In­dia Taps So­cial Me­dia To Take Out the Trash

En­vi­ron­ment ▶ Or­di­nary cit­i­zens use cam­era phones to re­port il­le­gal garbage ▶ “Our cities are very large, and most … are short-staffed”

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - Global Economics -

A con­cerned cit­i­zen in a large In­dian city takes a pic­ture with her cell phone of a garbage bag, brim­ming with refuse and il­le­gally dumped on the street. She then sends it to the garbage police by us­ing What­sapp. Khaki-clad cops jump in their ve­hi­cles, rush over, find the vi­o­la­tor, and or­der a cleanup. If the cul­prit isn’t present, a mu­nic­i­pal­pal crew does the job. City of­fi­cials fine ne the of­fend­ers if they can find themm and maybe re­ward the whistle­blow­er­wer as well.

That’s what’s hap­penin­gen­ing in some of In­dia’s ma­jor mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. cipal­i­ties. “Tech­nol­ogy-driven ini­tiani­tia­tives such as this What­sappt­sapp helpline can help build daa bridge be­tween the city ty au­thor­i­ties and the cit­i­zens,” says Babasa­heb Ra­jale, who was deputy ty mu­nic­i­pal com­mis­sioner in charge of solid id waste man­age­ment for Navi Mum­bai (a sub­urb of Mum­bai) and had five of­fi­cers field­ing garbage com­plaints on What­sapp. In March he moved to an­other gov­ern­ment job.

“With­out cit­i­zen par­tic­i­pa­tion, these prob­lems can’t be solved,” says Arindam Guha, a Kolkata-based part­ner at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu In­dia. “Our cities are very large, and most mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are short-staffed.”

The Delhi state gov­ern­ment launched an app called Swachh Delhi, or Clean Delhi, in Novem­ber for peo­ple to upload photos of il­le­gally dumped garbage. An­other Delhi gov­ern­ment depart­ment is seek­ing What­sapp re­ports to stop peo­ple from burn­ing waste to keep warm in the win­ter, a prac­tice that wors­ens what’s al­ready the world’s worst air pol­lu­tion.

In Bi­har, the state gov­ern­ment is try­ing to clean up the cap­i­tal Patna— ranked among the four dirt­i­est cities in In­dia in a 2016 na­tion­wide gov­ern­ment sur­vey—with Apna Patna, or My Patna app, which al­lows cit­i­zens to re­port vi­o­la­tions in­clud­ing lit­ter, bro­ken streetligh­ts, flood­ing, dead an­i­mals, and il­le­gal con­struc­tion.

Navi Mum­bai’s What­sapp ini­tia­tive de­ploys two Nui­sance De­tec­tion Squad jeeps to en­force no-lit­ter­ing statutes from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and re­spond to What­sapp tips—more than 300 since the pro­gram’s start in Jan­uary. Vi­o­la­tors can be fined 100 ru­pees ($1.50) for the first of­fense and 250 ru­pees there­after, though the cul­prits can’t al­ways be found, Ra­jale says. The rel­a­tively small fines are de­signed to em­bar­rass vi­o­la­tors into be­hav­ing more re­spon­si­bly.

The pro­gram fol­lows a sim­i­lar ex­per­i­ment that an­other gov­ern­ment agency in the city started in Oc­to­ber to stop the du dump­ing of con­struc­tion de­bris. That kindk of il­le­gal scrap­ping of used build­ing­buil ma­te­ri­als has been cut in half sinces then, ac­cord­ing to the age agency.

Two ve­hi­cles, called F Fly­ing De­bris Squads, pa pa­trol Navi Mum­bai precin cincts around the clock to ca catch truck­ers, mostly from th the con­struc­tion in­dus­try, du dump­ing rub­bish ei­ther withou with­out a per­mit or in off-lim­its area ar­eas such as the man­grove swam swamps that bor­der the city. Cit­i­zens can re­ceive a 1,000-ru­pee cash prize each time they re­port truck­ers vi­o­lat­ing the law, ac­cord­ing to Ankush Cha­van, a se­nior of­fi­cial at the city agency. Vi­o­la­tors face con­fis­ca­tion of the truck, un­less they pay a fine of as much as 30,000 ru­pees. More than 60 trucks have been con­fis­cated so far, with fines to­tal­ing 1.34 mil­lion ru­pees. “Mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials can’t be ev­ery­where,” says Cha­van. “Why not have cit­i­zens act as our eyes and ears?” �Bhuma Shri­vas­tava and Anto Antony

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­draNa Modi has made

clean­erc cities a pri­or­ity The bot­tom line In­dian cities have found a new way to keep streets cleaner and con­struc­tion de­bris con­tained: cit­i­zens and their cell phones.

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