You don’t need satellite imagery to see garbage piles dotting the lanes, bylanes, squares, parks, schools and hospitals, politically titled ‘smart city’. Nothing is smart in Amritsar. One doesn’t remember the days when the city was free of the urbanisation menace. In fact such garbage is not alien now even in suburban and exurban areas. It would not be any overstatement to say the city, nay the country doesn’t have a garbage policy. There must be a significant co-relation between our gross domestic product and gross domestic garbage. The unnecessary use of paper, cardboard, plastic foam, flex, packaging and kitchen waste has increased hundreds of times. The question is what can be a sustainable solution to this perennial problem? There is nothing wrong with the principle of re-use, reduce and recycle, because industry also needs raw material to remain running. Unfortunately, our citizens have not grasped the importance of their own role in separating the trash at the home level. In Germany they have five bins, all colour coded, and every citizen, every child knows which bin their trash, their packaging, plastic, egg trays, cardboards, etc. must go in and the municipal corporation picks up those bins every week. The house holders place their bins in front of the house the evening before. Garbage calendar is known to all. There are penalties for infringements. Ours is comparatively a small city of say 17 lakh. Once the policy is clear and final, it should fetch results. Now, where to heap 700 tons or so of trash daily? Perhaps land for this purpose can be bought near our international border, walled adequately and the enclosures filled up to form kind of hillocks. These mountains of trash when of sufficient height, can be covered with a layer of soil and grazed to make spots for visitors. There are ideas galore and they should be tested. But as Mahatir Mohammad, the then Malaysian President, seeing for himself the state of affairs, once remarked, “India seems to be suffering from an excess of democracy.”
Prof Mohan Singh
Appoint sanitation workers in cities
Some cities are very beautiful but garbage tarnishes their beauty. The government should take some steps to beautify the city, like now the Punjab government is working for unemployed people. Similarly, workers should be appointed to clean the garbage. The authorities concerned must maintain cleanliness at public places in the city. The main problem is the uncollected plastic waste dumped in streets. The state government should ban factories producing plastic waste and dumping it in rivers. The violators of law on cleanliness should be penalised heavily. The civic body should send a truck in every city for picking up the garbage lying in front of the house for final disposal.
Subhkarman Kaur Sarchur
Take action against habitual offenders
Certainly, the governments need to seek smart and sustainable solution for perennial garbage disposal challenge. I wonder how the government’s claim to call cities as smart cities when the reality is that piles of garbage are lying in various areas of it. The definition of smart cities necessitates cleanliness otherwise the cities can’t be called as smart cities. In Amritsar, interior city, inside walled gates, faces huge problem of piles lying in various parts for several days. But no one among the civic body officials take action to lift it and remove it. Even the most popular destination of Punjab i.e. Golden Temple area is also engulfed with this problem as the bylanes leading to it are having piles of garbage lying in it. The MC needs to first analyse the root problem, then consult and take help of experts how to solve this perennial problem. Take stringent action against the habitual offenders.
Convert waste into fertiliser
The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, a few years back on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi enlightened the country to cleanliness drive by inaugurating Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was quite successful socially among the children and youths towards cleanliness drive. Modi also had a dream plan of converting number of cities to the category of smart city. The Union Government released ample funds to the smart cities for carrying out planned development projects and schemes. In Jalandhar, surface water project was launched by bringing river water to the city, big water pipes were laid in the city and rest is known better to the residents. Similarly, the piles of garbage in smart cities are a usual issue, even in Delhi while entering from the North Delhi GT Road, piles of garbage are now converted to hills. Similarly, in Jalandhar the garbage dumps are converting to mini hills, especially on the Kapurthla Road dump. It is pertinent to note that the quantity of waste garbage has significantly increased manifold in the smart cities due to the rise in the population and increasing municipal corporation limits. The state government has made a project of converting garbage to fertiliser but this project seems to be hanging in balance. Life of residents residing near the garbage dumps has become really miserable due to foul smell and polluting the environment also. Until and unless the garbage is not converted to fertiliser there seems to be not relief for the residents.
