Ad hoc contracts cost 600 Crores to dump garbage in quarries

Money for waste management in BBMP is literally going down the quarries. Yet BBMP Council is preventing the move towards a direct payment and a performance-based system. Waste management in city is paralysed!

For three years, every attempt to bring in performance-based garbage contracts in Bengaluru have been stymied and the inefficient and corrupt outsourcing work order based contract system continues.

Several attempts were made since 2014 to issue performance contracts. But the contractors abstained from bidding, and brought in stays from the court. The Council chose to go with an ad-hoc solution, through the informal arrangements with contractors, called ‘Departmental work order’.

Bellahalli/Mittgenahall quarry, November 2016: mixed garbage dumped over a shabby liner and capped with mud. Pic courtesy: SWMRT

The outsourced contract system has failed continuously to deliver the required level of waste management services, while rampant corruption and malpractices galore in managing Pourakarmikas. Finally, the Cabinet took a decision in July 2017, to go for a direct pay system and do away with intermediaries and contractors, to rid the system of the rampant corruption. The BBMP also has explored alternative strategies using the Swachh Bharath Abhiyaan-empanelled organisations and resources.

However, there is one roadblock: The Council is now proposing that the tenders be called for again, supporting the comeback of contractors.

The stranglehold of the BBMP Council on the implementation of effective waste management, therefore, still continues, leading to a virtual paralysis in the SWM delivery and implementation. No new SWM proposals have been passed by the Council in the last five months and status quo is being maintained. This is a testimony to the lack of willpower to do the right thing.

The BBMP Council’s attitude implies very expensive old mechanical sweepers of the contractor mafia are fine, unsafe manual sweeping by Pourakarmikas is fine, falsifying bills by showing large numbers of gang work labour on the rolls is fine. Branded, state-of-the-art multi-functional sweeping, water jetting, silt removal mechanical sweepers are not fine!

Mixed waste collection and dumping is only increasing, leaving processing capacity idle

In 2012, Bengaluru City generated solid waste measuring up to approximately 3,500 tonnes per day, which was then being dumped at two main sites, Mandur and Mavallipura, causing terrible pollution affecting the surrounding habitation.

September 2012 onwards, Karnataka High Court gave directions and monitored steps by the State government and BBMP till date. The court intervened when required, by passing certain directions from time to time, to monitor the BBMP’s compliance with the Municipal Solid Waste Management (MSWM) Rules 2000 and later MSWM rules-2016.

Pursuant to this in 2015, state-of-the-art wet waste processing plants were set up in six zones and existing plants were upgraded, creating an installed capacity for processing 2,700 tonnes of wet waste. Taking into account all the remaining facilities the processing capacity available is 3750 tonnes per day. The City is now generating a total of 4,200 tonnes per day .

While BBMP in theory has the capacity to process  2,700 Tonnes Per Day, ONLY 316 Tonnes is actually being processed. Why?

And yet, because of ‘indiscipline’ of the Collection and Transportation system, ONLY 316 Tonnes Per Day (TPD) is actually being sent to the  Processing facilities.

Total waste generated 4,200 TPD 100%
Total installed capacity 4,515 TPD 108%
Total waste processed (as per law) 1,131 TPD 27%
The remaining waste which is dumped 3,069 TPD 73%

Flashpoints that really weren’t

There have been many efforts to set the system right. But all of them have hit roadblocks, because of lack of willpower from people’s representatives.

    1. Pourakarmika (PK) verification: The BBMP, for the first time in its history, uploaded the details of 18,000 Pourakarmikas with photos, on their web site in April 2017, as a first step towards transparency. The logical next step of screening and ratifying this database through physical verification, supported by citizen solid waste management co-ordinators as third party, went into high drama.
      The Commissioner’s order issued in July 2017 was withdrawn under duress and pressure from the Council within two days. When the matter was presented in court , the High Court of Karnataka directed that the BBMP as principal employer had every right to carry out a verification of its employees.
    2. Deployment of vehicles as per microplan: In a thrust to achieve a high level of segregation and doing away with black spots, the micro plan strategy launched on February 1, 2017 plans for separate auto tippers for wet waste and box autos for dry waste in every block. All vehicle numbers are to be published in the interest of transparency. Wet waste vehicles are deployed by contractors and the dry waste vehicles are deployed by the waste pickers assisted by NGOs/Companies /social enterprises.
      As on date, six months later, the wet waste vehicles deployed on the ground do not match the ward requirement or the payment made to contractors. Contractors are allowed to deploy broken or smaller vehicles, but there is no deduction of any bills by the BBMP. Undue pressures and influences are brought in to make sure there is no action against the contractor. At the same time, the deployment of dry collection vehicles is being opposed. The Council is also withholding its approval.
    3. Mechanised sweeping: There has been opposition to the introduction of a pilot on mechanised sweeping. This pilot is aimed to introduce mechanical equipment like weed cutters, and proposed to increase the number of multi-function mechanical sweepers. One mechanical sweeper can sweep 20 kms every day.  It needs 40 pourakarmikas to do the same stretch every day. But proposals placed in the Council regarding this have been continuously deferred. Undue pressure and influences have been brought in to continue to retain the existing old-style mechanical sweepers operated by a couple of Contractors, and leave the routes they operate on untouched.
      What this goes to show is, the very expensive old mechanical sweepers of the Contractor mafia are fine, unsafe manual sweeping by Pourakarmikas is fine, falsifying bills by showing large numbers of gang work labour on the rolls is fine. Branded, state-of-the-art multi-functional sweeping, water jetting, silt removal mechanical sweepers are not fine! Mechanical sweepers will actually provide safety and health protection for Pourakarmikas, air pollution will be instantly reduced through dust reduction on the streets, and the cost (75% operational cost reduction) and operational efficiency will increase.

4. Tracing with GPS and biometrics: There is no organisation in the world, working in the scale of the Bengaluru City Municipality, which works without smart technologies like GPS or biometric devices. The door-to-door collection and street sweeping systems have to log the attendance and monitor the movements of 18,000 pourakarmikas, 7,500 primary collection vehicles, 500 compactors on a daily basis. The introduction of GPS and biometric devices has been opposed historically by the contractor mafia. The existing proposal in the Council has been awaiting their approval for the last three months.

5. Ward processing and collection centres: When a ward develops processing capabilities and sets up collection centres it helps in a significant reduction of the long distance collection and transportation cost. It also puts pressure on improving segregation. However the BBMP Council has shown no interest in developing the ward waste management infrastructure. In many cases, corporators are actively opposed to the setting up of dry waste collection centres, composting facilities and leaf shredder cutter facilities.

Even the existing ward-level processing capacities have been left underutilised, with all focus only on transportation out of the ward. There has been an ever-increasing demand from the Council for deploying more compactors.

Blatantly disregarding the policy that requires the dry waste collection centres to be allotted to NGO-supported waste pickers, all kinds of confrontations, threats and pressures are brought in to have the dry waste collection operations and the processing facility operations allotted to the Contractor mafia.

Part 2 of this series will explore how the problems can be resolved with a dedicated Solid Waste Management Board.

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