Here’s how we can make Swachh Bharat campaign work in every city

It’s too early to say that Swachh Bharat is failing. But it’s getting late to say what it will take to make it work, and so far there is no sign of those things.

1. Get rid of the broom, and replace it with a pair of buckets—one for wet waste and the other for dry waste. Segregation at source is key to any garbage management plan. The PM’s symbolic efforts with the broom did help signal an important focus that India needs, but getting the imagery right going forward will help even more.

2. Pass the Dumping Saaku law. This would make it impossible for city councils to take their trash out of their jurisdiction without the permission of the receiving one. Thanks to the troubles in Bengaluru, we have been pushing this law in Karnataka for some time, but to no avail so far. A national law would make this the norm in one stroke for the whole country.

3. Make citizen supervision of SWM the norm in all wards of cities. This is expressly stated in the Constitution, yet nearly all SWM contracts in the country leave out this piece, and stick to a business relationship between the municipality and the contractor. This is simply a fraud. Bring the people into the picture, and they will clean up not only the trash, but also some of the governance.

4. Pass national legislation for Extended Producer Responsibilities on those who manufacture non-recyclable products, especially those used in the packaging industry. This is done in most developed countries, and has great potential to create a ‘recovery and reuse’ loop for plastics and other items that last forever and do great ecological damage.

5. Fund innovation and learning in SWM technologies. The Department of Science and Technology should be given the express mandate of developing useful, applied science to solve public problems, starting with SWM. A large deficit in our knowledge of technologies for waste management is limiting the choices available to municipalities, and we must bridge this gap.

These things are vital to any effective Clean India program. The sooner we begin to go down this path, the sooner we can expect to see a Swachh Bharat. We really need this initiative to succeed.

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  1. Vasanthkumar Mysoremath says:

    Mr.Ashwin Mahesh has made valuable suggestions. In addition, as a Member of JnNURM Committee on Solid Waste Management – Vision Statement, I had presented a PPT containing the following visions for solid waste management in a sustainable, replicable and economical manner for our heritage city Mysuru. Incidentally, this Vision Statement had been forwarded to BBMP in response to notification calling for public suggestions. In Mysuru, these suggestions made therein were referred to a committee and some of them are under implementation. Just for info of Citizen Matters:

    Abridged version of VISION STATEMENT 2013 for collection, segregation,
    transportation and disposal of solid waste in Mysore presented at the Public Consultative Committee meeting of JnNURM/Mysore City Corporation on 27-7-2010 at Council Hall, MCC, Mysore
    Vasanthkumar Mysoremath, IAAD (R)
    World Bank Honored Innovator-IDM2007
    Member, JNNURM Public Consultative Committee, Member, Task Force, City Sanitation Plan, Advisor: Public Vigilance forum and
    Karnataka Grahaka Panchayat, Convenor: Anti-tobacco Forum/Vote U Must Campaign,,
    HRD Faculty for Skills Development, Life Member, YMCA,
    Former Member, Janaagraha/Lok Satta and Public Affairs Center/CMCA,


    • Govt.Order No.SO.783(E) dated 27-9-1999 regarding constitution of consultative committee for solid waste management and disposal – JNNURM project
    • Deputy Commissioner, Mysore Office Memorandum No.PD/PA/DUDC/ 55/2009-10 dated 15-7-2009 constituting a consultative committe for creating a ‘Vision Statement 2013’ for implementation of a viable proposition for proper collection, seggregation, transportation and disposal of solid waste of Mysore City by the year 2013
    • Minutes of the meeting held on 16-12-2009 nominating the undersigned for suggesting ways and means for primary collection and seggregation of solid waste in Narasimharaja Division
    • Notice of Meeting to be held on 29-1-2010 in DC’s office on SWM communication No.PD/PA/DUDC /55/ 2009-10 dated 21-1-2010
    • Letter No.MCC/SE/JnNURM/PIU/SWM/2010-11/573 dated 30-7-2010 addressed to Shri Vasanthkumar Mysoremath, Member, Mysore Grahakara Parishath

    The following recommendations made by the Member of JNNURM Public Consultative Committee have been perused and finalized by Members of Mysore Grahaka Parishat. There may be variants of these recommendations elsewhere but they are Mysore oriented with contemporary visions upto 2013 and beyond.

