Thursday, October 1, 2015

What should we call this?

I have not been active as a blogger. One reason is that my pet subjects are now the staple of newspapers. They cover the issues; the pot holes, sad state of our existing footpaths and the non-existing ones . The perennial garbage story. The list is long.

Our nephew who lives in Hong Kong was here to participate in a ceremony 'celebrating 98 years of living' of his grand father.  While we chatted, out of the blue, he said 'I don't think I can get back to living here in India'  and added 'I do not have this temperament for Jugaad'. I had heard this word earlier and had a vague sense of its meaning.

 Jugaad (alternatively Juggaar) is a colloquial Punjabi-Dogri word that can mean an innovative fix or a simple work-around, used for solutions that bend rules, or a resource that can be used as such, or a person who can solve a complicated issue,' We do have a genius for making simple things complicated.  You need to be smart to recognize this talent which is all pervasive. 

Tara's father who was 98 and would have been 99 in a month, felt very tired early in the morning  The doctor came unhurried, checked and advised drips, which she arranged. Another team came to do the needful and one more took the ECG. Appa took it in his stride, a first for him. We were concerned but not frantic.  

By evening the attending doctor advised us to consult a cardiologist. We called an ambulance and were at a hospital in about 20 minutes. Not the one just five minutes away but to another branch which was specially for Cardio patients. We were okay with it as appa was doing fine.

At that hospital, well oiled and smooth, we felt that appa was in good hands. The attending doctor was very comforting. She said that he had a mild heart attack and they could do an angio but considering his age, did not recommend it. We were relieved as he did not want any intervention, not even an oxygen mask and wanted to go home! But Tara convinced him to stay there for the night. She really hoped with some medication he would be fine and cross his 99 and get into his 100th year.

Next morning he had another heart attack, was resuscitated and before we could say 'jack robinson' was on ventilator. This was a different doctor,  young and smart. and when I asked her 'why did you have to do it? We had said no even to an angio!'  She replied that she had a very small window to take a decision, There were legal and ethical issues and she had nothing in writing! I am sure we would have given it in writing if they asked for it. We had clearly said no to intervention! And our earlier conversation led us to believe they would not go aggressive. I still do not know what she meant by ethical issues.

Now we were really worried and feeling guilty. Appa had said he did not want any of this and had protested right there in the hospital.  We had a similar experience when my mother had a heart attack in Bangkok. Before I knew, she was put on a ventilator.  When I asked the doctors 'Why all this for a 87 year old woman?'. They said ' If you bring a patient to the hospital, it is mandatory. Unless the patient has made a will'. While my mother lingered on for almost three weeks, my father-in-law died in a few hours. It seems he was destined to spend one night in a hospital. 

A few things bother me. The ambulance driver wanted a tip. Not the right time to ask, but they do. The crematorium, an old one, was reasonably clean, With tall trees it felt better. As soon as we took the body in it was transferred from the steel stretcher to one made out of bamboo,  Very sensible and thoughtful. Just before they closed the furnace door, the staff gave us a glimpse of the fire consuming the body. A kind of closure! Good gesture! Then a plate  was passed around for tips. Why do they have to do it? 

I was ready to go, a friend reminded me to collect a receipt from the office. The charges are very reasonable. I had to pay Rs 300, But the convention is to pay 500  for the receipt and forget to collect the change. I was told that this was to make sure that the papers are sent to the BBMP without fail.
Then the helpers sort of surrounded me. And their leader demanded Rs 1000 in a loud voice. They had pushed  the trolley into the furnace and had made the bamboo stretcher! They had cleaned the hall after the ceremonies. Anyway we paid him a little less just to prove a point,

I met this leader the next day when I went to collect the ashes. He was a different person. Basically he was a nice sort of guy, but because he was tall and well built he was given the responsibility to make demands and extract as much as he could manage. He said was a contractor with BBMP. I advised him to fix rates for his services so that all arguments could be avoided.  His reaction was to blame the clerk. ' He collects Rs 200 from each of you and pockets it. We get nothing.

