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Swachh Bharat needs mass movement

“Cleanliness cannot be achieved through Budget allocation. Behavioural change is the solution. It should become a mass movement” said Prime Minister Modi in his address at the India Sanitation Conference a few weeks ago. He was speaking on the occasion of the second anniversary of India’s flagship Swachh Bharat Mission. This reflects the growing realization that people need to participate more actively in order achieve lasting success in our efforts to clean up our cities. Repeated large investments in equipment and facilities would have only limited impact unless citizens really want clean surrounding and work towards it.

While most efforts have so far been on the waste management side, i.e., how best to collect, transport, store, treat, process and dispose of waste, in our opinion a national movement is called for to prevent the generation of waste in the first place. This calls for behavioural changes.

All groups of citizens need to do their bit; school children, college students, the housewife, the corporate sector and commercial establishments.Children can be powerful agents of change. Parents and teachers must inculcate in them values and sustainable lifestyle choices which promote community hygiene, eschew littering and support reuse and recycling. This could even be built into the Curriculum.Corporates have access to technology, innovation and other resources and must contribute more. How they pack their products for example, can have significant impact on the Mission outcomes. Some eateries serve food in disposable plates and containers even for dine-in clients. One wonders how they get rid of these greasy plates and paper napkins. Landfills? They must find more sustainable ways of going about their business. How manufacturers pack other products of day-to-day use needs to improve by adopting bio-degradable, recyclable and reusable material.

Alongside, there is need to encourage innovation and technology development which can address issues of recycling and reuse. The informal sector comprising rag-pickers among others as well as the formal recycling industry need to be sufficiently incentivized. Products made of recycled material need a favourable taxation regime so that they cost less to buy, and not more, as is often the case now.The street-corner Raddiwala ecosystem is well developed in India and efficiently handles huge quantities of paper waste for recycling. The network can be leveraged to handle other kinds of waste.

ODF the other important component of Swachh Bharat Mission has received much focus. Government and local bodies with support of the corporate sector have built large numbers of public and community toilets. While the ‘Swachhta Status Report 2016’ put out by the NSSOrevealed that the progress on ODF in rural areas has been lagging compared to urban centres, initiatives like the ‘Asli Tarakki’ campaign are expected to help.

In the cover story of this issue, we take stock of the current progress on Swachh Bharat and ODF objectives. Urban Update spoke to Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti on a wide range of issues including the Namami Gange programme. Excerpts are reproduced here. E-waste handling and disposal present significant new challenges. We take a look at the efforts undertaken in Delhi to address this. We also bring you insights of experts on several other relevant issues. We hope this issue will serve to engage all stakeholders and contribute to the realisation of the Mission objectives. We invite our esteemed readers to write in with their views to enable further refine Urban Update and support its efforts to create better cities of tomorrow.

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