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Swachh Survekshan 2017: Why Did The Nation’s Capital Delhi Fare Poorly In Swachh Rankings?

The total amount sanctioned to Delhi under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is Rs. 360 crores, of which Rs. 139 crores have already been received by the Delhi civic bodies

  • The three municipal zones under MCD fared poorly in the rankings
  • Funds utilisation remains a major problem for the MCD
  • The three civic bodies are meeting to discuss on areas of improvement

The results of Swachh Survekshan 2017, which ranked 434 Indian cities on the basis of waste management, sanitation conditions and overall cleanliness, were made public recently. While states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh have much reason to rejoice, as many cities from these three states made it to the top 50, the performance of Delhi, the nation’s capital was below par. Improper sewage treatment facilities and lack of public toilets has resulted the capital in falling behind Tier-II cities in the rankings.

New Delhi Municipal Council area (NDMC), managed to retain its position in Top 10, slipped to 7th place from its ranking of 4th in 2016. The three other municipal areas under Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), namely the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (North MCD), the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) and the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) ranked 279, 202 and 196 respectively, indicating below par performances on all the parameters of waste collection, management and eradication of open defecation. These three Municipal bodies recently went to the polls and were won by Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) for the third term in a row.

Delhi’s performance is worrisome considering its status as the national capital. But the problems of incorporating the objectives of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan are not new for the city. Even on previous occasions, the civic bodies have failed to improve basic sanitation conditions for the people, despite the Swachh Bharat Mission being in its third year. From lack of funds to erroneous coordination between the civic and other bodies, the reasons for Delhi’s poor performance in the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan are far too many.

Delhi’s Garbage Problem

Delhi produces an estimated 9,000 tonnes of garbage every day, as per data provided by the Department of Environment, Government of Delhi. Despite three new waste-to-energy plants in Delhi, which were setup in the past one year, the collection of garbage from Delhi remains an unresolved concern. The garbage dumps or dhalaos as they are locally known, are cleaned just once daily and at times not even that, resulting in heaps of garbage strewn around. The EDMC’s performance is worst in terms of garbage collection and disposal. Earlier this year in January, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) rapped the civic body over its careless attitude in managing the garbage mess.

Delhi produces an estimated 9,000 tonnes of garbage every day

Delhi produces an estimated 9,000 tonnes of garbage every day

Sanitation workers working for the EDMC have gone on strike five times in the last two years, due to irregular and at times non-payment of salaries. The North Delhi Municipal Corporation (North MCD) in 2016 cited crunch in funds for its inability to employ enough workers for garbage removal. The civic body directed embassies, apartments, shops and restaurants to pay a bin tax so that adequate funds are generate by the civic body for the workers to be paid on time. The civic body’s poor rank in the Swachh Survey shows that it has been inefficient in dealing with garbage.

There are 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 (NDMC) but not much success has been achieved. We also often run out of funds and are unable to employ or pay sanitation workers, said P.K. Gupta, Commissioner, North Delhi Municipal Corporation.

Lack Of Toilets

According to the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), eradication of open defecation has been short of target in Delhi. Despite the Delhi government constructing 7,000 community toilets in 2016 and it is scheduled to build 7,000 more by June 2017, merely 8 household toilets were built till October 2016 against a target of 1.25 lakhs, a glaring indication of the sorry state of affairs when it comes to meeting Swachh Bharat targets.

250 open defecation spots are estimated to be in Delhi

250 open defecation spots are estimated to be in Delhi

The New Delhi Municipal Council estimates that there are more than 250 open defecation spots in the city. Unauthorised colonies, such as the ones in Rohini and Najafgarh lack in public and household toilets. Central Delhi’s Kalibari slum, with a population of more than 1,000 inhabitants has only 14 toilets for usage. This woeful ratio clearly shows that the other civic bodies are yet to successfully sow the seeds of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in the capital. The only bright spot in Delhi’s sanitation underachievement remains the renovation of 4,000 public toilets in 2016 by the Delhi Urban Shelter Development Board. The 42.7 square kilometres of area under the New Delhi Municipal Council remains the only open defecation free zone in the city.

A slide in rankings does not mean that there has been any compromise on our part towards the services that we provide. We have already constructed 330 public toilets in the last year and 63 more are being constructed, said M.S. Sehrawat, Spokesperson, New Delhi Municipal Council.

Lack Of Fund Utilisation And Coordination

Lack of proper utilisation of funds under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has been a problem with several urban bodies across the country and Delhi is no exempt. As per a report titled ‘Delhi Citizens Handbook’ 2016 prepared by the Centre for Civil Society, a Delhi based think tank, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation could not spend any of the Rs. 46 crores allocated to it by the Centre. SDMC utilised only Rs. 7.93 lakhs of the allocated Rs. 31.63 crores. The EDMC also failed to utilise any of the Rs. 41 crores allocated to it. The civic bodies state that they are yet to utilise Central funds properly as they are woefully short of funds which are to be borne by the municipality and unless the respective municipalities have the total funds, work under the Swachh Bharat Mission cannot be begun. The total amount sanctioned to Delhi under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is Rs. 360 crores, of which Rs. 139 crores have already been received by the Delhi civic bodies.

The clauses of the Swachh Bharat Mission state that for civic works, 20 per cent is the Centre’s share and 6 per cent is the state’s share. The rest is to be borne by the municipality. We did not have enough funds to spend on toilets, buying tippers for lifting garbage or suction machines. How are we supposed to start work when we have to bear most of the cost and have no funds? asks Manish Gupta, Commissioner, South Delhi Municipal Corporation.

Coordination between Delhi’s civic bodies and other departments like the Delhi Jal Board are problematic and remain shaky most of the time. The Delhi Jal Board (DJB) is responsible for providing sewerage facilities to households under the MCD area of operation, while NDMC and Delhi Cantonment Board provide sewerage facilities in their respective areas. This complicated municipal setup has not helped Delhi much as often coordination between MCD and DJB with regard to sewerage is stuck in blame games, red tape and bureaucratic delays.

The sewerage systems in the MCD zones are the Delhi Jal Board’s responsibility. Sewerage and its treatment are integral part of the Swachh Bharat mission but since it is not our responsibility, we cannot interfere on that front, said Mr. Gupta.

Looking Ahead

To better its rankings among cities in the future, Delhi’s civic bodies need to begin proper utilisation of allocated funds and stress on individual household toilet construction, garbage collection and treatment. The landfill at Ghazipur, where a majority of Delhi’s waste goes, has become a mountain of trash, and unless the civic bodies come up with new waste management and recycling techniques, the city itself will become a garbage dump.

With regard to toilets, the civic bodies need to speed up the process of eradication of open defecation, especially in Delhi’s unauthorised colonies and slums. The civic bodies of Delhi also launched a massive campaign in April 2017 to eradicate open defecation once and for all from the heart of the city. SDMC will clean 2,000 urinals and build 700 public toilets by September 2017. The North Delhi Municipal Corporation also plans to launch a two-month long sanitation drive that would undertake renovation of the public toilets under its 6 zones. The success of such campaigns will ensure a cleaner Delhi and better rankings among its urban contemporaries in India.

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, said P K Gupta.

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