Is it all jugaad, seeing opportunity anywhere, anyhow? Jugaad from what I have understood is some type of street smartness. It is spoken of as a much needed quality to succeed, especially in India. I am afraid it has mutated into total dishonesty and has pervaded beyond repair.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

THE Garbage war!

The war waxes and wanes like the moon. This one is about Kumara Park West and East.

 I was pleasantly surprised yesterday
. No darshan of garbage at the front of our house, the designated place by the residents and the paurva karmikas who collects from our houses. We are resigned to seeing the segregation that takes place and the vehicle which comes to pick up! The segregation is not to separate the wet waste from the dry waste as they are supposed to do, but to pick up items of value which can be sold. Then they are mixed up again.

Later I took a walk towards Madhav Nagar about 4 minutes away on google map. But it takes a little longer due to traffic and the STUMBLE for SURE pavements!

The google map shows two green patches from the satellite above, but the ground reality is something else.

I had blogged earlier about the Park at the Kumara Park East how BBMP had occupied the children's playground. to collect and store garbage.

This is in Madhav Nagar, in front of one of our oldest parks. I have played here as a kid!
Notice the trolleys! 

While my friends N S Ramakanth and Meenakshi Bharat soldier along valiantly, I wonder who will take out the garbage that is within us!

What kind of people are we?  We steal a play ground from children to put a garbage collection centre. And we dump broken trolleys in front of another park just ONE MINUTE away. Why are these trolleys dumped there? Could they not have been repaired? Who designed such trolleys, which are a struggle to pull on the roads. And so flimsy that they break in no time?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

An update on the war on garbage.

An update:
Recently there were two events in which N S Ramakanth, aiming at Zero Garbage, went personally to help the organizers of the events and was very successful.

He was happy that at Chitra Santhe where he taught the volunteers on how to take care of the garbage, nothing went from the event to the land fill.

Another was the Vaikunta Ekadasi at the Kote Srinivasa templeI quote from the letter he wrote to the Muzrai commisioner:
 "This year we achieved zero waste management on the Vaikunta Ekadashi day where nearly 1 Lakh devotees had darshan of the lord from morning 3am to 2.30am on the next day. Due to segregation about one rickshaw load that is about 3/4th ton of food waste along with pure paper plates were sent for composting at Jaynagar plant. Next day about half truck load of flowers from temple/lords decoration (about 1.5 tons) also sent to Jayanagar compost plant next day. All this credit should go to CEO and the other temple authorities and last but not the least credit also should go to young and energetic Muzrai Commissioner who gave me full authority to give instructions to the staff. A word of appreciation also should also be given to the local corporator Mr Ganesh who was always ready to help me in carrying out my task."

The letter  also details the many steps  that are to be taken:
To The Muzrai Commissioner.
Sub: Immediate steps to be taken to make Kotai Srinivasa Temple zero waste.
1.    About 8 to 10 baskets should be placed around the temple to preserve all flower rejects and Tulsi leaves. Once in a week every Monday arrangements can be made to send all the reject flowers to Jayanagar compost plant till your plant is ready. 
2.    Prasad distribution - If they use plantain leaves they should be preserved in a separate bin and sent to cows as feed.
3.    On Mondays reject flowers sending to the Jayanagar plant can be arranged through the local corporators to whom the undersigned has already informed.

4.    Some lacunae found at Kotai Srinivasa temple on the Vaikunta Ekadashi day on 1st January 2015 

a.    After the Prasad was distributed at exit sufficient bins with black garbage bags should have been placed at regular intervals along the fencing. Bins can also be chained to the fencing bar so that to avoid theft. 
b.    We had kept one waste picker per shift, from next year we must keep two persons per shift once we have our own composting plant we can send all the waste to the plant.
c.    All reject flowers should also be sent to the compost plant.