    A power point presentation in a CD containing complete details is also submitted herewith for consideration of concerned authorities.

    Problem: Inadequate work force:
    For a population of nearly 12 lakh people (2010), total number of poura karmikas engaged for door to door collection, segregation and transportation to secondary bins of nearly 350 tons, is just 1419. By 2013 population of Mysore is expected to reach a mark of 15 lakhs which may generate more than 600 tons of solid waste.
    (a) There is an urgent need to augment the number of men to streamline sweeping of streets and door to door collections; People will cooperate and will not litter the streets if there is a good system that works. A plan of action for incremental increase in appointing workers may be put in place. While it is good to have PPP for this work, there must be proper transparency and accountability in awarding contracts and also legal bindings for non-adherence to contractual obligations.
    (b) Sufficient number of carts with tubeless tyres and electric/solar based tippers may be made available to workers to make the job of collection easy and fast.
    (c) Durable strong PVC light weight bins with sturdy handles may be supplied to those handling waste collection.
    (d) Protective gears like gloves, uniform, boots and masks may be supplied to protect the workers from health hazards and wearing them while on duty must be made compulsory with punishments for non-adherence of rules and/or dereliction of duty.
    (e) Group Health Insurance for permanent poura karmikas on the rolls of MCC may be implemented effectively and for those who are working for contractors, conditions must be laid down, in tender documents, to provide for such a provision to safeguard unorganized labor from health hazards.

    Problem: Collection/Segregation methodology of Solid Waste is insufficient.
    Un-segregated solid waste is being dumped in street corners and in storm water drains; this has become a habit with people and there is an urgent necessity to educate them on a continuous basis:
    (a) Street shows troops, Drama troops, Laavani groups etc., may be engaged to emphasize to householders, especially those who employ domestic help, the importance of segregation of waste at source and to make the campaign attractive.
    (b) More schools may be brought under the Childrens Movement for Civic Awareness (CMCA) and MCC may consider making CMCA more attractive and engage school children for improving the communication system in the society.
    (c) Effective clearance of silt/sediments in storm water side drains and carting them away.
    (d) Officers and officials should periodically accompany the poura karmikas on an ongoing basis, door to door and educate the citizens.
    (e) Limit the number of bins prescribed to households to two instead of three.
    (f) Engage rag pickers through preparation of a panel – division wise, for helping the MCC in segregating the waste on street corners and pay them a minimum wage at the end of the day for having rendered service and also based on the quantum of such waste collected and surrendered to MCC war offices. Supply them bags, chappals, masks, MCC caps to enable them to undertake this service.
    (g) Engage domestic helpers/house maids for effective segregation at source – In urban areas, most households have domestic workers to assist them for their daily chores and to clean up the house and dispose off the household waste. This segment can be utilized as effective helpers for segregation of solid/house hold waste at source. Suggestion – conduct of day long Convention of Domestic Workers to educate them on segregation of waste at source. Such events may be held in different divisions/select wards of the city where there is a large settlement of this segment of domestic workers with added attraction of free health check up. They may be given talks about problems of non-segregation, provide them a good lunch, at the end of the day, present them with a cotton bag containing a slate, pencils packet, Kannada and English alphabets books, a comb, a packet of bindis and a small digital games gadget. Half the battle of segregation can be won with these small presents that does not cost the earth but will help MCC and make their life that much simple.
    (h) Enough action is being taken by the authorities for distribution of pamphlets/ guides containing best practice; celebrities/ print and electronic media may be engaged for effective communication.

    Problem: Disposal of non-bio degradable plastic and arresting proliferation of existing plastic in environment

