If a housing complex in Mumbai manages to dispose its waste efficiently, then, it can apply for a ‘Clean green society’ tag, which makes it eligible for certain rebates in property tax. Under this new scheme, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will form guidelines, to help residential complexes to recycle and manage their waste. Citizens will also be allowed to give their suggestions and objections on the draft plan, which will be uploaded on the BMC’s website, either directly to the chief engineer of the Solid Waste Management Department at Worli or mail them to clean firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to sources from the Solid Waste Management Department, under the scheme, residential buildings have to segregate the waste into dry and wet and make arrangements to process the wet waste in their premises. Societies can subsequently apply for the ‘clean, green’ tag. Mumbai’s civic officials will then evaluate the society, to assess its eligibility for discounts on property tax. However, a senior official from the BMC’s Solid Waste Department admitted that “No clear policy has been framed in this matter, so far. Before implementing such schemes, we need to work out details like how to monitor the societies.”
ALMs raise concerns
Although the scheme may sound promising, advanced locality management (ALM) groups and resident associations remain sceptical. The system of segregation of waste was introduced in the 1990s, along with the concept of ALMs. However, the movement slowly faded, due to the lack of support from the municipal corporation. ‘Our society regularly segregated wet and dry waste and generated manure through the process of vermi-composting,’ recalls Sharda Venugopal, a senior citizen from Ghatkopar. “We even constructed flower beds along the footpath and used the manure in them. However, the same corporation which introduced this concept, removed all the flower beds, during a road-widening process,” she laments.
Raj Kumar Sharma, an activist who is credited with having introduced the concept of vermi-composting in the M-ward, dismisses the corporation’s latest initiative. “This is a desperate move by the corporation, as the dumping grounds have reached a saturation point. The dumping ground in Mulund is being phased out. The one at Kanjurmarg has only 65 hectares of land, while the original plan was for 141 hectares. Instead of asking the citizens to segregate and recycle waste, the corporation must collect the waste and make arrangements to recycle it at centralised points. This proposed scheme of dangling tax rebates, may lead to corruption. Does the corporation have the manpower to visit each and every residential premise, to check whether societies are actually recycling and processing the wet waste?” he questions.
Kala Suresh, an ALM member from Prem Jyot Society in M-east ward, points out other instances that made the segregation process futile. “Our society members were segregating waste but the BMC van used to carry the waste in a mixed manner, thus, defeating the purpose. Moreover, there was no provision to buy back the manure generated. It was the corporation’s lack of support and encouragement, which killed the movement in many societies. In many places, the flower beds and compost bins turned into garbage bins,” adds Kala.
Nevertheless, some localities have gone ahead with the segregation of waste. In T ward (suburb of Mulund), local corporator Manoj Kotak, distributed two bins – one for dry and one for wet waste – in certain housing societies to promote zero garbage. Satish Athalye, from the NGO Hariyali in Mulund, is also in favour of the scheme. “We are holding workshops and guiding citizens on waste segregation and vermi-composting. It is the only solution to reduce the waste being sent to the dumping grounds,” he maintains. Athalye’s concern was highlighted by the recent fire at Deonar dumping ground, which also affected neighbouring areas like Chembur and Mankhurd. With the BMC yet to frame a proper plan on its new scheme, residents and housing societies, meanwhile, have no choice but to wait and watch.