The Clean India Mission launched by the government is a laudable mission. Although begun with zest and passion with suitably amended systems of efficient garbage disposal, we still fail to keep our environs spick and span. For one, we have loads of natural debris free-flying all over and second, lack of civic sense makes matters worse. We Indians may be the cleanest of people within our homes but when it comes to keeping public spaces clean and spruced up we fail in every sense of the word. No brand ambassador can possibly get us to take up the cudgels unless we have been prepared for the task early-on.
Cleanliness and hands-on cleaning lessons should be made mandatory for children in school so that a whole new generation imbibes the importance of spotless surroundings. Both The USA and Japan teach young children in school to work at keeping sanitized bathrooms, ready for subsequent use by fellow classmates. Kids there feel no shame or repugnance in rolling up their sleeves, donning gloves and cleaning up toilets. It is our predispositions and learned susceptibilities that stop us from doing the same. Plus we have the luxury of cheap labour available to do these jobs.
Waste management of odds and ends in India has always run systemically through recycling, making it a sustainable business. We are again fortunate for having the ubiquitous ‘raddiwallahs’ doing the rounds and helping us get rid of clutter of all kind – old newspapers, old clothes, used bottles, tins and everything in between. Along with municipalities getting into the act for garbage disposal these ‘raddiwallahs’ too assist in restoring cleanliness in our homes. However present day over consumerist societies are losing the balance and disrupting these trends with the new culture of everything-throwaway. From plastic bags to online merchandise packing we are throwing paper, cardboard and plastics out the doors for someone else to collect.
The ever increasing waste materials have become a by-product of modern living. Despite norms and legislation for regulating disposal of waste, the unsightly heaps of overflowing rubbish mounds continue to abound. Even with licensed outsourcing of tasks and civic rules in place, compliance appears to be lax. This is especially dangerous during monsoons leading to clogged drains, gutters and nullahs, as well as posing serious threats for foraging animals and rag pickers alike. The recent shocking deaths of gutter-cleaners raised a big hue and cry on following days but ended a natural death. After all today’s newspapers are tomorrow’s rubbish!
As India celebrates 70 years of Independence, it is time to take stock of the rapid urbanization in our country that is making waste management to be such a big challenge. “Over 377 million urban people live in 7,935 towns and cities and generate 62 million tonnes of municipal solid waste per annum. Only 43 million tonnes (MT) of the waste is collected, 11.9 MT is treated and 31 MT is dumped in landfill sites”. These statistics are as per Down To earth environmental magazine. Solid Waste Management is still one of the most basic and essential services devised to keep our cities clean. Yet the truth is that municipalities simply dump garbage outside city limits. There are no checks and balances on proper disposal.
Of late some cursory measures that are still to be followed systematically have begun to ensure due segregation of waste at source. Again here the people have to make sure that they do this conscientiously. Since we already sell ‘raddi’ to the recycling industry it should not be an unusual task to segregate waste on a daily basis. This will ensure less waste reaching landfills. It should be the responsibility of the municipalities that just as they have set up a system for collection and transportation, like wise they should have good follow up mechanisms for processing and proper disposal.
With nearly 100 cities slated to be converted into smart cities, the first smart move should be implement effective waste management strategies and challenge people to adapt lifestyles accordingly. Aside from municipalities, schools, colleges, hospitals, corporate houses, government institutions should be made the first line of hand-holders. A good move planned is to do away with landfill sites and replace them with compost pits for organic waste. Community participation will be crucial and they will have to be made aware of other kinds of waste like e-waste, bio-medical waste and so on. The way forward would certainly be to go full scale with Clean India and Green India as we step into the 71st year of our Independence.