    (a) Two papers with detailed explanations / how to implement have been personally handed over to the Commissioner, MCC; they aim to include collection of plastic from within Mysore city’s environment by school children and handing over the same to school authorities who will in turn contact the MCC and arrange for the disposal of such stock in a scientific manner.
    (b) Mandating levy of a charge of Re.1 per plastic bag at all departmental stores, kirana shops and vegetable/fruit shops and simultaneously making available re-usable cloth bags at cheap rate (suggested price Rs.10 each) at the same stores. The shop that sells the cloth bags may print their name etc., on the bag as advertisement.
    (c) A crash programme involving children will have the effect of arresting millions of plastic pieces at one go and the habit of using more environment-friendly cloth bags.
    (d) The suggestion encompasses an important element of educating children and creating awareness about the harmful effect of circulation of plastic
    (e) It could be a scholastic programme through CMCA which is already into creating awareness of various environmental issues.
    (f) Laws exist on action to be taken on those who violate rules and regulations pertaining to marketing of products packed in non-bio degradable plastic pouches etc. But no tangible action appears to have been initiated. Notices may be issued to all departmental stores, malls etc., to stop release of non-bio degradable plastic/polythene carry bags/pouches etc.
    (g) Plastic Roads: Plastic collected from garbage dumps etc., are purchased from rag pickers and others, melt at 130 degrees heat, mixed with bitumen and roads are laid, As against the normal life of 3 years, these plastic roads last for more than 6-7 years and upkeep and maintenance is minimal; such roads have been tested and approved by the Central Roads Research Institute; Bangalore University has studied and appreciated the credibility of such roads. BBMP has successfully laid smooth and long lasting plastic roads in Bengaluru through a private firm M/s.KK Plastic Waste Management Pvt.Ltd., and details can be had from BBMP.
    (h) What is needed is the will to implement them for the benefit of people with credibility

    Problem: Bio-waste: Burning of bio-waste is continuing unabated. This unscientific and easy method of disposal is being practiced by poura karmikas and people alike. The swept waste including plastic is dumped around trees and is burnt thus endangering the life span of trees and burning up of tissues leaving behind ugly scars on the stems. Burning of plastic emits dangerous toxic fumes and the smoke of burning waste pollutes the environment with various types of green house gases thus creating global warming etc. Can this bio-waste be converted into useful product?

    Solution: Yes. Street swept Bio-waste in urban areas mostly consist of dry leaves, twigs, bark, dry grass, paper, etc., and floating discarded plastic. Segregated bio-waste can be converted into bio-fuel cakes and supplied to certain sections of our society who mostly depend upon Kerosene for their cooking purposes in urban areas. Medium for binding this waste could be cow dung or saw dust etc. In rural areas, people depend upon dried up trees and their branches for fuel. If this city streets swept waste that is either being burnt on road sides or dumped into land fills can be effectively converted into useful products.

    Method: Collected waste may be transported to identified division-wise or ward-wise workshops to be run by Stree Shakthi Sanghas/Self help Groups etc. The waste may be segregated for removing toxic substances and with the help of cow dung/saw dust, they may be mixed properly, put in a Metallic/PVC Moulding Boxes, pressed lightly to convert the dough into required size; sun dried and may be sold.

    Problem: Bio-Medical Waste: Bio-medical waste includes human organs, wastes like plasma, excreta, urine, cotton/bandage etc., smeared with blood, puss etc. their open disposal are considered as highly hazardous to health because they contain various kinds of germs that may be contagious and have the ability to multiply.
    (a) It is necessary to ensure that the outsourced agency is actually collecting, separating and disposing the bio-med waste in a scientific manner. T & C are not known.
    (b) Reports exist about scams in this regard; a number of Clinics/ Nursing homes are seen to have been dumping such wastes into large Storm Water Drains etc.,and also by converting such waste into bits and pieces and flushing them through faucets / sewage outlets.
    (c) Is there any quality control mechanism in place? If not, this serious issue has to be tackled in its proper perspective.
    (d) In Mysore city, it is reliably learnt that many clinics / nursing homes are paying anywhere between Rs.1000 to Rs.1500 per month for collecting such bio-med waste, irrespective of whether such waste is actually generated by the clinics or not. In addition, the agency is also collecting Rs.4 per plastic covers that contain different kinds of med waste.
    (e) These private practitioners appear to be actually suffering at the hands of this outsourced agency because they have to fulfill the mandatory requirements under the law.
    (f) Government hospitals are playing safe by having their own bio-medical waste disposal arrangements. To what extent these are safe or scientific needs to be examined by experts and Pollution Control Board. There are many questions that need answers.
    (g) Other government health centers/PHCs do not have such advanced disposal arrangements and resort to unscientific methods of disposal of med waste.