Another letter which aims to make all temples in Karnataka adapt zero waste policies :

General procedures to be followed to make all temples in Karnataka a zero waste
1.    Plastic should be banned, instead paper or cloth bag can be utilised. A nominal penalty about Rs.10 can be collected if any violation is found.
2.    Flower/ Fruit/ Coconut vendors around the Temple should also not use plastic bags. Instead cane basket or plastic basket which can be reused should be used. The vendors can charge a nominal refundable deposit which can be returned after the basket is returned, they should be properly regulated by having 2 to 3 home guards posted around the temple. Controlling the shoppers around the temple can be done by the CEO’s in consultation with local corporators and the BBMP authorities. The undersigned is ready to help in this regard.
3.    Type of waste produced in each temple with the waste generated daily/weekly/ monthly and quantity also should be asserting.
4.    Flower rejects and Tulsi thrown out after the pooja also should be quantified weekly/ daily.
5.    Kitchen waste/ food waste / prasadam waste and other organic waste can be measured and quantified.
6.    Disposables like plastic plates/ styrofoam plates/ cups/ donnes should not be used to distribute Prasad or food, instead only decomposable leaf donnes / pure paper plates / areca nut / plantain leaves should be used.
7.    Separate baskets may be placed for depositing used flowers/ Tulsi in temples.
8.    A letter should be written to the local BEO’s to spare some volunteers (NSS or NCC) during special occasions, necessary voluntary badges can be given to them. 
9.    Segregation of dry/ wet organic waste should be made mandatory and separate bins should be placed for the public in different parts of the temple.
10. Arrangements should be made either to compost or convert it to biogas at the earliest. Biogas plants or preferable wherever free food is distributed to the devotees regulary.
Thanks & Regards,

Your Faithfully,
N S Ramakanth
Member SWMRT 
Expert Committee Member BBMP (Nominated by GOK) as per High Court Order
Technical Committee Member DMA
Mobile No:9341250158

Garbage saga. This one shocks. Is this what we are?

Monday, January 5, 2015

In  my previous blog on the 'Garbage Saga', while focusing on one Individual I wrote about the situation in Bengaluru and also about the challenges worldwide. This subject deserves a lot of attention and there are books written about the 'Garabage Challenge'.One such book is at Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash: 

The blog, in a nutshell, was about the well entrenched mafia and the continued effort by a group of very committed  individuals who work at different levels using various means to break this monopoly. They try to educate, motivate, coax and even shame people involved. The latest was to involve the high court by filing a PIL. While we keep our hopes up, the garbage menace continues especially in our area, namely Kumara park.

In our conversation Ramakanth had mentioned about a collection centre near the children's play area in K P East. And I stumbled upon it as I took a walk to the area to see the yearly event, the chitra santhe, the painters market.

The pictures speak for themselves and my question is again, 'What kind of people are we?' We steal space from children's play area to install a Garbage collection centre! But more shocking is the way the play area is maintained. Also my grand son would call it weird, if he discovers that the park next to the play area is locked up after 11 am and is open only in the evening for some reason!

It becomes utterly shocking if you walk a little ahead and turn either left or right. You see the Gandhi Bhavan on the right. I bet Gandhi would have gone on hunger strike if he had seen this abominable play area. And there are two palatial bungalows on the left occupied, if I am right, by the leader of the opposition party and probably a senior minister. I guess there is no need for them to take a walk outside their spacious bungalows and when they are driven by the park they either look away or are otherwise occupied. In any case we all are experts in putting our 'mental' blinkers on when we see such ugly sights!

While it is shame on the people responsible, it is also shame on us that we allow such things to happen and allow it to continue!

 The Dry Waste collection centre 

This end of the playground is dangerous

The so called entrance to the play ground

The play ground before the Dry Waste centre was located in the park. It seems Garbage was ever present near this play ground.

The palatial bungalows about 100 meters are so on the left. Not sure who lives there now. However the article below is an intriguing read.

I quote from the above link: 'Siddaramaiah has chosen to stay at his present bungalow, at Kumara Park East, which was allotted to him after he became the leader of opposition in the legislative assembly during the tenure of the previous government. On Sunday, one could see workers demolishing a part of the compound wall of the bungalow next to Siddaramaiah’s, reportedly to let the CM use both the bungalows.'   Monday, 17 June 2013 

Chandrika said...
Very sad indeed! With all the brain power at our disposal, why can't we Indians come up with a solution to handle the garbage? The even sadder part is that, we humans, are bent upon ruining our own beautiful planet! What a legacy to leave for our children!
Rohini said...
Very sad! What can be done? That is the question.
Raghu said...
The operative line is "What sort of people are we?"This needs analysis.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Bangalore Garbage Saga! A conversation with N S Ramakanth Part II

Part II deals with the group efforts, the involvement of the High Court and expected delaying tactics by the trio. 