Rajat Kumar Mohindru
Awareness campaign on waste management
Many cities in India are getting smarter but the smartness is veiled by the heaps of garbage present here and there. These heaps not only give an ugly look but also become a breeding ground for diseases and pollution as well. With proper planning and execution this problem can be eradicated. First of all waste segregation should be strictly implemented. As commonly known that wet waste can be turned in to compost. So the segregated wet waste should be used to produce compost by installing plants in every city. Apart from this, the domestic procedure of turning wet waste into compost should be widely advertised so that every domestic garden gets the home made compost and the wet waste is consumed. Waste segregation alone can bring wonderful results. Secondly, there should be recycling units for dry waste in every city or district and collected dry waste can be recycled. Thirdly, dumping sites should be marked exactly so that the collected garbage is not thrown here and there. Fourthly, awareness talks and seminars can be organised in educational institutions to make the masses aware. Competitions like ‘best out of waste’ can be organised. Debates and talks on the related topics may stir a few souls. So, segregating, compositing, recycling and awareness campaigns can stop turning these garbage heaps into garbage hills.
Adopt waste mgmt technology
Waste management is one of the major challenge in all cities. The concept of smart cities was envisaged to beautify our towns, fully equipped with all civic facilities and ensuring neat and clean environment. Although noticeable change is visible among various applications in a smart city project, yet the garbage disposal is one such issue that warrants permanent solution. The heaps of solid waste are found piled up at many places due to lose control and carelessness. Near the dumping sites, the conditions are too precarious that stray animals and rag pickers scatter the garbage further, which severely impacts health and environment. Obviously, appropriate mechanism for disposal of dust and bio-waste is the foremost concern in localities and towns. In all smart city ventures, the perennial problem calls for a real bust and sustainable solution if they are really to claim smart city status. No doubt work under the parameters of smart city is undergoing in a phased manner but sites along the rail tracks, secluded areas and slums lack definite action plan. At some places, the problem has so much aggravated that it is impossible to overcome alone by the labour using traditional ways. The administration has to adopt technological and scientific means for disposal of different kinds of waste for productive and lasting solution. Like the curbs on manual scavenging by investing heavily on laying sewerage system, the government has not only to enforce regulatory discipline at households’ level but concurrently launch a vigorous campaign on regular basis for decomposition of the domestic waste for useful purposes. The smart city proposals to be indeed purposeful, various public amenities be upgraded and efficiently maintained for better living of the citizens, where environment protection has to be the topmost priority. Lest the euphoria of smart city will merely be elusive, till our surroundings are clean and green.
Nirmaljit Singh Chatrath
Set up solid waste management plants
The Union Government had selected Ludhiana, Amritsar and Jalandhar under the SCM for developing them as smart cities in the state. This looks quite paradoxical considering the conditions of cleanliness and piles of garbage becoming permanent fixtures. It is concerning to note that the Wariana dump has accumulated almost seven lakh tonnes of garbage due to the lack of a proper waste management plant. The fact that it receives 500 tonnes of waste every day only adds to the worry. City authorities have failed to act quickly to sort out the problem and nothing has been done to segregate garbage in the city. The importance of community participation in properly sorting waste is crucial considering the worsening state of our biological system. It is said that if the people come together change can be brought. The government should organise events and camps to give a descriptive note on the adverse effects of waste settlement on the city and the habitat we live in. The current methods of collecting, transporting, and disposing of solid waste are disorganised and could be detrimental to the environment and public health. The government need to devise a foolproof plan to permanently eradicate this problem. The three dustbin concept can come in handy as this method is tried and tested by foreign countries and the difference is quite noticeable. Blue dustbin for recyclable material, black for disposable waste and green for organic waste. The most common mistake of the common man of India is mixing organic waste and recycling waste which is highly perilous. We need to figure out what can be the possible way to reduce the amount of waste piling up and save our Punjab. The government should set up waste management plants to convert solid waste into energy and electricity which can be further used to provide voltage to villages and backward areas and also power up the city. Organic waste can be restored in the form of biogases and natural fertilisers and help in the well-being of the crops of farmers. Recyclable waste is full of surprises and can be used in various hacks and DIYs to decorate and even reuse plastic. Eight plastic bottles are capable of creating 1 T-shirt. This will prove to be a boon to drastically reduce waste disposal, hence, cleaning up the environment. Waste collection system makes any urban environment cleaner, healthier and more sustainable. This smart system reduces air pollution and carbon emissions caused by waste collection traffic, eliminates the odours and mess associated with traditional waste collection and makes unsafe and unsanitary waste collection a thing of the past.
