Flawed cri­te­ria

The new Swachh Survek­shan rank­ing pro­motes cities with poor waste man­age­ment prac­tices SWATI SAM­BYAL |

Down to Earth - - CON­TENTS -

The Swachh Sarvek­shan 2017 raises ques­tions re­gard­ing its method­ol­ogy which favours a cen­tralised waste man­age­ment ap­proach

IN­DORE, AC­CORD­ING to the rank­ings re­leased by the Min­istry of Ur­ban Devel­op­ment on May 4, is the clean­est city in the coun­try. This is de­spite the ab­sence of a solid waste pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity or waste seg­re­ga­tion at source in the city. In­dore is not an aber­ra­tion; most of the top 50 cities fea­tured in the Swachh Survek­shan rank­ings share a sim­i­lar story. Worse, cities with good waste man­age­ment prac­tices fea­ture re­ally low in the an­nual rank­ings. “The rank­ing of some of the cities sur­prises me be­cause I have vis­ited them and they do not have much to show ex­cept that there is no lit­ter on the streets,” says Bharati Chaturvedi of en­vi­ron­men­tal non-profit Chin­tan.

Ex­perts say flawed pa­ram­e­ters have marred the rank­ings. The gov­ern­ment in­vited 500 cities that are en­rolled un­der the am­rut scheme to par­tic­i­pate in the rank­ings, of which 434 par­tic­i­pated. am­rut was launched in June 2015 to es­tab­lish the in­fra­struc­ture that will en­sure ro­bust sew­er­age net­works and water sup­ply for ur­ban trans­for­ma­tion. In last year’s sur­vey, only 73 cities were ranked.

The rank­ing awards weigh­tage on the ba­sis of six heads: mu­nic­i­pal solid waste col­lec­tion and trans­porta­tion (40 per cent weigh­tage), pro­cess­ing and dis­posal (20 per cent weigh­tage), con­di­tion of public and com­mu­nity toi­lets, and open defe­ca­tion (30 per cent weigh­tage), and capc­ity build­ing and be­hav­iour change (10 per cent weigh­tage). The cities have been marked on a scale of 2,000 points, of which 900 points have been al­lo­cated on the ba­sis of an­swers submitted by the mu­nic­i­pal bod­ies. Another 500 points have been al­lo­cated to be awarded by a team of asses­sors who have phys­i­cally in­spected the cities. The re­main­ing 600 points have been al­lo­cated to be awarded ac­cord­ing to ci­ti­zen feed­back col­lected through tele­phonic con­ver­sa­tions and through ques­tion­naires submitted on­line and on a mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tion.

The cen­tral prob­lem

The max­i­mum weigh­tage has been given to pro­ce­dures for waste col­lec­tion and trans­porta­tion, but the pa­ram­e­ters favour a cen­tralised model, where em­pha­sis is on treat­ing waste away from source.

As a re­sult, In­dore, with an ef­fec­tive door-

to-door col­lec­tion sys­tem, scored the max­i­mum 360 points, while Bhopal, the sec­ond clean­est city, re­ceived 352 points.

Mean­while, Alleppey, which fol­lows a de­cen­tralised sys­tem where waste seg­re­ga­tion and pro­cess­ing starts at the house­hold level, re­ceived just 91 points, which is much lower than the av­er­age score cities re­ceived un­der this cat­e­gory (224 points). Iron­i­cally, de­cen­tralised col­lec­tion sys­tem is cheaper and more en­vi­ron­ment-friendly than the cen­tralised model. Still, just five out of the top 50 cities—Pune, Suryapet, Coim­botore, Am­bika­pur, My­suru—par­tially fol­low the ap­proach. Cities that fol­low a cen­tralised sys­tem spend over 70 per cent of their bud­get solely on col­lec­tion and trans­porta­tion. “In­dore spends `110cr a year on door-to-door waste col­lec­tion,” says Asad Warsi, a con­sul­tant with the In­dore Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion. Alleppey, on the other hand, has cut down its col­lec­tion and trans­porta­tion cost from `40 lakh per month to just `40,000 by adopt­ing a de­cen­tralised model.

The cen­tralised model also has higher car­bon foot­print. Bhopal, for in­stance, trans­ports its waste to the lone pro­cess­ing site that is sit­u­ated 16 km from the city. In a de­cen­tralised model, the amount of waste col­lected is sub­stan­tially lesser, which re­duces the num­ber of trips waste trucks have to make ev­ery day. The num­ber of trips made by mu­nic­i­pal trucks to pro­cess­ing units in a day can serve as an ef­fec­tive pa­ram­e­ter for the rank­ing.

