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Citizens And Waste

Good waste management necessary for environment, public health and power

AFTER most of their efforts to prevent dumping of solid waste by roadsides in Margao failed the Margao Municipal Council has launched an initiative to collect information of violators through photos or video recordings. The initiative is on the lines of the traffic sentinel scheme launched by the state police which encourages citizens to capture photos and videos of violations and send it to a designated WhatsApp number. Any citizen who reports a violation of illegal waste dumping would be paid Rs 1,000 and the person committing the offence would have to pay a fine of Rs 5,000. The Margao Municipal Council officials have no doubt the new initiative is legally valid. In case a person challenges in a court of law the photographic or video evidence of his violation for which he has to pay fine the sentinel would need to testify in the court to prove the authenticity. The sentinel scheme is a last resort of the Margao Municipal Council. Dumping of waste and the Sonsoddo site in Margao have attracted newspaper headlines, placing the Margao Municipal Council in the dock for terrible waste management. The Margao Municipal Council has taken a bold step; other city councils should also adopt the sentinel scheme.

For decades the state has faced problems of waste collection, management and disposal, and most of the initiatives have failed to yield the desired results. With increasing population solid waste generation has increased, and local bodies are finding it difficult to manage it. Most of the local bodies have set up mechanisms for collection of waste at doorstep, but a number of people do not cooperate with them and instead dump the waste generated in their homes by the side of  roads in the vicinity. In all cities waste dumps can be seen in many places.  Even though the Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) has set up a system of collection of segregated waste, dumps can be seen in several places. However, the problem is not only irresponsibility of citizens but also the irresponsibility of CCP’s mayor and officers and the workers who come to collect waste from apartment buildings or colonies. The vehicles and workers are not regular.

Poor waste management not only mars the beauty of Goa but, at a more serious level, causes damage to the environment and public health. The problem is bound to be compounded in the years ahead as the state sees further rise in its population leading to more waste generation. Despite the state notifying a stricter regime to deal with solid waste there does not seem to be a corresponding improvement in solid waste management. Although new rules empower local bodies to charge for waste collection and disposal along with taking fines on the spot for littering, these rules have been hardly used to put fear in the minds of the irresponsible citizens. Prosecution of people for offences under the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016 could have served as deterrence to people who wantonly and fearlessly litter roadsides, open spaces, playgrounds and markets.

The municipalities and panchayats have no more room to delay setting up a chain of robust systems for waste segregation, waste collection, waste management and waste recycling. The waste can be used to generate power. In Hong Kong and Singapore solid waste is burnt to generate electricity round the clock. Goa could also generate power from its waste and supply it to domestic or commercial consumers. Waste can be useful in many other ways. It can be used as manure for local agriculture. The key to best uses of waste lies in its segregation at the collection point. The heads of municipalities and panchayats must go out of way to compel people to segregate waste. Segregated waste will make it easier for them to dispose waste. Misgivings about solid waste disposal facilities becoming health hazards can be taken care of by choosing sites far away from residential areas and by creating public awareness through strings of campaigns using the local representatives of people, doctors and eminent local citizens of there being little basis for fear of health hazards.

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