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It is all about Infrastructure and money

– India has made tremendous progress on economic front, in infrastructure, industries, healthcare and tourism. But when it comes to awareness about cleanliness and hygiene, we are still lagging behind and we blame it on our country’s increasing population.

– Our main problems are sanitation and waste management. We do not have enough clean public restrooms, especially for women.

– How can the government and the people come together to achieve cleanliness?

– The world is moving towards green cleaning and professional cleaning…

Educating ourselves

Sunita Shahaney: While population is a matter of concern, it is the lack of education in hygiene, which is the primary issue. Cleanliness is a part of healthcare. Healthcare cannot be what it is without cleanliness but cleanliness can be what it is without healthcare. Recently, the CII has demanded infrastructure status for healthcare, but we need to afford Cleanliness and Hygiene also the infrastructure status.

“Our education from the childhood level determines what we do at our workplace or at public places. So, we need to teach our children the value of cleanliness.” Sunita Shahaney, Consulado Honorario De Chile, runs an organic food and lifestyle store ‘Ahumcara’ in Chennai which is housed in a 100-year-old castle.

Trade visitors to India are often put off by the sight of dirt and debris at the entrance to an office or on the roads. The issue of citizens dirtying the environment have to be tackled in its entiretyand this can happen only through education.

Tishani Doshi: As Indians, we pride ourselves culturally about our obsession with cleanliness. Cleanliness is Godliness, we say. We take multiple baths a day and keep our houses immaculately clean. But somehow, this habit of cleanliness doesn’t always extend beyond the boundaries of our home.

Often, while people do maintain impeccable standards of cleanliness inside their homes, they have no trouble throwing garbage over the wall, or spitting paan in the corner of a building. It doesn’t bother them visually to see garbage piled up in the street or rolling down their window and casually throwing out a chocolate wrapper or a chips packet.

We need to create a sense of civic consciousness that extends to our public surroundings and makes people take pride in that. It has to be indoctrined at an early age that it is not okay to litter or spit and there have to be legal and societal consequences if one litters.

Sharan Apparao: In a way, I think clean habits come from teaching children when they are very young. We need constant reminders in our education system and somewhere in our day-to-day life. We need more programmes focused on this at various levels. Keeping the environment and city clean has to happen on a mass scale movement.

“I always think that our movies should carry messages on cleanliness, as they are powerful media.” A promoter of contemporary Indian art, Sharan Apparao runs the well known Apparao Gallery in Chennai.

Sunita: Implementing and maintaining Naina: We need to bring in ‘management’ into solid waste management (SWM).

The mantra of SWM is source segregation and this starts in your home or in your institution. One has to take responsibility of what is being thrown to be taken away by the Municipal Corporation. All recyclables may not be thrown. To bring about this change, we need a change of mindset. The best way is to start with school children. The message will reach their parents through them.

While addressing students of a lower income school, I asked the students, “How many of you want pocket money from today?” All hands went up. I told them to go home and collect all the things that were thrown away as waste and could actually be recycled – newspapers, envelopes, toothpaste tubes, milk sachets, rubber slippers… At the end of every week, they could sell these to the kabadiwala and make a note of the money earned. The next time I visited the school, I found that the average earning by a child was Rs100 in a month. With 3000 students, it was Rs3 lakhs in one month; the children gave value to the garbage.

India and China are the only countries which give huge value to waste.

You throw anything and they will find value in it.

In Korea, styrofoam is recycled into beautiful frames, fruit trays, furniture and other utilities. These get exported too. In Thondiayarpeth in Chennai, and also in Delhi, styrofoam gets melted in unsophistcated methods to be made into jewellery cases or fruit trays.

We have recycling industries over here, which import PET to make yarn. They make polyfill which is used to fill washable pillows. They approached us but we couldn’t find enough PET for them. They are receiving PET from Sri Lanka. There is need for a lot of emphasis on source segregation and that’s the catch.

Vidya: I feel the City Corporation of each town needs to do a lot more in clearing roads, collecting garbage and removing rubble. There has to be some system. One cannot dump the construction rubble on the streets and just walk away. The city has to fine you, if you do not clear your own rubble.

Naina: The government has to enforce segregation of waste and bring in the system of decentralisation.

“We tend to think that the chocolate is ours and the minute it is consumed, its wrapper belongs to the municipal corporation.” Naina Shah is an environmentalist specialised in Decentralised Solid Waste Management and Waste Water Treatment System. She is the Trustee & Vice-President of Exnora International.

Recyclable and non-recyclable waste should be collected in different trucks. There should be yards to manage recyclables alone in the same division or same zone depending on the size or area. Waste must be managed in a decentralised way. For example, why should the waste collected in the Nungambakkam area be taken to Kondagaiyur or Pallikarnai marsh to be segregated further? In the existing system, all waste gets mixed in spite of all efforts. It doesn’t make any sense. Nungambakkam can manage almost 90% of the waste locally and only 10% of the waste can go to the dumpsite. It will save a lot on energy and reduce the number of trips the truck has to make to the dumpsite. It will also cause less pollution.

In Sikkim, every household drops the segregated waste into different trucks. There are no bins and yet, the streets are very clean. If we want litter-free areas, we have to knock out the bins. But the problem is: Even if the bins are removed, people will still throw garbage at the same place.

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