Monday, December 15, 2014

'Segregation is the real solution for managing garbage' says N S Ramakanth

My earlier blog said 'A crisis as usual in Bengaluru. If only we had listened to N S Ramakanth and others like him!' 

I never imagined when I moved to Bengaluru that I would be given an annoying morning darshan (view) of garbage dumped right opposite our home. Garbage is moved from here about twice a week to the railway parallel road. It is convenient to spread the garbage on that road to enable laborers to pick pieces of value(!) from it . It is then moved and dumped someplace in the outskirts. Or often it is just burnt on the road early in the morning!  When I grumbled  about it to my friends, they advised 'talk to someone who can change the location'!

My morning darshan. You might say 'Don't look!'  We do learn to put our blinkers on!
I had no idea or cared  where it was dumped later! But my attitude changed after I saw the video on Mandur ..the condition of the village is shocking! The land fill in Mandur is actually hills and hills of just garbage... wonder why the village leaders accepted so much garbage?    I just cannot envisage living there. 

 My first reaction to the video was one of disgust and anger.  The villagers surely faced serious health problems and loss because of some very thoughtless selfish actions and I felt responsible however indirect.  Unfortunately while we have contributed to their suffering, we do not seem to really bother. While we may individually feel committed to help, as a society we need systems to take care of this humongous task and making our city clean. Also our citizens need to act as a civilized people.  I strongly believe each of one of us in Bengaluru who jointly create 4500 tons of garbage a day need to do better to alleviate this situation.

In any civilized society garbage disposal seems easy for individual homes and are sincerely followed. Indians who have lived abroad are used to garbage collection and follow the rules diligently. Sadly it is not the same in India. 
Courtsey Wikipedia.
A few vehicles specially meant for garbage collection are parked
 at some points in Bengaluru.  I have not seen it at work but and I mean to check!
Things were different earlier and it seemed that garbage management would get better with time. We do have access to technology. But it is obviously not used effectively if you look around you!
We do not see these  dustbins anymore in our locality.
I see women with trolleys collecting garbage. But I continue to see it dumped in front of my house.
I wonder what they really do with the various containers. I am sure it will get clear once I talk to  Ramakanth.

Garbage handling is not simple anymore.  The explosion of all sorts, the population, the plastics, batteries, electronic goods and so on has made it difficult..I remember that the 'Kasada Thotti' (dust bins) did not get filled as much in my younger days. I guess many of us had little gardens and the wet waste was used there. 

We had no plastic bags and we saved the dry waste, mostly news papers diligently. It is true during festival days there would be a lot plantain leaves strewn around the dust bin. It was ugly but anyway the cows would stroll in and take care. In short, places like Mandur were not invaded then.

 Not that there were no dirty localities within the city adjoining the better ones. It is likely the administrators of the city just did not bother to consider them as a part of the city. I remember our mayor N. Keshava staying at a slum in Srirampur to highlight the plight of slum dwellers!

Of the many pictures on line, I liked this best and borrowed it!
To learn more about this problem I went across to meet Ramakanth. And as he spoke, I understood that there are many levels of activity and involvements of many more is necessary. 

  He is constantly speaking, taking workshops, to individuals, apartments owners, schools, hotels, restaurants, marriage halls and even temples. He has also interacted with  government organisations with mixed results.  While his efforts have made an impact and he is happy with his successes he knows a lot more is required to be done. He is particularly happy with New Krishna Bhavan in Malleswaram and many apartment complexes who co-operated with him. (More about it in my next blog!)

The level of importance is quite clear
The picture above illustrates involvement of many in dealing with solid waste management. As I interacted with Ramakanth I also searched the web for more information. Fortunately I came across a blog on line on waste management in India.
 I quote Antonis Mavropoulos:    
 I would say that from a sustainability point of view, the future of waste management in India is an issue with global importance and impacts, rather than a typical national or local aspect. The same is also true about China,...50% is the increase in MSW generated within a decade since 2001...

Within next ten years India will generate a total of 920 million tons of MSW! Almost 91% of it will be landfilled (hopefully) or driven to dumpsites!

