Densely populated, ever-expanding centers of economic activity—metropolitan cities are the posters of India’s urbanisation dreams and the challenges that come with them. These challenges can often sanitation-linked simply because of the sheer scale that civic bodies need to operate at. If the recently released Swachh Survekshan, a nationwide survey on the conditions of sanitation and cleanliness in 434 cities across the country, is anything to go by, around half of India’s metros seem to be headed in the right path while the other still have a long way to go.
The Swachh Survekshan which has evaluated cities on parameters linked to solid waste management, access to toilets and citizen feedback, unveils a mixed picture for India’s metropolitan cities. While Pune, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Mumbai do fairly well, finding spots in the top 50 cleanest cities, Chennai, Bengaluru and Delhi (North and South) all fall below the 200th rank. Kolkata, of course, was not part of the exercise with West Bengal opting out of the survey.
Based on these results, here is a look at what some of the metros’ civic bodies think needs improvement and their plans for the next year.
Ahmedabad, which is the second best ranking metropolitan city in the country, seems headed in the right direction. The city had been declared open defecation free in October last year and has been working on reducing and managing the solid waste it generates.
“We are disappointed that our ranking is not higher but we continue to be committed to improving our rank and would like to top the list next year,” says Harshadray J Solanki, Director-Solid Waste Management, Amdavad Municipal Corporation.
“We already have great systems in place. The corporation currently collects 4,000 metric tonnes of waste every day. Of this, 1000 metric tonnes are composted at 3 plants in the city and 500 metric tonnes are reused in some way or the other,” he says.
Soon, the city will be able to convert 2000 metric tonnes, which is half of the total waste generated, to energy. Amdavad Municipal Corporation has tied up with two companies for this and expects the plants to become operational in the next nine to ten months.
Additionally, the Corporation plans to improve its door-to-door waste collection system by introducing a GPS-based monitoring system and will only collect segregated dry and wet waste from July onwards.
“Within this year, we will make Ahmedabad a zero waste city,” Mr Solanki tells NDTV.
While Mumbai Metropolitan Region’s Navi Mumbai ranks as one of India’s cleanest coming in at 8th place, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation controlled Greater Mumbai didn’t quite match up coming in at the 29th position. However, in comparison to other metropolitan cities like Chennai, Bengaluru and Delhi, its performance is far better.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation believes that the city’s performance was not what they expected due to the increased competition from other cities and poor public perception.
Kiran Dighavkar, Assistant Commissioner, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, says, “Public feedback remains a major concern for us and we have performed quite poorly here. This is why we want to ramp up citizen engagement. For instance, we plan to encourage citizens to start segregating their waste and want more feedback on their concerns.”
One of the biggest gaps, according to Mr Dighavkar, is the construction of individual household toilets. While being one of the most important aspects of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, this is something Mumbai has been struggling with.
“We have failed to meet the targets in this space. Despite the fact that 60 per cent of Mumbai’s population resides in slums, only 14,000 applications for the construction of household toilets have been received from these areas. Of these, we have only been able to approve 8,000 and 2,000 have been constructed,” says Mr Dighavkar.
The severe shortage of space and sewerage infrastructure poses a huge challenge to constructing individual household toilets. This, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation says, is something they currently are trying to figure out.
Pune performs rather well and is India’s cleanest metropolitan city, according to the Swachh Survekshan. The city which is ranked 13th has 100 per cent door-to-door waste collection and toilets in every household.
“We have been pulled back by our citizen feedback score and we believe that since we are being compared with smaller cities, the competition is a little unfair. Our problems are more nuanced and the challenges are greater,” says Suresh N. Jagtap, Joint Municipal Commissioner, Pune Municipal Corporation talking about the city’s ranking.
Mr Jagtap tells NDTV that the Pune Municipal Corporation will now go back to the drawing board and begin the process of identifying areas where improvements can be made.
“We are going to try raising awareness, perhaps improve our citizen complaint redressal systems. Asides from this, we will continue doing our best to improve waste collection, segregation and improving access to toilets,” he says.
The 43.7 square kilometers area (of Delhi’s total 1,484 square kilometers) controlled by the New Delhi Municipal Council was ranked eighth in the Swachh Survekshan. However, this is only a small part of Delhi. In sharp contrast, other areas in the capital perform quite poorly. East Delhi Municipal Corporation was placed at 196 while the South Delhi Municipal Corporation found a spot on the table at the 202nd position. The worst performer, however, was North Delhi Municipal Corporation which was ranked 279.
“There are a number of unauthorised colonies in Delhi and conducting cleanliness drives or garbage collection drives becomes difficult in those areas. There have been attempts to organise garbage cleaning drives in many unauthorised colonies under the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (North MCD) but not much success has been achieved. We also often run out of funds and are unable to employ or pay sanitation workers,” P.K. Gupta, Commissioner, North Delhi Municipal Corporation tells NDTV.
In terms of toilets, door-to-door waste collection and solid waste management at lot needs to be done if Delhi wants to improve its ranking next year.
“The civic bodies have been meeting with each other to discuss on the areas which need improvement. Construction of toilets, collection of garbage and waste management remain our priorities and we are trying to implement the mission’s objectives in a coordinated manner. Hopefully, Delhi’s rankings will improve next year if the coordinated work continues properly,” says Mr Gupta.
(With inputs from Saptarshi Dutta)