Community participation missing

By involving community through educating them, segregation of garbage, at source, has been achieved to some extent. We have to believe that SEHB alone is not the solution – it has to be ‘WE’

Shriniwas Joshi

There is Swachhata Helpline — 1916 — in Shimla, which is appreciated by many in India, but unfortunately, locals are still not aware and do not make use of it, says Pankaj Rai, Commissioner of Shimla Municipal Corporation (SMC). 

“If dialled through mobile, the number is 0177-1916 and it remains open from 10 am to 6 pm. One who sees a carcass of an animal or garbage littered at a particular place may ring up the helpline. Two vehicles with scavenging staff are ready to go to the place and clean it on the receipt of the information through the helpline number,” he said. 

I found in him a person, who, from the core of his heart, works for the betterment of Shimla. It is his second innings on the same post. He had done a commendable job for the uplift of the town in his first innings and so, the government has again put the reins of the town in his hands.

The members of Shimla Amateur Garden and Environment Society (SAGES), an NGO working since the past 26 years for improving the environment of Shimla, met the Commissioner regarding the cleanliness of the town and informed him of the areas, where the subject was pinching. They also spoke in unison that the town was cleaner than what it used to be in the past. The discussion was generally on the municipal solid waste management (MSWM). The summum bonum of it was that community participation is lacking in Shimla. People think it is the duty of the Shimla Environment, Heritage Conservation and Beautification Society (SEHB) to clean the town because they pay Rs 70 per month to it. The municipality has become the sole agency to manage the waste and with the passage of time, community has become the pressure group to just assume the role of criticising the failure of the municipal governance in the field of MSWM. With the involvement of community through educating them by various media and NGOs, segregation, at source, has been achieved to some extent. We, who love Shimla, have to believe that SEHB alone is not the solution – it has to be ‘WE’.

We have to imbibe that our surroundings are a reflection of our character. We keep our houses clean, but where do we throw the garbage? Rai said he saw a bigwig bringing the litter of his house in a car and dumping it, at night, in one of the nullahs. “There are 54 nullahs touching roads in Shimla and the public misuse these by dumping their household waste in it. SMC is raising high fences so as to stop the menace. It has covered three in Krishan Bazaar, so far, and by the end of this financial year, all will be covered,” promises Rai. SMC also found that 24 manholes were open and these were provided cement covers because vandals flick the iron covers. It is our character that we consider public facilities or equipment as not our own, but of some other person who could be looted.

All this can change if we start considering this piece of land, where we live, as our home. We keep our homes clean and Shimla is a just a small part of our planet, while there are millions of others floating around us in space. SMC has put 40 litter bins and 68 waste storage bins throughout the town. One should make use of these. One can carry the wrapper or disposable to some distance and throw it in the bins.

It was brought to the Commissioner’s notice that the jungles of Shimla have become a storehouse of garbage and this is because the scavenging staff sweeps the road, but plunks it in the jungle. It is like a security guard himself indulging in theft. Rai said when he came to know of it, he ordered the scavenging staff of the area to sweep the jungles every sixth day. This action has put a check on the practice of throwing litter in jungles.

Rai is elated about the Bhariyal landfill, where in a few months, waste will be converted into energy. He said 70 to 100 tons of waste shall produce 1.7 to 2.5 MWH of electricity per day. At present, Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) is being prepared and used by the cement factories. He has also taken to the beautification of Shimla. He got constructed a long bed for plantation opposite the Town Hall. Rani Jhansi Park is also being given a ritzy look.


To me, I think people who don't think it's a big deal to toss a plastic bottle in the garbage are not only being irresponsible, but I think they're being disrespectful of all other humans on earth - Sophia Bush

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