What should have been adopted : The rank­ings do not award points for seg­re­ga­tion at source, which is manda­tory un­der the Solid Waste Man­age­ment Rules (swm), 2016. All house­holds in Alleppey seg­re­gate their waste and use the wet waste for com­post. This leaves only the dry waste, which is col­lected on spe­cific days of the week. Mean­while, In­dore in­tro­duced seg­re­ga­tion at source in Jan­uary this year. “It is cur­rently prac­tised by 10 per cent of the house­holds,” says the spcb of­fi­cial from the state.

The scheme also over­looks the im­por­tance of trans­port­ing the waste in seg­re­gated com­part­ments. In In­dore, for ex­am­ple, the mu­nic­i­pal trucks have sep­a­rate com­part­ments for dif­fer­ent kinds of waste, but they still carry mixed waste.

“The sur­vey is pe­nal­is­ing cities that are in­vest­ing money in mak­ing peo­ple more re­spon­si­ble rather than in col­lec­tion and trans­porta­tion,” says M Prem, ward coun­cil­lor, Alleppey mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

Heap of waste

Waste pro­cess­ing and dis­posal has been given 180 points, but even here the pa­ram­e­ters favour cities which fol­low a cen­tralised model and prac­tise se­condary seg­re­ga­tion of waste, com­mon in cities that do not have seg­re­ga­tion at source. No won­der, the ur­ban body in In­dore scored full points for pro­cess­ing and dis­posal (180), fol­lowed by My­suru (174) and New Delhi Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion (133). The points awarded to Alleppey (17) and Thiruvananthapuram (8) re­mained low.

The flaw in the pa­ram­e­ters means that In­dore scores high de­spite not hav­ing even a sin­gle waste pro­cess­ing unit. The city, at present, dumps al­most its en­tire waste— over 1,000 tonnes per day—with­out any treat­ment. It has com­mis­sioned a Waste to En­ergy plant with a ca­pac­ity of 1,000 tpd. “As re­ported by the In­dore Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion, around 200 tonnes per day of the ex­ist­ing land­fill waste is be­ing han­dled by a pri­vate com­pany. How­ever, there is no treat­ment of the daily waste that is gen­er­ated,” says the spcb of­fi­cial.

Mean­while Panaji, which ranks 90th, re­ceived a score of 157 de­spite its “five-point seg­re­ga­tion model”. House­holds seg­re­gate waste at source into five dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories, wet waste is com­posted by the Res­i­dents’ Wel­fare As­so­ci­a­tions and the dry re­cy­clable waste is fur­ther seg­re­gated into 30 dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories in a Ma­te­rial Re­cov­ery Fa­cil­ity. This ef­fi­cient sys­tem cost the city 23 points. “The method­ol­ogy says 23 points will be awarded to cities that use plas­tic to make roads. But we send it to in­dus­try, which is bet­ter. We are able to do it be­cause we seg­re­gate our waste prop­erly,” says a se­nior of­fi­cial from the Panaji mu­nic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tion.

In fact, not a sin­gle Ker­ala city fea­tures in the top 250, de­spite the fact that most process the wet waste at the com­mu­nity level. “The state is push­ing for treat­ment at source. As a re­sult, we have been given scores as low as 9 points for pro­cess­ing and dis­posal,” says V Nikhilesh Paliath, a lo­cal ac­tivist ad­vo­cat­ing for green pro­to­cols in the state. The rank­ing sys­tem favours cities that first col­lect mixed waste and then spend a for­tune segregating and pro­cess­ing it at the se­condary level over cities which seg­re­gate and process at the com­mu­nity level.

What should have been adopted: The method­ol­ogy should have ideally adopted a par­a­digm that in­cen­tivised cities with the refuse, re­use, re­cy­cle, re­cover and re­duce ap­proach. There is also no men­tion of the in­for­mal sec­tor, which plays an im­por­tant role in re­cy­cling. “Over 60 per cent of the re­cy­clable waste is man­aged by the in­for­mal sec­tor,” says Shashi Pan­dit, All In­dia Kabadi Ma­j­door Ma­hasangh.

The rank­ing sys­tem should also have dis­cour­aged the use of land­fills, which is the least pre­ferred op­tion, ac­cord­ing to the swm rules. Still over 90 per cent of In­dian cities with func­tional col­lec­tion sys­tems dis­pose their waste in land­fills that are usu­ally un­san­i­tary, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­tral Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Board.

Prob­lems galore

The method­ol­ogy awards 90 points for ca­pac­ity build­ing and be­hav­iour change, which is mon­i­tored by the num­ber and size of hoard­ings put up to sen­si­tise peo­ple about

SADIA SO­HAIL / CSE The Surat mu­nic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tion, which is ranked the 4th clean­est city in the coun­try, col­lects and trans­ports mixed waste

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