Vadodara's residents show that handling garbage hands-on is the best way to beat municipal overload
THROUGH the '80s, Vadodara was known as much for being one of India's fastest-industrialising cities as for its mountainous garbage problem. But the Baroda Citizen's Council (BCC), a local voluntary body, is taking care of the latter. The BCC programme to involve residential colonies in cleaning up their own household junk began as a small experiment in 1992 in Harbhakti Colony, a cluster of 120 families in 58 houses.
The programme's efficacy was accepted in March this year by the Vadodara Municipal Corporation, which acknowledged that it was instrumental in changing the face of Vadodara's busiest commercial thoroughfare, R C Dutt Road. Last month came international recognition when the United States Agency for International Development agreed to fund the project's extension 10-fold to cover 20,000 residences, involving 1 lakh people.
Vadodara's 12-lakh population generates 600 tonnes of garbage daily. Municipal commissioner S K Nanda admits that the financial and institutional capacities of his organisation are falling apart handling 350-400 tonnes of this waste. He agrees with Girdhar Vaswani, BCC executive director, that "solutions had to be sought in alternative schemes based on popular public participation".
The BCC programme involves charging houseowners Rs 20 a month to operate a garbage collection and clearing service. Volunteers like local elders collect this amount and, with managerial expertise provided by the BCC, run units of sweepers and garbage collectors. Says Urvashiben Patel of Harbhakti Colony, "We see to it that the residents use the bins provided by the BCC instead of dumping garbage anywhere."
Ragpickers and garbage collectors are paid Rs 300 to 400 monthly. This thriftiness is made up for by giving them the right to sift recyclable items, supplementing their incomes by 3 to 4 times. Says Nilesh Gianchandani, BCC field officer, "The supplemental income as well as the direct involvement of the residents has meant that the scheme is financially sustainable."
In the face of such self-sufficiency, the city authorities have withdrawn their sweepers and garbage collectors from areas covered by the BCC programme. "This leaves us free to use our infrastructure to transport the garbage to the recycling plant or landfill sites outside the city," says Nanda.
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