Speaking only for the city of Mumbai, open burning of solid wastes and landfill fires emit nearly 22,000 tons of pollutants per year! Open burning was found to be the largest single polluter in Mumbai!  

So where did I find those impressive figures? ... It is at  and I am sure that you will enjoy it.After some days I noticed that Ranjith has uploaded a recent (January 2012) and very well elaborated report with the title “Sustainable Solid Waste Management in India”. ..You can find the whole report at

China also figures in a 2005 study of its situation in solid waste management. 
Introduction: The control of solid waste pollution is an important aspect of environmental protection in China. According to Chinese law, solid waste is classified into three types: industrial solid waste (ISW), municipal solid waste (MSW), and hazardous waste (HW). Along with the recent economic development of China, the quantity of solid waste generated has increased rapidly. This represents a huge challenge for environmental management in China and has exacerbated the problem of solid waste pollution.......
The majority of waste paper, waste metal, waste containers, and waste plastic is separated and sold to private collectors, so the proportion of recoverable materials has not increased.

Many cities have no modern MSW landfill sites because of poor economic conditions, but the MSW produced has to be disposed of every day, so the MSW is dumped at some selected sites. If MSW is dumped at a site appointed by local government, it is called “dumping at an appointed site” and is legal. If MSW is dumped at a site not appointed by the local government, it is called “discharging” and is illegal. Currently, there are 651 disposal facilities for MSW in China, including 528 landfill sites, 78 composting plants, and 45 incineration plants. 2 The majority of incineration plants are located in eastern China. Of the total of 45 incineration plants, 25 are in Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Guangdong, which are the littoral provinces, and possess 80% of the incineration capacity of the whole country. Most composting plants use the static aeration system; dynamic vessel systems with high temperatures are used in about 20% of composting plants. Half of the total 78 composting plants with a capacity of 16000 tons/day are in eastern China.
 Landfill is the main disposal method for MSW in China, but most landfill sites do not satisfy the national pollution standards. .....In addition, there is no landfill gas collection equipment at most landfill sites. Higher requirements have been adopted for newly constructed landfill sites, including being equipped with high density polyethylene (HDPE) geomembrane to prevent leakage, leachate collection and treatment systems, and gas collection and emission systems. These newly constructed landfill sites make up one-third of the total number of land- fill sites. 

There is plenty to read about waste management in the report,  but I would hazard a guess that many positive steps would have been taken to meet the situation in China.

Out of curiosity I checked the website to see how other countries dealt with this situation. In USA waste management is a huge business and one such organisation is covered by wikipedia. The numbers are amazing.
WasteManagement Inc is a Public limited company  with a revenue of US$ 14.4 billion in 2014 with assess at US$ 21.1 billion and had a net income of US$ 953 million and has 43500 employees.. the company has the largest trucking fleet in the waste industry. Together with its competitor Republic Services, Inc, the two handle more than half of all garbage collection in the United States.

I am reminded of a breakfast meeting and an exhibition I attended in feb 2013 at the Freedom Park.
I wrote about it in my blog titled 'A timely wake up call'
...  The Mayor of the city, The commissioner of BBMP, MLA's, many corporators and deeply concerned citizens and members of active organisations were all present at the nashta ( breakfast) and for the deliberations. The task was clear cut, to get Bangalore regain its name as a Garden city and not a garbage city as it is now known world wide! 

 I  hope many initiatives were launched and were followed up and implemented. Regrettably I have not kept track on their progress. However even today there are newspaper reports  about garbage in Bengaluru, hopefully something good will come out of it while you keep your fingers crossed.

Garbage is surely a big business if taken seriously and implemented well. It will make money, save money for the exchequer and Bengaluru will as beautiful as Bangalore was in my child hood days! It will  hopefully stop international media ridiculing us and publishing pictures like below.

But this blog is all about my friend Ramakanth who soldiers on! You call him on cell phone 9341250518 and he will be there.  He takes a bus and even changes buses to arrive at your place. 
I plan to blog separately about his experience and views while you try to look at the bigger global picture.

Ramakanth  says 'volunteers: a large percent  of women' are the source of his success. 

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