citizens through information regarding solid waste, its impact on health & hygiene, education with respect to segregation of solid waste and its usefulness for saving time, energy & cost and most importantly how these NGOs or municipal staff should communicate with their citizens who are important stakeholders of civic activities. It now depends- whether it becomes one way or two way learning. Even the NGOs and the concerned municipal staff could learn from the citizen's knowledge. The best part would be the outcome in the shape of a clean Srinagar.
May be not all NGOs are experienced and may be some of them are not properly skilled or fully knowledgeable. May be some of them are having least manpower and some do not have adequate infrastructure. However, it seemed all are localised, were enthusiastic and ambitious in their zeal and mission towards cleaning the city from dirt and filth not only physically but also to create an atmosphere of civic sense in the minds of careless and carefree citizens of the city. They are ready to engage all stakeholders- be it children, youth or women. They would love to visit each household at street/mohalla level, meet various mohalla or ward committees, engage religious leaders like Imams, Molvis and others, members of civil society and as such, would engage school children, college youth in the area etc. The volunteers associated with these NGOs shall not only distribute leaflets, use drummers, ladishah/Baand but would get practically engaged to teach how to segregate the waste at home and how to make use of different waste products, which ones to re-use or recycle, which ones to send for compost and which items to burn or bury, which items could be sent to landfill and which items could be used for generation of energy. These NGOs need to chalk out a working plan, a data plan, a daily schedule, an evaluation and monitoring plan for carrying IEC programme effectively.
It is really important to note that the citizens need to develop civic sense on their own and be conscious of the importance of cleanliness for their own overall well being and unless and until citizens do not exhibit belongingness to the city and its concerns, the city by itself does not have any cure for its cryptic ills. Despite the fact that all citizens of the city believe that cleanliness is half-faith and full health but that is not supported by ground situation as dirt is being littered everywhere, therefore practical measures need to be taken for solid waste mechanism and management in the city which generates approx. 500 metric tons per day. I will not go into discussions about demand and supply of products and by-products in the form of waste. We must understand that man is the main problem and actually a solution too. The ever growing population of Srinagar whether aboriginal or migrated is the root cause of originating the quantum of solid waste. The companies make the products for their own economic growth based on the demand of consumption. The idea of designer packaging for attraction and marketing strategies may have added to the quantum of solid waste but the main remedy lies in how it is tackled for disposal. Two important issues in simple manner are to be discussed here:
a) Generation and segregation
b) Transportation and disposal
Generation and Segregation:
Waste is generated from individuals, households, commercial establishments, institutions and offices, hospitals & hotels, eating establishments like restaurants, manufacturing factories and allied industrial units, construction industry etc. The waste may be in the form of a small chips packet or huge debris from a construction site. The issue is that one has to understand the nature/characteristic, quality, quantity and impact of these different varieties of the waste materials. The life cycle of a banana peel, a paper and a plastic bag vary and therefore, people particularly women at the household level are to be educated about the harmful effects of different types of waste. Forget about the first source of generation like factories, manufacturers or companies who sell it or market it for consumers. The simple management of segregation at the source is very essential to make things easier in further course of action. In our homes, waste is dealt by almost 99% of women folk because of the family/social setup we live in. Therefore, women are to be the target the IEC programme at individual household level. Proper steps for motivational strategies and inspirational stories need to be shared to get women on board. Once women are across board to give us freedom from the garbage, they can do it perfectly. They may not be the ones to generate but they are the ones to liberate us from the filth within homes and outside homes in the neighbourhoods. Therefore their collective consciousness can trigger a revolution in the society.
The issue with waste disposal at source is that each room in the house should have one small bin and two common big bins for the house- one for biodegradable and another for non-biodegradable. We have seen women do collect waste products like plastic items, iron, newspapers etc and sell these to squatters who usually visit individual home/streets. Sometimes they would exchange waste products for new fresh items needed for the home. SMC cannot provide bins at home and it should be the responsibility of each citizen/household to purchase bins for their domestic purposes and even commercial establishments so that they take care of these bins. The job of SMC is to lift solid waste from the households or from the streets. It is very strange when one hears that people have used SMC bins for their grain storage or totally not put to use. In order to facilitate lifting of segregated waste, the SMC vehicles these days have two partitions for the purpose.