Continued as Part II:

To my query about collection centers for dry waste, I was thinking of electronic and batteries and such.  He said there was one in KP East, Out of 198 wards in Bangalore, 170 have dry waste collection centers and about 50% are working, (He said he had been to Dubai recently and saw such centers at Petrol pumps)

Anyway once the garbage is collected from the individual, there are many ways it can be dealt with, but the least desirable option of landfill was the one BBMP chose.  I asked him about the big vans I had seen parked near some BBMP offices. Compactors as he called them were not used to collect garbage from house to house as we see in the developed countries, but they are used to transport garbage to the landfills.

And what he added made me feel good! He said villagers do not allow open lorries to pass through and hence BBMP have fifty compactors and the contractors have forty to transport garbage to these landfills.

And the garbage is being processed and it is thanks to a court order. He said two firms Terra Firma and MSPG  handle 1000 and 500 tons each, Mavalipura about 100-150 tons. These units have to be operated in an isolated place and there are 90 compost plants for Biogas. Dobbespet has one, 50 kms from Bangalore. As you convey garbage further away you pay the contractors for transport.

 However it is good to know that since the infamous days since Bangalore was named a garbage city, there is an attempt to find ways to solve the problems. While the authorities continue to make do with stop- gap solutions. Thanks to a PIL filed by an NGO and seriousness with which the case is taken, there is hope.

I quote from SWMRT:
In July 2012 a PIL was filed by Kavitha Shankar against the Government and the respective departments for failure to comply with the laws under the Environment Protection Act, therefore the case of SWM for the city was moved from the Lok Adalat to the High Court. SWMRT has since then been the core supporters to the petitioner in regards to research, technical knowledge and solutions to frame relevant submissions to the High Court. 

He says there are laws, and all we need is to enforce and implement them. The last one year after the court heard the PIL they have a hearing each month. NSR is very hopeful that all this will change as per court order the decision is now  to decentralize as per committee recommendations. Government will allot land to set up processing centers. He said the aim is to see that Dry waste does not go out! Out of 4000 tons 1000 tons should not go out to landfills. Hopefully the 3 R's  Reuse-Recover-Recycle are applied at these processing centers. That again is a big subject. 

Here is a report which is worth reading to understand the complexities involved. The enormity of the job ahead..

City Statistics
 Area: 800 sq km Population(2008): 78 lakhs Households: 25 lakhs Commercial Properties3.5 lakhs No of Zones: 8 No of Wards: 198 
  Primary Collection (Door to Door collection) ... is performed using pushcarts and auto tippers There are around 11000 pushcarts; 650 auto tippers for Door to Door collection of waste. 
There are about 600 MSW transportation vehicles including Compactors, Tipper Lorries, Dumper placers; Mechanical Sweepers... The waste collected from the households is brought to a common point ie.,... from where the waste is shifted to the treatment sites through compactors; tipper lorries.Segregation at source 10%; ...hence unsegregated waste reaches the processing plants. 
NSR has many wishes which need to be fulfilled:

It should not depend on individuals as then enforcing becomes a problem, it should be a system
Engineers should be made accountable. Unfortunately they have many responsibilities,
 hence SWM is a part-time responsibility, which makes it easy to give excuses and becoming accountable.. DMA is much better, environment officers looking after SWM
Also there is a shortage of 80 engineers.

Citizens are ready –implementing agencies are still not receptive- a change is required
Still things are changing slowly. Thermacol is recycled – Tender coconut is recycled- sugar cane husk is also used. One unit in freedom park

He is also hopeful that the push by PM Narendra Modi for a Swatcha Bharat will help in changing the mind set of the people all across.

Below is a video which covers the subject well. And you see Ramakanth being interviewed!

