By Anna Lynn Tom
The Margao Municipal Corporation (MMC) has recently announced that it is considering outsourcing the waste collection process. This comes after almost half a decade of waste management efforts that have mostly gone in vain.
A place called Sonsoddo in Margao has a huge garbage dump, accumulated over 40 years.
In 2012, a solid waste management plant was started in Sonsoddo in 2012 by a public-private venture called “Fomanto Green.”
When the presence of toxic metals was confirmed, it was suggested that the garbage dump be capped as per the Municipal Solid Waste rules 2000. Capping a garbage dump means to place a set of pre-determined layers over a contaminated area containing waste, according to the extent of toxicity of waste, usually containing accumulated waste.
The beginnings of the programme
The Waste Management plan began showing signs of a laid-back approach starting from here. The scientific capping project awaited approval from authorities. Several reasons like the amount of expenditure involved, the State’s low land holding, and the low quality of mixed garbage content in the dump area were stated as reasons for inconclusive endings towards the capping.
Around this time, in September 2013, Clean India Journal reported on the MMC’s initiative to spread awareness about waste segregation. A door-to-door waste collection programme was also implemented. All households were provided two bins and council workers were to collect them. Each ward was allocated 30 workers for maintenance purposes. Adding to this – Awareness programmes, cleanliness initiatives, “Chalo School Abhiyaan” programmes in schools, alternate waste treatment technology to convert wet wastes into manure, and promotion of clean and green areas for tourists –were also carried out.
However, all of these programmes started running into trouble early on. Herald – the voice of Goa, reported the ineffective collection of door-to-door wastes in the wards of Agalli. There were disputes between officials of different wards regarding implementation schedules and priorities given to selected wards. The collection drive was ended prematurely.
A few months later, The Herald reported that the MMC failed to hand over the plastic waste to the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) contractor. The GSPCB refused to accept wastes for treatment on account that there was improper segregation of waste at source. The wastes were not disposed of and the landfill started accumulating further waste. The GSPCB Chairman was quoted saying, “We have refused to accept the MMC dry waste since it is all mixed waste.”
In 2015, matters appeared to take a turn for the better, with the Goa State Urban Development Agency (GSUDA) offering to help with resources (more waste bins), and financial support. Emphasis was laid on segregating the wastes at source. But remember the previously mentioned efforts to cap the landfill? That went undone, and for the first time in six years, the landfill remained uncovered during the monsoons. Thus discharge from the dump drained into the storm water drains, thereby posing serious health risks. This, in turn, agitated many of the residents into taking up the issue with the carelessness of the Margao Municipal Corporation. It cited lack of funds and refusal of taking up tender as reasons for failure to cap the landfill. A local online site, Goa streets reported a resident – Antonnette Coutinho saying, “During rainy season, lots of flies in the house…..food is unhygienic….it has contaminated groundwater.”
In 2016, little had changed. Efforts were still being made by floating tenders to contractors to take up the project. Even though large amounts of money were reportedly being spent by the MMC – nearly 11 lakh for capping, 17 lakh for consultation fees, and another 8 lakh for previous unsuccessful capping attempts. In yet another attempt, Goacom reported that the MMC would begin its door-to-door waste collection anew.
Chairperson of the MMC, Dr. Bbaita Prabhudesai appeared confident it would work this time, with infrastructural help promised by Director of Municipal Administration and emphasis laid on segregation at source. But again, matters came back to square one with workers failing to turn up at the houses. The Goan reported that these issues were once again the result of disputes and arguments regarding financial and protocol matters in civic levels.
This brings us to the end of the cycle of errors – the MMC is now considering outsourcing door-to-door waste collection.
Studying this carefully shows us the inefficiency of civic bodies with respect to dealing with planning, executing, and handling of financial funds.
It also throws light on the inability of officials at different levels, within and outside organisations to work effectively for the betterment of the State. Owing to the discrepancy in the system, citizens and the environment has to pay a heavy price. Margao, being a popular host to tourists from around the world, has to buck up, before it is too late to save itself from being wasted.