Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has made many Indian cities aware of the importance of hygiene and cleanliness. According to the latest ranking by Swachh Survekshan 2020, Mysore, the city of palaces, won the award for India’s Cleanest Medium City, and Ambikapur, a small town of Chhattisgarh, achieved the title of India’s Cleanest City in the 1 – 10 lakh population category. This was possible not only because of the initiatives made by the governments of Karnataka and Chhattisgarh but it also involved the active participation of the public, which is an essential part for the betterment of any city’s sanitation standards
Mysore, earlier known for its palaces and rich heritage of maharajas, is now known to be one of the cleanest cities in India. The credit for Mysore’s success in the Swachh Survekshan goes to the early planners and occupants of the city – the kingdoms led by Maharajas. For over a hundred years, the city has a steady supply of clean water, wide roads, and an excellently planned underground drainage system. A sewage treatment plant was set up in Mysore by the City Improvement Trust Board in 1910. The excellent infrastructure given to the city by its ancestors, coupled with the policies of the Government of Karnataka, worked to keep the city’s legacy of being one of the cleanest cities in India intact.
With a population of approximately one million and a large number of tourists from all around the world, Mysore naturally produces a large amount of solid waste on a daily basis. Thanks to Mysore City Corporation (MCC), the city has a waste management system in place that produces zero waste. The corporation has established nine zero-waste management units which are responsible for treating half of the city’s waste. In addition to this, MCC has set up 47 material recovery facilities across the city. More than 2,000 MCC workers work relentlessly to collect, segregate, transport the garbage and sweep the streets every morning. As a result of public awareness campaigns organised by the MCC, 80 per cent of all households in Mysore segregate their waste into red and blue bins. The vegetable waste is sent as feed for stray cattle and the rest of the organic waste is sent to processing plants for producing organic manure.
MCC also uses technology in a smart and practical way to assist in the waste management system of the city. Using technology, the corporation actively tracks garbage collection and disposal vehicles and regularly checks for problems that they might be facing. The Indian Institute of Technology is also developing a software solely for MCC which will help garbage vehicles in keeping a track of their destination, the areas they need to cover for the day and the time they have left to cover them. Residents of Mysore can also use a mobile application called ‘SWACCHATA’ for recording negligence in cleanliness and/or sanitation services or if they find another resident is found violating a law.
However, technology is futile without active public participation. In the case of Mysore, the people actively participated in the initiatives taken by the government and cooperated with the MCC. Many non-governmental organisations started campaigns to address the issue of cleanliness. Institutions such as the Sri Ramakrishna Ashram also conducted a street cleaning drive every Sunday for forty weeks so that the mission successfully becomes a mass movement. Educational institutions and small groups of students also participated diligently in the mission of cleaning and spreading awareness about this mass movement. A number of companies based in Mysore also contributed to making the city clean by developing devices to segregate waste and to convert the biodegradable waste into manure or biogas.
Mysore City has earned the reputation of one of the cleanest cities because of the combined efforts of the Government of Karnataka, the Mysore City Corporation and the people of the Mysore. Through a well-oiled, systematic waste management, MCC has saved approximately `14-15 crore per annum. The corporation is still working to implement a complete ban on use of plastic anywhere in the city. With the successful implementation of the plastic ban in the near future, Mysore aims to become the first no-plastic city of the country too.
Ambikapur, a small city in Chhattisgarh, has turned its waste into wealth. The progress of the city in the last 5-6 years has been commendable and has helped in transforming the small city completely. One of the most visible changes to the city’s infrastructure has been the removal of the large waste dumping site, located adjacent to the city’s entry.
The initiative to make this city clean was first made by Ritu Sain, a 2003-batch IAS officer. As the newly appointed Collector of the Surguja District in Chhattisgarh, her first mission was to clean up the city under her jurisdiction. One of her most advantageous and successful initiatives was to adopt a model of circular economy, because of which the city is now a ‘zero-waste society’. In a circular economy, waste is renewed and turned into something useful, which may or may not be used for other purposes too. In this way, waste remains inside the loop and chances of pollution and waste production are eliminated. Like many towns in India, Ambikapur too encountered the issue of improper segregation, collection and disposal of solid waste. Through a successful solid liquid resource management (SLRM) model, it is now a landfill-free city. There are 17 SLRM centres in Ambikapur and each has to two e-rickshaws. These e-rickshaws are required to collect waste from over 600 households in the neighbourhood of the SLRM centre.
The SLRM model has not only helped in changing the city’s landscape but has also helped a large number of women in becoming economically self-sufficient. The city’s corporation employs over 600 women for ensuring that the city remains clean. In addition to this, the corporation has also collaborated with self-help groups consisting of 500 female workers and 123 supervisors to help in the various cleanliness initiatives that the city is undertaking. The women are initially trained for 15 days and are then divided into three groups – one for waste collection, one for segregation and one for disposal.
The SLRM project also demanded a behavioural change in the people of Ambikapur, hence Information, Education and Communication (IEC) was very necessary. The Municipal Corporation Ambikapur (MCA) distributed red and green garbage bins to make people aware of the importance of proper waste segregation before they dispose of it. MCA also organised awareness campaigns in schools to sensitize children about the importance of cleanliness.
Through CCTV cameras installed at every SLRM Centre, the process of waste management is monitored continuously. An android app is also installed in the head office of the corporation. The workers who collect the beneficiary fee from the houses carry a device comprising a touchpad and a mini printer. In order to ensure transparency between the people and the MCA, the worker prints an electronically generated receipt immediately and hands it over to the respective citizen. This helps the corporation in keeping a record of all transactions electronically.
The stories of both Mysore and Ambikapur, although lesser-known, are inspiring. Both the cities have shown that the most important factors in achieving a goal are the will to work and proper coordination between all the stakeholders. The experiences of Mysore and Ambikapur have useful learnings to offer for other cities and to enable India to realize the dreams of a Swachh Bharat.