With over 5 million people producing over 2,500 tonnes of Solid Waste (SW) daily, it is a very sad statement to make of India’s “Silicon Valley”, Bangalore, that there is no sustainable and coordinated system of primary collection of waste, either from doorsteps or community dustbins. The situation is even more depressing if we consider the fact that disposal of the SW daily is a matter left more to chance than being part of a planned and scientific management effort. The cumulative impact of decades of such neglect on Bangalore’s local environment has thus been very serious.
The consistent public outcry against such abhorrent neglect of a fundamental issue of public health and environmental concern has fuelled various citizens’ campaigns and resulted in several innovative interventions from NGOs and public-spirited individuals. All this because of the almost total lack of a City Level Solid Waste Management System, probably the most potent representation of the level to which administration has collapsed within the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (Bangalore Municipal Corporation, BMP). Even as an increasing quantum of the city’s budget is invested in SW collection and removal, if not management, only a marginal difference in the quality of the local health and environment has been achieved.
In this context the present project was developed on the postulation that very little or no action has been initiated in terms of working with “Pourakarmikas” (PKs, nee “sweepers”), as solid waste workers here are known, in improving SWM interventions in Bangalore. This either in terms of improving their work conditions, or developing their capacities in providing more efficient services for the local communities they serve. Thereby, any step towards improving the efficiency of the SWM interventions would only succeed following an overall improvement of conditions in this sector.
The project entitled “Towards a Sustainable Community Level Solid Waste Management Strategy by way of Empowering Municipal Pourakarmikas in their envisaged new role as Local Solid Waste Managers” was a collaborative initiative of Environment Support Group ®, Bangalore and the Policy Analysis, Development and Review Unit of the United Nations Environment Programme, Kenya. The project was initiated in June 1999 with the co-operation of the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike and was implemented as a Pilot project in the 49B Ward of the Basavanagudi Health Range.
The Project focused on understanding the working and living conditions of the Pourakarmikas and upgrading their skills to the envisaged role of ‘Solid Waste Managers’: an informed and socially aware Municipal Worker who would motivate the local community to engage actively in the joint responsibility of maintaining clean and healthy neighborhoods.