Involve stakeholders in decision-making
Managing the piles of garbage in Punjab’s cities is a daunting task that necessitates careful planning, adequate resources, and cooperation among different stakeholders. Every day, the state generates around 4,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste, of which only 68 per cent gets collected, and 28 per cent undergoes treatment. The remaining is either dumped in open or unscientific landfills, which causes environmental and health hazards. The urban local bodies (ULBs) must ensure regular and efficient collection of waste from all households and establishments, after sorting it at the source, and thereafter adopt appropriate technologies to process the same. They should involve local residents in the waste management process, educate them about the benefits of the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), encourage resident welfare associations, self-help groups, or NGOs to assist in waste collection and segregation activities. They should provide incentives or rewards to the individuals or groups who perform well in waste management. These ULBs also follow the various guidelines and regulations issued by the state and Central government regarding waste management. These ULBs should keep an eye on their waste management performance, monitor and assess it, and report it to the appropriate authorities. However, all this necessitates coordination, commitment, and collaboration among all stakeholders including ULBs, state government, private sector, civil society, and most importantly, the public. Only then can we ensure smart and sustainable ‘garbage-free’ cities in Punjab.
Dr Kulwant Singh Phull
Take help of NGOs, research institutes
Sprawling garbage dumps and their malodour is unsavoury for the passersby. Implementing smart and sustainable solutions is the sine qua non. Years roll by, with no consensus attained on specific dumping site(s), location for establishment of waste management system, salaries and status of safai karamcharis, who are compelled to follow the route of ‘strikes’, ‘demonstrations.’ The government needs to redress the issue sensibly, responsibly, and act timely, with the projects completed diligently, within the stipulated time period. Waste segregation or the distribution and installation of green, blue, black dustbins, plastic ban, penalisation of defaulters, are all yet to see the light of the day. The ideas, resources, material and human, are for the asking, but perhaps, the officials concerned are disinterested or evasive, and therefore, the government needs to be whip-cracking. Collaborations with environmental champions, be it NGOs, or research institutes, can even be considered, and we have one from our own city—Meenal Verma, the spearheader of ‘Zero Waste.’ Rest, let’s hope that the government shows the kindred alacrity in doing this job as well, as it has shown, while announcing and providing freebies.
Give Incentives for garbage disposal
There are heaps of garbage lying on the streets of the city. No doubt it is the failure of our municipal corporations and our political leaders who have not made any policy on solid waste management for the city. But barely blaming the government cannot help. For this, people are equally responsible for it. It is the civil society that should come forward and make people aware of the health hazards and consequences of bad odour surrounding the piles of garbage. Residents need to make a uniform consensus among themselves for making garbage dumps at proper sites that should be away from residential areas. There should be a proper policy for the social security needs of the ragpickers. There are people who simply collect garbage from home, pack it in plastic bags, and simply throw it on the city roads. Such kind of people should be sensitised by members of the civil society and even penalised by the municipal corporation. The safai karamchari unions have genuine problems regarding their pay scales and employment. Those demands should be immediately met by the government. Also, while collecting garbage from houses, it should be segregated into dry and wet segments by house owners only. Last but not least, once garbage is collected at the proper dump site, the government should come forward and set up garbage processing and solid waste management plants there. Even private entrepreneurship should be encouraged and the garbage processing industry should be incentivised. Henceforth, people and the government should come together if they really want to make their cities cleaner and smarter.
Harvinder Singh Chugh
It has been months since floods hit the region, several people are still bearing the brunt in villages. Is it time an environmental committee should be set up by the government specifically to tackle climate-related problems?
Suggestions in not more than 200 words can be sent to [email protected] by Thursday (Sept 21).
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