    Problem: E.Waste and its scientific disposal:
    E-Waste includes computers, refrigerators, television sets, mobiles, printers, key boards, mother boards, LED bulbs, wires, Ubiquitous batteries of various types, etc. About 4 lakh tons of e.waste is generated annually in India and is expected to double by 2013. What is the quantity of E.waste being generated in Mysore is not discussed. A lot of E.waste is traded on footpaths on Ashoka Road, right in front of a police office near St.Philomena’s church. Life span of these gadgets depends upon usage, they are not bio-degradable and they contain harmful metals like Arsenic, Barium, Beryllium, Cadmium, Chromium, Lead, Lithium, Mercury, Nickel, Rare Earth Element, Selenium Zinc, Sulphide etc. Their unscientific disposal through garbage dumps results in Toxic emissions that pollute air, soil and ground water and once the contamination takes place, it is impossible to use such natural resources.

    • Laws in India have been framed but enforcement is lacking; this has led to a number of IT industries releasing such E-waste into scrap market.
    • India and other developing countries have become dumping yards of e.waste for Western/European countries
    • ‘Made in China’ computer hardwares and electronic cheap goods have become the bane of authorities because the products are becoming scrap in no time; for example, the emergency lights being sold on footpaths contain lot of mercury behind the LED bulbs.
    • Corporates are donating a number of outdated hardware with outmoded software under the guise of Corporate Social Responsibility. These are installed in Government/Corporation schools etc., only to become obsolete due to poor maintenance and upkeep.
    • There is no accountability for maintenance by those philanthropists if the systems do not work and ultimately India will be saddled with such toxic waste; we have made rules but do not have expertise
    • Some E-wastes contain valuable metals like gold, silver and copper
    • Untrained scrap dealers/rag pickers are engaged in collection and disposal in an unscientific manner
    • Women and children are seen to have been engaged for recovering some of these metals through unscientific methods like burning e.waste to recover metals like copper, nickel, aluminium etc., in plastic wires
    • They are exposing themselves to toxic emissions that cause lung and allergic problems and unknown dangers like cancer etc.

    Solution: Convert E-waste into Construction material–E-concrete blocks – to lock up, almost on a permanent basis, majority of such E.waste along with its toxic substances.

    (1) E.waste is transported to an industrial area, crushed into bits and pieces either manually or mechanically
    (2) These bits and pieces are then mixed with cement, sand and bitumen in proper proportions and converted into concrete masonry blocks, dried and sold to civil construction industry.
    (3) These may be called as E-Concrete Blocks.
    (4) E.waste can be locked up almost on a permanent basis in these blocks. Ecology and ground water getting polluted with toxins and also ground water can be avoided.
    (5) Cost of construction of buildings, compound walls, pillars etc., will come down considerably due to less usage of costly cement/sand etc.
    (6) A compound wall around D.Devaraj Urs First Grade College, Hunsur has been constructed with the help of these E-Blocks with reduced cost.
    (7) Call for a meeting of all IT players in Mysore
    (8) Quantify e.waste generation in the coming years
    (9) Consider a PPP or BOT or BOOT system for establishing an E.Waste Disposal Plant so that by 2013, it should be possible to have a well established scientific disposal plan for E.waste with its own captive solar power plant.
    (10)If a proper non-polluting E.waste disposal green plant can be set up in Mysore, there is a very good business out there with opportunity to earn sizeable carbon credits.
    (11)Mysore with such green tech plants can attract business from all over the State and also from neighboring States.
    (12)Instead of setting up CO2 emitting industries, it will be better to opt to improve the industrial scenario of Mysore with such green industries.
    (13) Best practices of E-waste disposals existing in advanced countries may also be examined for adoption in consultation with experts in the field so that Mysore will be a Center for E.waste Disposal.

    Further suggestions for managing E-waste:

    • Call for a meeting of all IT players in Mysore
    • Quantify e.waste generation in the coming years
    • Consider a PPP or BOT or BOOT system for establishing an E.Waste Disposal Plant so that by 2013, it should be possible to have a well established scientific disposal plan for E.waste with its own captive solar power plant
    • If a proper non-polluting E.waste disposal green plant can be set up in Mysore, there is a very good business out there with opportunity to earn sizeable carbon credits
    • Mysore with such green tech plants can attract business from all over the State and also from neighboring States.
    • Instead of setting up CO2 emitting industries, it will be better to opt to improve the industrial scenario of Mysore with such green industries
    • Best practices of E-waste disposal existing in advanced countries may also be examined for adoption in consultation with experts in the field so that Mysore will be a Greenfield Center for E.waste Disposal
    • Precaution is better than fire fighting or damage control modes.

