Venkaiah Naidu’s cleanest cities flouting govt norms

During a Facebook live broadcast on Friday, doubts were raised over the cleanest cities ranked by the Urban Development Ministry by environmental experts from Centre for Science and Society (CSE)

Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Dhairya Maheshwari

Swachh Survekshan 2017, the government survey that ranked 500 cities for their cleanliness, has come under a cloud for its flawed methodology, in giving more weightage to cities with environmentally unsustainable practises over those with more ‘sustainable’ and ‘robust waste disposal’ models.

“The maximum weightage in the cleanliness rankings has been given to waste collection, without any regard to segregation,” said Swati Singh Sambyal, the waste management expert at environmental non-profit Centre for Science and Society (CSE), during a Facebook live broadcast on Friday.

She complained that the government rankings were promoting a centralised model of waste disposal against the decentralised approach.

Sambyal said that the top 3 cities on the cleanliness rankings—Indore, Bhopal and Vishakapatnam—had poor segregation models, while cities encouraging segregation at domestic level—such as Alapuzha in Kerala and Panjim in Goa—fared poorly.

“Even though Indore may have clean streets without a speck of dust, most of its waste goes unsegregated to a landfill site,” the CSE expert said.

Flouting environmental rules

Sambyal pointed out that the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Rules, 2016, stipulate that waste has to be segregated—into solid, dry and waste—at the household level. “The Rules also say that landfills should be the least preferred option of waste disposal,” she said.

Sambyal said that, through the cleanliness rankings, the government was encouraging the use of landfills and unsegregated waste management over more environment friendly methods, such as segregating waste at the domestic level.

“Indore is not composting its waste at all. Most of the waste generated in the city is dumped in the landfill without proper segregation,” Sambyal said.

She said that just five Indian cities out of top 100 would stack up against international standards of cleanliness. Many of India’s cleanest cities were also found flouting solid waste management rules of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

“Cities like Alapuzha (ranked 380th) and Panjim (ranked 90th) feature nowhere in our top clean cities, though both have dynamic models of waste management that comply with the MSW Rules,” Sambyal said.

Health hazards

Talking to National Herald, Sambyal highlighted that sending unsegregated waste to waste-to-energy plants could also cause health hazards for residents in the vicinity of the plant.

“During a recent trip to Sukhdev Vihar, we found that residents had complaints of asthma and skin diseases. They told us that doctors had advised them to move out from the locality,” she recounted.

Sukhdev Vihar in Delhi lies next to the waste to energy plant in Okhla. The New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) area of the national capital, ranked seventh on cleanliness, sends 80% of its unsegregated waste for incineration to the Okhla facility.

Centre biased towards BJP rules states?

A report in The Hindu pointed out that 23 out of top 50 cleanest cities were in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat—both ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Eight cities on the rankings are in Andhra Pradesh, ruled by a National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ally, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).

Sambyal also said that it wasn’t the right approach to judge all Indian cities by same parameters. “The next cleanliness survey of the government will judge over 4,000 cities for cleanliness. Every city has its different set of issues, which vary with region and population. That’s another reason why the methodology is flawed,” she said.

“The methodology of rankings needs a serious relook,” Sambyal pointed out.

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Published: 12 May 2017, 9:18 PM