|Garbage is seen being burnt in the refusebin instead of being collected and disposed by PMC on B T Kawde Road
Burning garbage — this is a common sight that greets Punekars in the mornings across the city. But what is appalling is that the fire is set by the people entrusted with the job of removing the garbage — employees of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC).
The matter has burgeoned so out of control that irate citizens have now rallied together and taken up the issue with the civic body. In response, PMC officials say that they had instructed its ward offices to act strictly against the errant workers. But moving a step further, the civic body is also proposing to fine (anywhere between Rs 100 and Rs 1,000) citizens caught committing similar offense.
Currently, citizens who have nosed around to get to the story behind the flaming garbage dumps and vats, found that it is the handiwork of PMC workers who fail to report to work on time. As a result, they miss the collection trucks that do the rounds between 6.30 am and 11.30 am.
Failing to collect the trash in their wards, the garbage collectors have devised this method to cover their backs. Clearly, the solid waste management department has been unable to discipline its workers and all its efforts so far have only worked against the job at hand.
“Traditionally, the practice has been to penalise workers reporting in late by sending them back, ensuring they lose the day’s pay,” said Suresh Jagtap, Joint Municipal Commissioner (Solid Waste Management), PMC. However, this left many of the ward offices without adequate hands to do the job.
“In the last six months, some of the ward sanitation supervisors have been allowing the workers to go about their duties whenever they turn up,” said Susan Raj, a resident of Wanowrie who has been spearheading the group of complainants from her neighbourhood.
“In fact, in some garbage collection and segregation centres (called kothis) we found the supervisor himself turning up late, while the workers waited to be assigned,” she added. “In our locality, I have often seen residents, shop owners or even garage owners clean their premises and then burn the garbage out in the streets,” pointed out G G Jagat, a resident of Kondhwa.
“This is an offensive practice and strict action should be taken against the offenders. On the other hand, to see PMC workers also engage in similar activity is most distressing,” he observed. “The best way to stop this practice is to create public awareness about hazards caused by garbage burning or why segregation of waste is necessary.
We have started sending emails to all our contacts about the same and asking for suggestions and solutions,” said Shyamala Desai, a resident of Model Colony and a member of National Society for Clean Cities (NSCC). “Burning solid waste in open areas can lead to serious health issues like cancer because the smoke contains chemicals like dioxin and furan.
It is even more hazardous in winters as the smog created by smoke can cause or aggravate health problems such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory problems as well as eye irritation and reduced resistance to colds and lung infections. PMC should take strict actions against the offenders,” said Dr Sandeep Joshi, head of city-based NGO Shrishti Eco Research Project (SERI).
“I have received a few complaints from residents of Wanowrie, Kondhwa and Model colony about the issue of garbage burning. I have asked the respective ward officers to take strict action against the irresponsible employees. But most of the times, it is the sweepers who collect the leaves in small quantities and burn them. We will penalise them too,” Jagtap explained.
“We have also forwarded a proposal to be taken up at the general body meeting, to empower us to penalise citizens for burning garbage and not segregating the household waste into dry waste, wet waste and recyclable waste.”
“Till now, we have been charging people a minimal Rs 10-50 for violating the norms but if the proposal is passed, the amount will be anywhere between Rs 100 and Rs 1,000 depending on the gravity of the offence.
But for this we need co-operation from the citizens too as our employees cannot monitor these activities throughout the day,” Jagtap urged.
► At some collection and segregation centres we found the supervisor turning up late, while workers waited to be assigned
- Susan Raj, Wanowrie resident
► “In our locality, I have often seen residents, shop owners or even garage owners clean their premises and then burn the garbage out in the streets. This is an offensive practice and strict action should be taken against the offenders.”
- G G Jagat, Resident of Kondhwa