    Some under-developed and developing countries have become victims of E-dumping from West. Under the guise of corporate social responsibility, many IT based MNCs are ‘presenting’ their outdated wares to Government/Corporation schools etc., without necessary supporting inputs like inverters, batteries, UPS, updated operating system softwares, etc. In a sample survey of some Government schools, it was found that most of such ‘presentations’ are dumped and are gathering dust and school authorities do not have any guidelines. Even at University levels also, it is found that such huge e-waste has accumulated and as usual, annual tenders are called and disposed off in an unscientific manner. Traders who purchase such e-waste are found repairing such systems and reselling them, which, again works for some time and becomes outdated resulting in e-waste again.

    Problem: Transportation of waste from secondary bins/street corners to Solid Waste Disposal Plant: There are allegations that the SW transported is not in consonance with the actual waste generated in the city and payments being made are not commensurate with the actual quantity lifted and transported.

    (a) This has to be tackled by embedding the transport vehicles with GPS systems and tamper proof milometers and through surprise physical test checks.
    (b) There is a declining trend in availability of Fossil fuels like petrol and diesel and warning bells have already been struck about rising prices of such fuels. Future is not rosy. Present plan of investing hundreds of crores of rupees for establishing mega waste disposal plants will produce negative results. Vehicles will have to traverse long distances in their worn out vehicles with consumption of scarce fossil fuels and escalating costs. With business as usual, MCC will have to set aside huge amounts of its revenues for transportation of trash. The waste transport system is already embroiled in corruption charges due to manipulated weighing and distances covered. If decentralization of SWM at Zonal/Ward level is adopted, all these problems will come to an end.
    (c) It would be prudent to establish medium waste disposal plants of appropriate technology at division level after identifying the major type of waste generated for conversion into organic manure, bio-fuel, bio-gas, E-concrete blocks, etc., so that transportation will not result in a major component of expenditure of MCC to be incurred for disposal of waste.
    (d) After the above methods are adopted, if identified debris /solid waste accrue, they may have to be transported to identified landfills which will be inevitable.

    Problem: How to make citizens accountable? How long can the system keep bearing the burden of insensitiveness of people? Should we levy spot fines or should we motivate them through incentives?


    • It is time to make citizens accountable for their actions in keeping the city clean and green by educating them as to the very simple methodology and the necessity of segregating wet waste, dry waste and toxic waste at source.
    • MCC’s plan of action to supply different colored bins to each home is good and it is necessary to keep a track whether such a facility is being honored by the citizens or is being brushed aside.
    • Before supply, it is necessary for HIs to visit each house and create awareness, take their signatures for having received the bins and keep it on record.
    • Watch their compliance through PKs, If not adhering to norms and have been found to be callous in their attitude and are found to be discarding the household waste at street corners, warn them once then collect spot fines to be decided by the authorities once this proposal becomes a law.
    • Make commercial establishments like hotels, shops, kalyana mantaps responsible for the waste they generate.
    • Establishments that generate large quantity of wet waste, may be advised to set up bio-gas plants on roof tops so that apart from scientific disposal of waste, the gas produced can be a source to reduce demand on LPG gas that is being heavily subsidized and the fertilized water released by such plants will be organically good for plants.
    • Authorities may consider passing proper legislations to extend incentives like a percentage rebate in property tax if they adopt best practices as in the case of rebate in electricity bills for installation of solar water heaters in households.
    • Ensure that the existing rules relating to provision of waste bins in the premises of commercial establishments are followed strictly. If they are found littering, levy heavy fines and for repeated mistakes suspend their trade license for a period.

