The dirty picture
Garbage menace, which has kept the city authorities on toes these days, pose grave threat to Delhiites and has been emerging as a major problem in the national capital. The authorities – Municipal Corporations of Delhi (MCDs), PWD and several others agencies including NDMC, DDA, Jal Board – which ensure basic civic services, especially sanitation activities, have failed to address the crisis. The authorities are yet to work on a fullproof plan to tackle the issue in its entirety. The Capital is adding nearly 10,000 metric tonnes garbage per day while thousands of metric tonnes of unattended garbage are lying in various nooks but the agencies, which have been crying for resources, have yet to set aside their differences to solve the problem.
Almost a fortnight ago, Union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal along with the three MCDs launched the “Swachh Delhi Abhiyan”, setting aside the differences between the AAP government and the BJP-ruled civic bodies for a common cause – a clean Delhi. “Let’s come together and clean Delhi end to end, it’s not rocket science,” the leaders declared. The leaders, on the occasion, made tall claims but several complaints of garbage lying in and around the city have been made by the citizens and very few of them were reported to be attended. Even after claiming to remove garbage during 15-day long drive, lack of coordination between the agencies reflected up to a larger level.
After failing to remove garbage from the city roads, streets, vacant lands and colonies, the authorities have extended the period of drive for 10 days. “Following the reports of garbage lying hither and thither, it has been decided to extend the period. Earlier drive was launched between November 16 and 30 but now was extended to December 10. During this period agencies have been asked to work with proper coordination to ensure proper cleanliness of the city,” said an official of the Delhi government.
The agencies and their officials, however, avoids to comment on why cleanliness always remains a big issue in the Capital. One major reason is that the civic bodies’ sanitation wing, which is always under the scanner due to inactivity and contract issues, doesn’t have enough teeth in terms of manpower and infrastructure to make Swachh Delhi a reality. The Delhi government’s campaign for a clean city have also faced a lot technical glitches throughout the special drive. Around 5,000 complaints posted through a special app showing a common sender.
During the 15-day long sanitation-cum-cleanliness drive, the civic agencies received nearly 38,000 complaints but more that half of them remain unattended. The ‘Swachch Delhi Abhiyan’, a drive that sought to rid the city of garbage and construction material waste, neither reduced garbage stink in the city nor it brought the Centre, the AAP government and the BJP-led Corporations on one platform. “Civic bodies are facing difficulty to verify complaints or contact the complainant because of the number glitch, Sood said. “Also, it’s a major blip on the credibility of the application. It seems the government launched it in haste without conducting proper trials and checks. The IT wing of the civic body was talking to the government and app developers to resolve the problem,” said a civic body official.
The government officials, on the other hand, claimed that the app was working just fine and was being continuously evolved to help city’s residents. “If the locations shown in the complaint are different, then how can it be a technical error? There is nothing wrong with the app and it is being continuously moderated to cater to the needs of the people. We regularly monitor complaints and action is taken through daily reports by area concerned officials. To clean the city, the need of the hour is to work on one platform and to develop a proper mechanism,” the official said. Though there are score of reasons for garbage crisis in the city but a few emerged stronger.
Politics of garbage
The deadlock between the Centre, Kejriwal government and Municipal Corporation over disbursement of funds has left safai karamcharis at the receiving end. And therefore, with 70,000 disgruntled sanitation workers going on strike demanding due payment of their salaries and arrears, it seems like Delhi will not be able to breathe easy any time soon. Moreover, it’s not going to be easy as workers’ are promising of choking the streets with garbage. Among other things, what lies beneath is an issue of political clash between the two governments. “The karamcharis are under deep financial crisis than one can’t even imagine. There are so many of us who were forced to take loans as MCD had not paid them for months together. The government had promised us due payment of salaries but everything went down the drain and none of the promises were fulfilled,” said Rajendra Mewati, President of Akhil Bharatiya Mazdoor Congress.
MCD says Delhi govt saying half truths, blame game on
Even as the Delhi government claimed that they have dole out funds to the corporations, the three Municipal Corporations have been crying foul over non-dispensation of funds, thus ending in a story of endless blame game. Not only this, there is a dichotomy between the statistics presented by the Delhi government and the MCDs regarding the release of funds.
On June 9 last, Delhi CM had called a rally at Ramlila Maidan and announced a “tough decision”, i.e. to release Rs 293 crore and Rs 575 crore for the East and North Delhi Municipal Corporations respectively and blamed the BJP-governed civic bodies’ misappropriation of funds for their sordid state of affairs. MCD officials however retorted by calling it a farce and said that the Delhi government didn’t release the due amount. Mayors of BJP-ruled Corporations claim that under DMC Act that Delhi government is trying to defame the municipal agencies by not releasing money, in a bid to show that the MCDs are far from willing to work. They said that there are provisions of releasing shares on time but the government’s move to not release money has left MCD empty pocket.
Lack of sanitation tools and unavailability of landfill sites
The municipal solid waste management in the Capital has gone down the drain. With 70,000 sanitation workers, 1,500 dhalaos, 500 trucks and thousands of auto-dippers, the three civic agencies have miserably failed to improve sanitation services. Poor monitoring of garbage lifting by private agencies, unavailability of landfill sites and excessive delay in completing solid waste management plants have costed Delhi dearly. While the daily waste generation is raising manifold by the day, municipal corporations have not been able to chalk out a strategy to deal with the daily dumps.
Of the three existing landfill sites, the Ghazipur landfill site is the oldest that came up in 1984. This caters to the waste generated in East and North East Delhi, Old Delhi, Paharganj zone and the entire New Delhi areas. The landfill site at Bhalaswa caters to the North, North West, Central and West Delhi areas while the Okhla landfill site receives municipal waste from areas in South, South East and South West Delhi.
Increasing volume of garbage
Though the authorities are facing resource crisis, quantity of garbage is increasing by leaps and bounds. Presently Delhi is generating around 10,000 metric tonnes of municipal solid waste daily and this sum is expected to go up by 20,000 metric tonnes by 2021. South MCD generates 3,200 metric tonnes of solid waste, North generates 3,500 metric tonnes and East generates 2,200 metric tonnes of waste. Moreover, the three landfill sites at Ghazipur, Okhla and Bhalaswa are virtually choked and MCDs are struggling to find an alternative to these existing ones. According to Delhi Master Plan 2021, Delhi requires 1500 acres of land for landfill sites, sources in MCD say that at least 600 acres of land is easily required for a new landfill site. The Delhi High Court had asked DDA to hand over the land at Sultanpur Dabas Village and Mandi village to North and South MCDs. EDMC has identified a land at Sonia Vihar for dumping garbage. However there is an uncertainty lingering over when the possession of these sites to the corporations will be carried out.
Short-changed, claims MCD
The corporations claim their balance sheets are in red because their sources of revenue have been drastically slashed in the past few years. Their significance has been reduced with the decentralisation of the departments of public works, fire and electricity, as well as the Jal Board.
And most of their advertising sites have been handed over to the PWD, Delhi Metro and other government bodies. Transfer duties have also been reduced. To make up the shortfall, the MCD hiked rates for services like parking, only to anger the public. The government, however, denies that it's sitting on the funds. “We’ve dispersed our quarterly payments on time, last on 13 June. The next allotment is due in October,” said Dilip Pandey, AAP’s Delhi Secretary. “It's the MCD’s fault if it hasn't paid the workers. They are asking us to forsake the debt amount. What about accountability? The Congress government gave a loan of Rs 2,000 crore to the MCD. They must be accountable for it.”