- BMC started a construction debris collection initiative in 2014
- The initiative has not seen many takers in the last three years
- Revised monitoring rules will see random checks being carried out
Are you a Mumbaikar and your house is undergoing construction or repair? Take care to ensure that construction debris is disposed of responsibly, failing to do which will bring you under the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) radar. Fed up with continuous disposal of construction debris on sidewalks and public spaces, the BMC is finalising a revised monitoring system which will ensure that action, including hefty fines will be implemented against those found guilty of disposing debris randomly. Proof has to be shown by people that construction debris originating from their building is being responsibly disposed in a dumping ground or an unused quarry.
Construction debris has been a headache for the BMC. The busiest of India’s metros, construction work in Mumbai is a round the clock affair as construction of new buildings and repairing of old ones is continuous cycle. In 2014, the BMC started a service called Debris on Call. The citizens were provided a number to call, and workers from the BMC would arrive on spot to collect debris and transport it. The service was started from August 2014 and till December 2015, the BMC had collected more than 26,000 metric tonnes of debris, earning a revenue of more than 64 lakhs. Despite the progamme in place, the BMC has struggled to gather enough construction debris over the last year and a half, prompting the civic body to revise its monitoring system of gathering debris.
The debris gathering programme has been in place for nearly three years but the results have not been what we had expected, especially in the last one year. People are inclined to give away the debris to private contractors, who often dump it in any vacant spot they come across. Unless the citizens are not held accountable, this practice will not stop, said A.L. Jarhad, Additional Municipal Commissioner (City), BMC.
Under the revised monitoring conditions, adequate proof will have to be given by a resident who is constructing a new building or repairing an existing one that the debris generated is being given to the civic body for disposal and not to some private contractor. The BMC will also monitor construction sites and carry out random checks to see whether the rules of debris disposal are being followed properly or not. If a person is found guilty of not adhering to the rules, a stop work notice or a fine will be imposed, depending upon the degree of violation.
The BMC has two debris collectors each in 35 wards. The municipal corporation charges Rs 350 per tonne to pick up and transport the debris. Despite the service being around for nearly three years, the BMC receives around 150 calls on an average per month, signaling low awareness among people with regard to the civic body’s debris collection initiatives. But are Mumbaikars solely to blame for the poor response shown by them towards debris collection? Many don’t think so, as they are of the opinion as BMC is equally to blame for not being able to tackle the problem of construction waste for a long time.
The BMC promotes its services related to problems of water, garbage and basic cleanliness, but this is one service which has barely been promoted. Since people are not aware of this, they treat construction waste as like any other waste, handing it down to private collectors and not caring beyond that, said Indra Boothpur, Urban Waste Manager of the NGO Waste Ventures.
But the BMC must get over its institutional flaws if it wishes to see success in tackling construction debris. A flaw in the civic body’s plan is its dependency on a single construction debris processing plant that is planned to come up at a cost of Rs 10 crore. Instead of depending on one plan, the civic body would do better to demarcate land enabling them to set up two three small debris processing plants. Given how BMC is in charge of a large area, handing out the debris collection responsibility of some wards to private contractors may not be a bad idea, as long as the civic body is monitoring them properly.
The BMC anyway has a lot to do so handing out some of its work to private contractors can actually turn out to be beneficial for the corporation in terms of effectiveness. If monitoring is what the BMC wants to do, then monitoring private contractors rather than individual citizens would be more effective, said Mr Boothpur.
The proposed debris recycling plant is supposed to come up at Mulund but the construction for it has just begun, so it will take a few years before the recycling plant can begin functioning. The BMC will also need to improve building a business consciousness around the debris waste. The illegal business related to construction debris has to be stopped, the BMC should step up and ensure that buying and selling of construction debris is at market price. Like municipal solid waste, building a business model around construction debris will ensure that it is regularly collected, sold to the proper authorities for proper price, from where the civic officials can send it for recycling/reuse. Instead of imposing fines, maybe a better idea would be to educate Mumbaikars about BMC’s existent policy on construction debris collection and focus on bringing in a behavioural change, which is the bigger aim of the whole Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
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