    Disposal of solid waste: Will establishment of mega waste disposal plants at huge costs at a distance from the central business district the solution for scientific disposal of city solid waste? Will decentralization of waste management help in solving the present and future problems arising out of increased generation of waste? Out of 385 tons of solid waste being produced by Mysore City, only 200 tons of SW is handled by the Plant that works intermittently and the remaining quantity of about 150 tons is dumped in landfills without proper segregation of different wastes.

    There may be a proposal to set up another plant and also for identifying land for dumping other wastes in landfills. But, during monsoon, rain water seeps and contaminates the ground water with various toxic and other kinds of pollutants that are mixed with such waste and will result in contamination of borewell water.

    Transportation cost will be huge in the coming days due to reduced availability of fossil fuels like diesel and petrol. Establishment of huge plants on the outskirts of urban areas will not be economical in the long run. To transport city waste, the municipal authorities/contractors will have to spend huge amounts as transportation costs. Therefore, a prudent step would be to Decentralise disposal of SW and rationalize methods of disposal on the following lines:

    Establish Bio-gas plants at Division level or Ward level depending upon the availability of identifiable raw material: There are different models of Bio-gas Plants for catering to different class of consumers and depending upon the availability of space; eg., terrace model, balcony model, compact model and simple models. Thus by selecting a suitable model, wet waste or other organic wastes can be converted into consumable gas for use by different class of consumers. If this solution can be successfully implemented with a little encouragement from the Government for making it economically viable for the people to adopt, spending mega moneys for establishment of mega waste disposal plants can be avoided and millions of liters of fuel can be saved in transporting waste to distant places; in addition, scarce electricity can be saved that is required by such mega plants.

    1. Study and identify the different kinds of waste that is produced in particular urban/rural areas;
    2. Establish required model of Bio-gas producing plants with PPP or departmentally on available Government lands;
    3. Supply the gas produced to bulk consumers like hotels, hostels, hospitals and /or household retail consumers so that demand for LPG can be offset with the methane gas;
    4. The household level organic wet waste is disposed off in a clean and environment friendly manner.
    5. Wide variety of feedstock materials can be used, and easily sourced from nearby areas such as flour mills, vegetable markets, large malls and hotels and vendors of different food items, etc.
    6. Will enable partial replacement of LPG in kitchens.
    7. Savings of both money and matter will help people.
    8. Fertilized water would be available for kitchen garden/terrace gardens and for rural farming.

    Composting plant: Existing plant’s working has to be improved by updating the implements and machineries with modern machinery so as to meet the needs/problems of VISION 2013/2020. Various best practices/improved variety of different capacities of plants are available as discussed in the case of Bio-gas plant. Of late there is a major thrust for organic farming due to the ill effects of synthetic fertilizers and their ability to contaminate ground water etc.

    Therefore, it is necessary to identify major kinds of wastes available in select areas, choose and establish aerobic or anaerobic kinds of plants and machinery of suitable capacity so that transportation cost of SWM to far off places by using scarce/finite fossil fuels can be saved and invested in better works for improving the solid waste management methods and living conditions of citizens. Garbage is gold.
    Bio-gas plants have been planned for erection at Deaf and Dumb School premises for supplying Methane to the kitchen that cooks food for nearly 300 day scholars and hostel inmates with technology from National institute of Engineering Centre for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology (CREST).. Similar Bio-gas DPRs have been forwarded to Women and Child Welfare Department for setting up such Bio-gas plant at Girls Home on Lalitha Mahal Road, Mysuru.
    Mysore City Corporation has set up zonal level waste segregation centers for composting and management of solid waste so that revenue of MCC is not wasted on transportation in their worn out trucks that give hardly 2 kms per liter of diesel and also to avoid spoiling the environments of gullible villagers around Mysore by dumping the waste generated by the so called urbanites who are irresponsible and are used to throwing their household garbage in front of somebody’s house in the late hours.
    Suggestions have also been made to supply Video/Digital Cameras to Health Inspectors and others to capture photos of irresponsible people throwing garbage at street corners, follow them, show them their dirty act, issue challans, collect fines with gradual incremental fines for subsequent acts and also to publish such photos in public functions/MCC awareness campaigns.
    The undersigned is actively engaged in educating the Poura Karmikas to flatly refuse the plastic covers that contain mixed garbage, instead, make the owner of that plastic cover to segregate then and there, take the wet waste and give back the dry waste that will be collected once a week.

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