BMC declared that Mumbai is generating less garbage; the credit is given to its drives encouraging garbage segregation and recycling, and action against big societies generating more than 100 kg of refuse per day. The average garbage generated in the city per day is 7,200 metric tonne (MT), a reduction of 2,300 MT over the last three years. In June 2015, the city was generating 9,500 MT of garbage per day, as per data from a demonstration made to Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta. It has also claimed that the latest daily average is 600 MT less than the figure for January this year. In June 2017, garbage vans made 2,238 trips to the city’s dumping ground, which has come down to 2,118 in February 2018. Garbage disposal in some of the areas is lacking very badly — in spite of BMC’s claims we can see garbage piles surround Mumbai. From Borivali National park to the west side market, the garbage is not only evident but it has gone unhygienic. If we visit the interiors of suburban areas, we can see mountains of garbage around localities. The vans might have made fewer visits to dumping grounds, but on a serious note, one needs to really think about the piles left unattended on each corner.
Civic body says that action against big societies has helped, agreed. The societies have taken enough effort to segregate the garbage but BMC is still lacking in doing its duty. The private garbage collector of the society dumps all the garbage at one particular place where the entire locality deposits its waste. The place gets overloaded with trash and after a long interval, they get carried to the dump yard; but by that time, the entire area starts stinking and foul spills around.
The city is not generating less garbage; the BMC is not carrying the garbage frequently. Highest income tax paying areas too suffer the same problem! The average garbage generated in the city per day is 7,200 metric tonne (MT), can’t trust the reduction of 2,300 MT over the last three years.
In 2010, The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) decided to impose a fine on people found dumping garbage. If anyone gets caught throwing garbage in a drain they will have to pay anything between Rs 100 and Rs 5,000 as a fine. BMC teams were formed in every ward under the ward officer who would go around the city keeping an eye on offenders. The amount of fine depended on how much garbage an individual dumps. Clean up marshals have been on alert too, but later on they landed up blackmailing and extorting people. The cleanup drive and its marshals remained utter flop and the plastic bags still sunk the city but no one was caught. Some formalities were done to show the numbers. Throwing garbage in the open is not only an offence but it leads to choking of the drains. If drains are choked it will lead to flooding. There is still lack of civic sense in people.
Few months back when Mumbai experienced heavy flooding, many nullahs (drains) pass through thickly populated slums were chocked. Nullahs around pan shops were seen with heavy garbage of pan masala’s waterproof sachets and Gutka’s plastic wraps. Areas like Pila House and Nagpada nullahs were chocked with condoms. Even if the drains are cleaned, garbage from these areas found floating in them the next day. Just plastic bags are not the issue, from chocolate covers to condoms — all those waterproof wrappers are the challenge to Mumbai’s drainage system. Many slums which are situated on drains such as Chamdawadi nullah that passes through the Behrampada slum in Bandra (East) gets choked with garbage that people living in homes near the drain throw in it. You cannot stop them unless and until there is strict vigil. There are many slums on gutters; who do small-scale works throw most of the waste in these drainage pipes. The BMC finds it difficult to clean these drains regularly because most of them are difficult to access because of shanties built around them. The politicians who rule the city and the state of Maharashtra blame it on the weather but they still failed to understand the geographical conditions and drainage issues pertaining to the city.
No one disputes that the island city on the Arabian Sea had more than its share of rainfall recently. Ambitious projects like Metro etc. that have made many ecological compromises. The systematic destruction of about 1,000 acres of the city’s mangrove cover – what’s left, about 5,000 acres, is under threat – has deprived Mumbai of its natural flood-barrier and silt trap. Now rainwater washes silt into the bay, threatening to clog the city’s deep natural harbour. Ecologically unsound decisions have caused huge financial damage. Meanwhile, horror stories abound of urban welfare projects gone terribly awry. Mangroves have been cleared to build golf courses, amusement parks and rubbish dumps. Building construction is planned on thousands acres of salt pan land. In the 16th century, 95 per cent of today’s Mumbai was under water. It’s not just the “no-development zones” that have fallen prey to the frenzy of unplanned building.
Successive state governments have signed off lands reserved for parks on the pretext of housing the poor. In fact, the replacement of low-lying slums with multi-storey buildings has made the city a concrete jungle. Typically, the land, lifting groundwater levels, absorbs 35-40 per cent of rainwater but there are few open spaces left in Mumbai. India has the lowest ratio of open space to people in the world – a mere four acres per 1,000 of population, compared to the global benchmark of 12 acres. In Mumbai, this falls to a paltry 0.2 acres, and after accounting for slums, it diminishes to a measly 0.03 acres.
An unholy nexus between politicians and builders and unfettered development has brought the city to the brink of collapse. Thousands of tonnes of un-cleared rubbish choke the city’s 100-year-old storm water drains, which urgently need an overhaul. And in a city where 88 per cent of commuters use public transport, governments spend a lot on flyovers and a pittance on upgrading creaky trains and buses. If Mumbai’s extraordinary rainfall is warning of global warming and rising sea levels, the city will become an island again, be it with rainwater or seawater. In the next 50 years, the storm drains that carry rainwater out of Mumbai could be bringing sea water in, even at low tide. Storm water drains choked with ubiquitous plastic carry bags are partly responsible for the city’s woes. Mumbai crisis serves as a grim reminder that unless our plastic waste is taken care of, we cannot dream to emulate Shanghai.
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