In Bengaluru, citizens lead the way

Aditi Hastak, Bangalore Community Manager
Bangalore, 5 September 2016

The Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, published the Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules in 2000 which laid the guidelines for managing the waste. The guidelines entrusted the responsibility of managing city waste with the local municipal authority.

In Bengaluru, the responsibility of collection, transport, street sweeping, processing, and disposal of solid waste is with Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP). The city generates 3000-4000 tonnes of solid waste daily. Even though BBMP has mandated segregation at source since 2012, established dry waste collection centers (DWCC), and processing plants, dumping at landfill sites persists.

The stories of some of the sites contributing to groundwater chemical discharge, air pollution, and spillage of waste due to incessant dumping are becoming more well known. At the core of this is a lack of segregation the source by citizens as well as lack of effective safe waste disposal systems. Thus, the solution needs a two-pronged strategy: one from the citizens and other from the local government.

With this thought, a group of conscientious citizens, who cared for their city and its environment, came together and formed a Solid Waste Management Round Table (SWMRT) in 2009. The group strives towards making the Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules (2000) a reality. The group works with different stakeholders, from working with BBMP to several private residential, commercial, and institutional set ups to informal sector workers. The landmark initiative of this group was to create awareness about decentralized level waste management through source segregation, recycling, and composting.

Taking the work forward, the group also devised a method for doing the segregation at source called "2bin 1bag." Simply put, two bins are used: green and red for wet waste and sanitary/reject waste respectively and a bag for dry waste. The wet waste consists of anything that is generated in the kitchen and garden, reject waste consists of sanitary waste which goes into the landfill/incinerators and dry waste consists of plastic, paper, and glass which goes into recycling centers.

The idea was to standardize waste segregation at the decentralized level. The uniform color code makes it easier for everyone, from waste generators to collectors to segregators to processing facilities, when it comes to identifying the type of waste in the bins. The group has developed a dedicated website for 2bin 1bag which is a collaborative effort of SWMRT and Kasa Muktha Bellandur(KMB).

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the High Court of Karnataka to reinforce the existing regulations, The long struggle by citizens, green activists, and environmental supporters gained a big momentum boost when the High Court gave a judgement in December 2015 in favor of the PIL and ordered that the 2bin 1bag concept is to be followed across the entire state of Karnataka.

Citizens of Bengaluru continue to keep the momentum going and have also formed a virtual platform called Bangalore Eco Team to share their experiences, expertise, and learnings so as to help improve the city’s environment and ensure compliance with the existing regulations.

Given that the city is grappling with managing its waste, the collaborative effort of local government and citizens will hopefully bear the fruit. The most interesting aspect of this whole journey of waste management in the city has been the role played by the citizens, the lived experiences of everyday people which have shaped the regulations for the city. A truly bottom up approach.

Photo: Chris Hand

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