Villages in Sindagi taluk do not have solid or liquid waste management which results in clogged drains. While villagers complain of lack of proper waste disposal and accumulated waste which brings hosts of mosquito-borne diseases, the authorities blame them for the problem.
By Shalu Chowrasia,
April 06, 2020,
Every morning, with the rising sun in Sindagi taluk, 39 permanent Pourakarmikas press their thumbs on the attendance register at the Taluk Municipal Corporation (TMC) office before taking to the roads to clean. They walk the unpaved roads from their houses, take right from Tipu circle and pass through the morning vegetable bazaar. They stop for tea at a nearby stall, sip it while it is hot, then carry their brooms and baskets on their way to their assigned locations. While vegetables are sold 100 meters away from the TMC office building, adjacent to an open drain full of filthy clogged water and stray pigs, the Pourakarmikas clean the roads near the bus station and other prime locations.
The northern Karnataka taluk generates 12.26 tonnes of waste every day. The Daily Process Report (DPR) shows that an average of about 7.6 tons per day of waste is collected, the collection efficiency being about 65 percent. Vijayalakshmi, who lives near Basaveshwar Circle, said that garbage from her house is collected once a week or once every 15 days.
Rural Sindagi Drowning in Drains
Hygiene, Sanitation, Sewage Treatment Systems and Technology, Swachhta Report 2016 shows that 43.1 percent of households lived in a dwelling unit with no garbage disposal arrangement in Karnataka. In all the 43 Gram Panchayats (GP) of Sindagi Taluk, Grade 1 Secretary in Taluk Panchayat, Ravi Kumar Rathore agreed that there is no strict garbage collection. One waste collection vehicle is assigned to collect waste from all the villages under the GP.
“There are not more than 3-4 villages under every Panchayat. The collector gets a monthly salary of about Rs. 8000. At times it is not enough to sustain his family,” Mr. Rathore said. He added that no Safai Karmacharis or Pourakarmikas are employed in the villages like the urban area of taluk.
In Budehal village, Basavaraj Mural, a farmer, complained about the poor sanitation and waste management facilities in the village. “We are forced to live like this, the drain overflows all the time and we have no choice but to dump the garbage in an open space,” he said. Several other villagers echoed Mural’s grievance and said that if there is a door-to-door waste collection service or even a dustbin, they would be happy to dump their everyday waste there.
Unawareness: Zero Dustbins and Waste Burning
Rajamma, 74, who lives in a ghetto about a kilometre away from the taluk market, dumps waste every day on the road in front of her house adding to the already piled up mixed waste. She said a corporation vehicle comes every other day to collect it from there.
Though the SBM guidelines say that waste should be segregated at source and should be disposed in different dustbins, Sindagi does not have any dustbins. The Taluk Chief Officer, Syed Ahmed, said that tender for the procurement of 500 dustbins has been passed but has not been distributed because of the upcoming elections’ code of conduct. “We are planning to distribute the dustbins by the end of March,” Mr. Ahmed added.
One of the shopkeepers, on the condition of not being named, pointed out that after the pourakarmikas are done collecting and pilling up waste, it stays there for more than an hour until the collection van arrives. “If customers see heaps of waste in front of my shop, they won’t come, so I burn it early in the morning,” he added.
However, Junior Health Inspector, Indumati Manorama, said that the shopkeepers do not understand the implications of burning waste no matter how many times they are made to understand. Officials at the corporation office confirmed that the post of environment officer has been vacant ever since the corporation was established, thus making it difficult for a handful of people managing everything in the area.
A homeless man, who was sleeping on the street wrapped in a shawl, had burnt a small pile of paper and plastic and few twigs to keep him warm in the morning. Ms. Manorama fretfully said it happens every day and that it is difficult to make the people aware about why what they are doing is hazardous to the environment. She said that she alone cannot go on a hunt to stop people burning waste, though she does when she has a team with her. “These people do not listen to a woman, never mind her official position. So, I avoid getting in a conversation or pick up a fight with these kinds of people,” she said.
Unaccountability: Slaughterhouse and Coconut Waste
Five kilometres away from the taluk market, is an area of about two acres which has converted into a bed of chicken feathers. Stray dogs and pigs feed on the discarded waste from the slaughterhouses of Sindagi. The DPR shows that the 12 registered slaughterhouses generate 76 Kg of waste every day.
Irfan, who owns a slaughterhouse near Tipu Circle for two years, said that every day he dumps 30-40 kg of waste from his shop in the same area where on either side of the Hubli-Vijayapur-Gulbarga road, all kinds of carcasses are disposed. According to him, 15-20 quintals of meat are sold in the market daily and around 5-6 quintals of waste are dumped there.
The taluk Chief Officer pointed out they have taken an initiative in the past few months to make sure that the area is cleaned. Syed Ahmed said, “The waste from the slaughterhouses is supposed to be collected in the evening but the collection is not very regular. We are working on it.” He further said that coconut husks and all the waste including waste from slaughterhouses, hotels, and households go to the solid waste management plant.
However, a 48-year-old coconut seller in Ambedkar Circle said that 200 coconut husks remain at the end of every day and that he, and the people he knows, use them as a fuel to heat water. “The corporation does not pay heed to what we are doing to the coconut husks,” he said.
The Kabadiwalas—Where is the Unaccounted Waste Going?
Inefficient Solid Waste Management Plant
The five-acre solid waste management plant which was established in 2011 and then built in phases in the later years is turning out to be a failure. With layers of dust on the machinery and no electricity backup, the plant, which was established to process tonnes of waste and convert it into manure, is now in a state of disrepair.
“We are not really working according to the plan, everything can be recycled from plastic waste to coconut but we are not there yet, it will take time. Dumping of waste is not a problem; not recycling it is a problem,” said Mr. Ahmed.
The open drainage system in the taluk is what makes the situation even worse for the residents. The reporter came across at least five open drains, all of which had pigs oinking in filthy water.
However, an underground drainage system (UGD) project for Sindagi was proposed in 2018 with an estimated amount of Rs. 90 crores. The time period for the completion of the project is 36 months and though it was approved in February 2019, work on it is yet to begin. “We are waiting for an overall plan, as soon as that is done, the work on the project will begin,” Shivakumar Pattanashetty, head of the Bijapur Water Supply and Sewerage Board said.
Experts: Unaware Citizens and Inefficient Staff
Although the UGD project is expected to relieve Sindagi of the waste it is drowning in, experts argue that if there is an execution issue, villagers might have to face inconvenience for months. On the drainage system of Sindagi, Anil Bhaskaran, an urban planner based in Bangalore, pointed out that when people start letting their wastewater onto rainwater drains, it becomes a route for sewage. He said, “Open sewage system is a health hazard and is not advisable.
“What probably has happened in Sindagi is that the open drains which they would have constructed for channelizing rainwater are being used as sewage drains because people are letting out the wastewater from their houses onto the open rainwater drains. So, probably it has become a de-facto sewage system.”
Stressing on the importance of sewage to pass from through a closed channel, Bhaskaran added, “It can lead to diseases like Cholera. From the health and hygiene point of view, the UGD project should be executed as soon as possible.”
Karnataka Water Supply and Drainage Board is in charge of all the districts of Karnataka with regard to drainage and water supply. Bhaskaran added that they periodically tender the projects and complete the task. “In a small village, it can be done in three months, if the agencies that are in charge of executing the project manage it efficiently,” he said.