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Bengaluru's burning problem: Its garbage

Last updated on: August 29, 2012 13:00 IST

Bengaluru's burning problem: Its garbage

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Subir Roy

The city's experience offers a lesson to all major urban centres in the country, which will come to grief if they do not follow the right policies, writes Subir Roy

Bengaluru, nation's information technology capital, has entered the second harrowing week of being in threat of drowning in its own garbage because the landfills serving it cannot be used.

In the process, the city's municipal commissioner is being transferred.

The city's experience offers a lesson to all major urban centres in the country, which will come to grief if they do not follow the right policies.

On the other hand, those that have done so like Kanpur and Pune have become role models. 

Early last week, the Garbage Contractors' Association in Bengaluru said they were not picking up any garbage, as there was no place to dump it.

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Image: Commuters ride inside a carriage of a Namma Metro train as it travels along an elevated track in the Indira Nagar area of Bengaluru.
Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters

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As the situation created by garbage on the streets was made worse by heavy rain, it turned into a political crisis.

The Congress demanded that the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) be superseded. Congress MLA Dinesh Gowda said why the city needed a BBMP, when it was non-functional.

Last Saturday, the BBMP got down to trying to rapidly clear the garbage with the then municipal commissioner Shankarlinge Gowda, now transferred, outlining plans for the future.

Significantly, his solutions were a mix of sensible measures which can make a permanent dent on the problem and more of past policies which have brought things to the present state.

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Image: Shobha Forest View.
Photographs: Kind courtesy, Shobha Developers Bengaluru

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BBMP will install 16 organic converters in the city to turn wet waste into biogas and a new solid waste management unit will be set up in adjoining Chickballapur district.

This is in response to unanimous expert opinion that only decentralised local sorting and composting of garbage offers a long-term solution.

But it also announced that a 20 acre dumping ground had been identified and 12-wheeler trucks will be bought to carry garbage to the landfills.

Roads to landfills will be widened.

This seeks to perpetuate the present system that has become so crisis prone.

Citizens' organisations have said landfills were not a solution.

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Image: Bengaluru International Airport.
Photographs: Rediff Archives

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There should be segregation at source, says an expert, so that the garbage can be handled at the ward itself and does not need to be carried long distances.

Much of the solid waste from the city is rich in organic matter and can easily be converted into compost at source and used as manure.

Citizens' groups allege that the garbage problem does not get resolved because solid waste disposal is a big source of corruption, the number of trucks on the ground removing garbage being less than the sanctioned.

Mayor D Venkatesh Murthy has not helped the civic administration by himself coming under a cloud.

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He has been charged with land grabbing by furnishing false details.

On the other hand, Kanpur, a major city in Uttar Pradesh, launched a public-private partnership in 2008 under which a private entity was given a contract to collect and transport waste and land to set up a tipping platform; several units to take care of pre-segregation, composting, plastic segregation and manufacture of refuse derived fuel and briquettes; and a secured landfill.

Only two per cent of the garbage collected is now finally deposited in the landfill.  

Pune has gone through the familiar sequence of landfills not operating due to local protest and threatening to plunge the city in garbage.

The image is for representation purpose only

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Photographs: Arko Datta/Reuters

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But a solution has been offered in the form of a pilot project.

The municipal corporation, the social swing of the local chamber of commerce and a cooperative of garbage collectors have joined to make the largest ward zero garbage exporting area and then take the solution to the rest of the city.

The aim is to ensure that all garbage is segregated by households, so that there are no public garbage bins.

The recyclable part of the garbage is then sold off by the collectors and the wet part is converted into energy at a local treatment plant and its output used to power streetlighting.

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Image: A garbage dump.

Tags: , Bengaluru

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The garbage is collected by workers, compacted, transported to the central facility and converted into items of value like compost, fuel and tiles for pavements made from construction debris.

A waste to energy power plant is now running at 15 Mw capacity.

The genesis of the present problem in Bengaluru goes back a few months with the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board closing the solid waste treatment plant and landfill at Mavallipura after villagers in the area alleged that unscientific methods were being used at the landfill, posing a serious health hazard.

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Image: A child sweeps the floor at a rescue home.
Photographs: Parth Sanyal/Reuters

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The board said it would not lift the ban unless BBMP filed a compliance report whose veracity would be examined first. 

A caste angle emerged when B Srinivas, a local panchayat member, pointed to the fact that about 45 per cent of the local population comprises Dalits.

This could be a reason why the city and the state administration continued to dump garbage there till the board's order. 

The situation became tense when an anti-dumping activist died on Thursday in the middle of a protest.

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Image: The International Technology Park Ltd building which houses nearly 50 technology firms in Bengaluru.
Photographs: Savita Kirloskar/Reuters
Tags: BBMP , Bengaluru

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Things escalated when in the previous week there was a strike by BBMP staff.

Then last Monday the landfill in Doddaballapur, run by Terra Firma, was closed down when villagers protested.

The problem began when BBMP diverted fresh waste to it so it received a quantity more than twice its processing capacity.

The landfill is designed to take fermented garbage and process it further to produce packaged fertiliser for sale. 

The third landfill at Mandur near Yalahanka was working only partially last week, as waste was being dumped there and not processed.

The KSPCB has ordered processing of garbage stopped, while allowing dumping. But over the weekend this landfill also turned non-functional, as villagers refused to let garbage-filled trucks in.


Image: MG Road, Bengaluru.
Photographs: Rediff Archives

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