Tale of Cities

Festive season has started in India so is the regalia tagged with it. Ganapati visarjan happened few days back followed by Vijaya Dashami. For a change a day after the festival street near my apartment was deserted at the peak evening hour. It was a bliss to walk without the fear of getting hit by speeding vehicle.

Replacing humans on the street was ‘Nirmalya – Offerings of flowers and leaves made to GOD’. These are to be disposed where it would not be stepped on but the street was filled with many such dumps. Earlier people used to immerse it in water bodies and during Ganapati . There were some benefits of such immersions. Few days’ back a message was trending on internet about how disposing of Nirmalya – consisting of grass, Zandu flowers, cleanses water and why people in the past used to immerse it in flowing water.

Benefits apart any biodegradable material can be disposed in a controlled manner in water bodies but with the use of plastic bags to store Nirmalya, water contamination has become a concern now. Such disposal will not benefit or cleanse the water bodies but only choke them.

To avoid festivals becoming environmental hazard people of Pune took some very good initiatives this year. This time the garbage was collected right after the procession and stored in bags or bins to be picked by the municipality on the very same day saving the citizens from the stench. Many organizations came together and helped municipal authorities in collecting the flower and leaf offerings to Ganapati, separately at the immersion site, with a promise to return compost after few days to those who were interested. Hope this will be successful.

Pune city won the award for cleanliness this year. HoweverI feel lot needs to be done. Under ‘Swachcha Bharat’ initiative, lot of streets and public places are cleaned. However the pick-up and disposal of garbage is still a major issue. The locality where I stay is an old, elite and at the city center, yet everyday garbage disposal is a big task for citizen in some zones. Municipal authorities have made waste segregation mandatory and fine failing to do that. However providing separate dustbins on the streets is required. Organic and plastic wastes are separately collected but there is no option for wastes like tube lights, e-waste, and other hazardous materials.

Plastic disposal is a huge menace with street food joints serving eatables on plastic film in the plastic plate to save water. Take-out is again rampantly done in PE transparent bags. Not sure whether the restriction on thinner film is still followed. Is it the lack of awareness or a general apathy?

Pune has few responsible organizations and individuals. Organization called SWACH helps people making compost and also picking up garbage. Adar Poonawala clean city is working in private-public partnership. There is a major plastic waste recycling hub trying to educate people about the benefits of recycling plastics.

There are many other less overt issues just waiting to explode, like e-waste, sanitary waste, hospital and medical waste as well as. In cities like Delhi and Bangalore there are a start-ups buying e-waste along with other waste  from individual homes making it worthwhile for citizens to segregate and collect different wastes.  India needs more start-ups like these in every city. Many of the cities and taluka places in India do not have waste pick-up and disposal systems. Earlier people could take care of wastage because most of it was compostable and the rest could be given to kabadiwala. It’s different now.  There is a variety of wrappings, packaging, discarded electronics and electrical items, medical waste and used hygiene products. As per a recent report, only 28% of the plastics produced is collected and of that only 2% is effectively recycled. The report has expert opinions comparing the benefit of plastic-usage over waste management. Without proper waste management they all end up on the streets, lands and water bodies polluting all of them.

Many a times it is the attitude which needs to be changed. How to  react when educated people discard the bus tickets on the street right after alighting from the bus? . Families waiting at the airport leave pile of garbage where they were sitting, even though few steps away from the bin.  I won’t even talk about railway stations.  Diwali is few days away and streets will be littered with used crackers which could have been collected in a box right at the time of celebration. The attitude has nothing to with the education or economic status. We lack the understanding that we are not separate from environment.

When the world is talking of circular economy and Europe has already woken up and responded to such problem we are way behind in every aspect. For instance, the usage of hygiene products like diapers have increased dramatically but not many people know how to dispose them as there is no mechanism for waste segregation, pick-up and disposal?  Common man still doesn’t know how each product needs to be disposed of at the end of its life. It should be responsibility of the manufacturers to advise, provide incentives and develop mechanism for creating responsible usage of their product.

Sushmita…thank you for your contribution to this…we are part of the crazy bunch who worry about these things sounding to be insane at times


Polymer scientist, innovator and avid trekker. Lives in Hyderabad.

6 thoughts on “Tale of Cities

  • 28 October, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    Other cities should take the best practices of Pune and follow them wisely…nice post there.

    • 28 October, 2016 at 7:13 pm

      Yes Shweta..it is high time the citizens do something about..I feel the whole problem is because of irresponsible nature of us human being…wish every child learns his/her responsibility towards society, environment at early age.

  • 1 November, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Glad to read that at least one city in India is heading towards cleanliness, we all should take a leaf out of Pune’s book and emulate the nice habits everywhere. Post Diwali, all cities are in absolute mess with the debris of crackers and no citizen is in that frame of mind to make it litter free.

    • 2 November, 2016 at 7:17 pm

      Yes.. However not enough… Going by the crackers burst this year i feel at least the amount of crackers were so less in my neighborhood.

      • 3 November, 2016 at 9:43 am

        Yes..a flicker of hope and I understand from my cousins in Mumbai that some apartments did take an oath not to burst crackers..

        • 3 November, 2016 at 1:08 pm

          I can say for Bangalore that in 11 years I have not seen such clean and eco-friendly Diwali. Maybe due to boycott
          of Chinese crackers people were not able to buy cheaper ones. Even lighting was very less and was switched of by 10PM.
          There was very less noise and in places were entire community gathered. One proof was the freely roaming stray dogs which usually one
          may not see on these two-three nights.


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