And finally a TOI report sums it up! Read on if you want to be depressed!
Bangalore city planners don't want a solution to garbage problem

BANGALORE: The city's infamous garbage is raising a stink again. Mandur, one of the city's biggest landfills, has shut the door hard on Bangalore - it's anger evident in Sunday's episode where the residents shooed away the city's development minister and mayor.

Bangalore, the city presided over by three MPs, 29 city MLAs, 198 corporators and a battery of officers in the BBMP, also has a minister to exclusively handle its issues. Yet, the waste problem springs up every quarter.

Why has IT City failed to resolve the garbage crisis? The problem lies in the mindset of the city's planners. Segregation has never been an alternative, rather, it's always been a 'throw-it-in-the- neighbour's yard' attitude.
Landfills cannot be a solid waste solution to a growing city like Bangalore, and Mandur is perhaps the best example to demonstrate this. Until 2005, Mandur village in Hoskote taluk, located around 25km away from Bangalore, was green and healthy. Then, the BBMP signed an agreement with the Mandur gram panchayat to allow garbage dumping in a quarry nearby. The agreement was signed only for a year, but nine years on, the dumping hasn't stopped.

With the agreement, Mandur swapped its famed grape farms, vegetables and seri-culture for a pervasive sickly stench, pollution and ill-health. The unscientific dumping has polluted water bodies, and spawned mosquitoes and stray dogs.

Almost a decade later, there are no solutions for the 1,800 tonnes of garbage that Bangalore generates because there's a ready made dump nearby. Every night, 200 trucks leave the city for Mandur, piled high with waste. Over the years, the mound has grown to a solid 25 lakh tonne garbage mountain.

As the garbage contractor-politician nexus grew stronger, successive BBMP commissioners were forced to toe the line of this strong lobby. When the crisis broke out in 2012, then BBMP commissioner Rajneesh Goyal initiated the campaign of waste segregation. But barely had the initiative taken wing, than he was shunted out. His successor reverted to the old method of dumping in landfills.

As for the 198 corporators, they are clueless about any solution to the city's stinking crisis

Finally I conclude with a few media reports!

Experts Welcome Focus on Solid Waste Management

BBMP Commissioner M Lakshminarayana said ..., `100 crore has been allotted to Bangalore for dealing with the garbage menace. The BBMP will use the amount to set up waste processing units, he said....the financial crisis faced by BBMP will be resolved soon. We can now set up processing units and other facilities for waste disposal,” .....

BBMP Solid Waste Management Expert Committee member N S Ramakanth said the announcement comes as a relief to BBMP, which is facing a financial crunch.
(My cynical mind hopes that it is used well without the leakages we see in most projects!)

A paper by the BBMP commitee 'A future with NO LANDFILLS'
The Expert Committee wishes to submit to the Honorable High Court of Karnataka a short note defining its vision of Zero Waste to landfills, designed to eliminate the practice of sending unlimited trash to landfills and incinerators. The crisis in Bangalore in August 2012, wherein the KSPCB ordered the Mavalipura Landfil to temporarily stop accepting waste to enable site cleanup. 

It is totally a listing the many 'Lacks' in the system. And the recommendations submitted to the High court by BBMP expert committee. One can only hope.

And an act of bravery: When a citizen contests BBMP Chief's claims in the court
Nalini Shekhar, Co- founder of Hasirudala, an NGO that has formalised waste pickers submitted to the court that some of their team members and a resident of an apartment had become the victims of goondaism, in five areas - Whitefield, Marathahalli, Bellandur, HSR Layout and Bannerghatta.

 Nalini told the court that they take two to three months to train the residents how to segregate the waste. She said, “Once we start operating the system, the contractor creates problem.” In one instance, the NGO’s waste collecting vehicle was hi-jacked. She also complained to have received life-threatening calls from the contractors and goondas. On approaching police, they refrained from filing the case, “as an MLA was involved in it,” added Nalini. 
The vehicle was released after negotiations with the contractor, she added.  She informed court that in the past, Hasirudala tried working together with the contractors but their methods of working wouldn't match, hence they could not work together. In this regard, the court asked the State Government Advocate Pratibha R to ask the government how to deal with the rowdy elements in the society.

