From the Viewsroom

Misguided view of Swachh Bharat

Jinoy Jose P | Updated on January 11, 2018 Published on May 11, 2017

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A survey ranking clean cities applies the wrong metrics



Swachh Survekshan 2017, a survey which ranked 500 cities for their cleanliness, drew flak for allegedly being biased towards BJP-ruled States. It showed that Indore in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh had emerged the cleanest city in the country, followed by Bhopal, and Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. Of the top 50 cities, 23 belong to BJP-ruled MP and Gujarat, and eight are from Andhra Pradesh which is ruled by NDA ally the TDP. At the same time, relatively cleaner cities in Kerala or Goa were pushed down. But there’s also a deeper problem.

As the Centre for Science and Environment points out, the survey’s gives undue weightage to centralised waste management methods such as landfill and waste-to-energy plants, ignoring decentralised approaches such as waste segregation, and recycling and reuse. Evidently, cities that promoted a fairly centralised, top-down approach to waste management were given priority over those that had taken a participatory, decentralised approach.

This is disturbing. For one, such a ranking will encourage unsustainable approaches to waste management. Panjim in Goa and Alappuzha in Kerala advocating decentralised waste management based on household level segregation, recycling and reuse, were ranked low. Alappuzha has an impressive decentralised model lauded by several agencies: it ranks a poor 380 in the survey, while, Surat, which dumps 1,600 tonnes of unsegregated, unprocessed garbage every day in a landfill, is ranked fourth.

All three top cities dump unsegregated waste. They turn a blind eye to the requirements of the Municipal Solid Waste Rules 2016 which direct that waste needs to be segregated into three categories at the household level — wet, dry and domestic hazardous. Further, the Rules stipulate that waste to energy plants should not burn mixed waste. Landfills are the least preferred option. Clearly, the methodology is based on incorrect parameters. The Government would do better to encourage sustainable practices such as segregation at source, and recycle and reuse.

Deputy Editor

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Published on May 11, 2017
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