Segregation has failed at the grassroots level because of the citizen's carelessness. If a family headman/woman spends so much on other household items, why does s/he not bother about buying two big bins for his/her own convenience.
In schools/hospitals and other office/commercial, public buildings, the dust bin of feasible size should be placed at various hotspots of the premises both- internally and externally. One cannot get the desired result unless adequate number of dustbins are not placed at key spots. This part is lacking in all our buildings/institutions/ govt. agencies or private offices. If the facility of dustbins is provided adequately, the chances and the choice of keeping places clean increases proportionately.
Transportation and disposal:
Once dustbins are available adequately for solid waste/garbage, then its disposal is the issue of municipal services or those agencies which are assigned the job. Do these agencies/organization have full manpower and transportation facilities to lift solid waste from homes/buildings to the dumping site. How many homes/households have access to the public sanitation by SMC and disposal of garbage/solid waste? Is transport facility adequate? Is there any time specific waste lifting mechanism in place and is it followed on scheduled basis? How many wards have complete sanitation facilities including safai walas and transport facilities? Is there any leakage or pilferage from these load carriers? What is the time taken from the household to the dumping site? How many times in a week, the garbage is lifted? What about internal colony roads?
How many dumping sites are available in the city? How many years, the Achan landfill site will carry on? Is landfill the only way out? How many households use compost at individual plot level? Is it feasible and how many people are ready to do composting at home? Is there any data available for such activities? Is there any plan to open up new landfill sites? Presently, SMC lifts garbage from homes/commercial establishments through their trucks/hoopers and dumps it at Achan Landfill site.
What is the provision in the master Plan (2000-21) and what guideline has been provided in the new draft Master Plan (2015-35). Will citizens of Srinagar prefer composting at homes and what will be their challenges? Can incineration be totally ruled out? How many industries have been set up for recycling the solid waste products in Kashmir region? What are the incentives offered by government in terms of subsidies and tax relief for such kind of industries which reuse, recycle the waste products and offer alternatives for the plastic bags?
These questions are basic and the solutions too are simple but who will take the call.
Let's move forward:
– Each household should buy on their own two big bins- one for biodegradable and other for non-biodegradable waste products. Those having land around the house unlike some households in downtown should try to workout on the issues of composting. It should be compulsory for all house-owners/home-makers to keep their houses clean not only from inside but it would be mandatory to keep their lawns/compound walls and exterior of their houses neat & clean. In case of shabby outlook of the house/wall or lawn, the owner shall be fined and even complaints shall be registered against the house owners.
– Each institution be it a cretch/KG/Nursery school or higher educational establishment shall see to it that they have dustbins in the lawns/classrooms to facilitate the users. Similarly medical and health care institutions shall have specifically separate dustbins and disposal systems for medical waste which needs special care to deal with in terms of handling & management of disposals.
– Other Office buildings/commercial complexes and public institutions have to manage generation and segregation at their own level before a municipal system takes care of it by transporting and disposing it off.
– Srinagar Municipal Corporation needs to divide the city into six zones and lift the garbage once in a week in each zone. Then only, SMC can reach out to all residents/households in the city. People also need to understand that they should withhold the garbage for a week and then put it into a big polythene bag, tie it up and then place it on the road side curb at a specific time before the municipal vehicle picks it up. However, certain areas like business centres including CBD, main roads and bulk generators of waste could be designated for daily pick up. By this, we may be able to manage it properly. All agencies/institutions must pay to SMC for picking up the garbage. There have to be two different days for pick up of bio-degradable and non-biodegradable waste from localities/resident so that confusion and mismanagement is reduced considerably.
– Government needs to promote and regulate growth of new industrial units to be established for re-fabrication, recycling of waste products, use scientific methods for organic waste to convert it into fertilizers, promote organic food/agriculture, initiate schemes for urban agriculture to manage food security, help in establishing kitchen gardens etc.
– Board of School Education must introduce subject on solid waste handling and management in curriculum of schools and colleges/universities must start a vocational course on solid waste management in their three year bachelors program of B.A/ B. Sc./ B.Com/B.Home Science.
The writer is a city based architect/town planner with background education in architecture, and city planning.