Karnataka High Court reins Indian Environment Ministry's regressive reforms on waste management:

The segregation of solid waste was prescribed on the basis of the recommendations of the Expert Committee as well as in pursuance of the directions issued by the Supreme Court in more than one case. Accepting the said Rules, it is submitted the authorities throughout the country have spent considerable amount in educating the citizens of this country the need to segregate the waste at source. In Bangalore, sufficient money is spent by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike by way of advertisements in Press, in electronic Media and even by holding public meetings. In fact, to store segregated waste, places are selected in each ward and provision is made for collection of dry waste and removal of dry waste once in three days and transportation of the same. At this juncture of time, without any reason, justification or complaint against this well established system, curiously, in the 2013 Rules, Schedule-II is deleted giving an impression that it is not obligatory any more to segregate the waste at source. It is a clear case of misreading the order. It is in that context, the court wanted to know the reasons.”

The High Court's 24th October order modifies the earlier order of 11th October and allows the Ministry to “...proceed to consider the objections and then prepare yet another draft rules and thereafter they shall place it before the court.” But it has directed that the Ministry “..shall not give effect to 2013 Rules in the light of the observations made above” and without “scrutiny” of the High Court. (Emphasis supplied.)

HC orders BBMP to start nine waste processing units soon

Bangalore, Sep 1, 2014, DHNS:

The Karnataka High Court on Monday directed the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to open garbage processing units at nine places across the City at the earliest. The bench also wanted the BBMP to rope in corporate houses to assist in the upkeep of the City. DH photo

The Karnataka High Court on Monday directed the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to open garbage processing units at nine places across the City at the earliest. .. also wanted the BBMP to rope in corporate houses ......
The commissioner also said ....(Plot) owned by the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), would be handed over to the BBMP .....

When told that this site has been encroached upon and several illegal structures have come up there, the court directed the BBMP and the BDA to clear the encroachment and then take possession of the property.

There you go! While it is frustrating to see way things are moving in Bengaluru, I was happy to see Pune aiming at zero-landfill. Pune is my second home town!

Mar 31, 2014 | From the print edition
Pune aims to become a zero-landfill city by 2015. With .. options like localised biogas plants and composting facilities, .... door-to-door waste collection and segregation, the target does not seem too ambitious. However, the city municipal corporation needs to ensure it does not fall into the trap of easy answers .....

Bengaluru, on the other hand, is forced by a high court order to do what Pune is already doing. But due to shoddy implementation, the city is still drowning in waste. 
Bengaluru is making the right moves in managing waste, but these are foiled by a nexus between contractors and politicians
Arnab Pratim Dutta reports from Pune and Aparna Pallavi from Bengaluru

Here is hoping that the great garbage saga ends with good news and Zero Landfill is a reality.
And  it is interesting to know what is happening else where. The review of the book is an eyeopener. 

Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash  – August 29, 2006 by Elizabeth Royte  (Author)

Out of sight, out of mind ... Into our trash cans go dead batteries, dirty diapers, bygone burritos, broken toys, tattered socks, eight-track cassettes, scratched CDs, banana peels.... But where do these things go next? In a country that consumes and then casts off more and more, what actually happens to the things we throw away? In Garbage Land, acclaimed science writer Elizabeth Royte leads us on the wild adventure that begins once our trash hits the bottom of the can. Along the way, we meet an odor chemist who explains why trash smells so bad; garbage fairies and recycling gurus; neighbors of massive waste dumps; CEOs making fortunes by encouraging waste or encouraging recycling-often both at the same time; scientists trying to revive our most polluted places; fertilizer fanatics and adventurers who kayak amid sewage; paper people, steel people, aluminum people, plastic people, and even a guy who swears by recycling human waste. With a wink and a nod and a tightly clasped nose, Royte takes us on a bizarre cultural tour through slime, stench, and heat-in other words, through the back end of our ever-more supersized lifestyles. By showing us what happens to the things we've "disposed of," Royte reminds us that our decisions about consumption and waste have a very real impact-and that unless we undertake radical change, the garbage we create will always be with us: in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we consume. Radiantly written and boldly reported, Garbage Land is a brilliant exploration into the soiled heart of the American trash can.

No comments: