Citizens need to understand that governments don’t create waste. It is irresponsible and high consumption by the citizens which is creating the waste problem
Nandkumar M Kamat
FROM my car caught in a traffic jam, I was watching three students of a reputed educational institution from Santa Cruz eating sweetmeats in disposable plates in front of a bakery near the main road. After finished eating, one student opened the lid of the dust bin and dumped the plate. The other two also finished and recklessly threw the plates in front of the shop. This incident showed me that only one third students in that educational institution could be responsible citizens.
For a moment I thought of coming out of the car and telling the two irresponsible students to collect and dispose of the plates correctly. But the traffic began to move and I dropped the idea. This simple incident raised an important question in my mind- there are a thousand parent-teacher associations (PTAs) in Goa which comprise both the parents and the teachers as members. The PTAs cover a population of four lakhs or 25 per cent of the total population of Goa. So what these PTAs are doing for disciplining their own members? Why there are no initiatives from the PTA office bearers to issue a binding charter of “dos and don’ts” on prevention and management of solid waste? At Goa University also, we are responsible because there is no such charter for post graduate students, the main consumers responsible for creating the solid waste in the campus.
Basically, the solid waste management (SWM) model that we see in Goa is purely supply-side management. If there is more waste then there is demand for more waste bins or SWM plants. But no thought is given to source of the waste or its prevention in first place. So there is no emphasis on prevention or “demand side management”. Citizens need to understand that governments don’t create waste. It is irresponsible and high consumption by the citizens which is creating the waste problems. From 1994 to 2001, I had guided 16 students to survey their respective areas- towns like Panaji, Mapusa, Margao, Vasco, Ponda, Bicholim and entire talukas like Pernem, Canacona, Sattari and Bardez and produce detailed field survey-based, solution-oriented technical reports. A student from Margao Eru Fernandes had foreseen the Sonsoddo crisis 20 years ago and had submitted a copy of the MMC SWM report in my presence to Margao MLA Digambar Kamat. Hafiza Sattar had submitted a copy of report on non-biodegradable solid waste management to the Panaji MLA and ex-CM Manohar Parrikar. Sharon Rebello had presented a copy of report on solid waste management in Candolim-Calangute tourism belt to the then minister for tourism Filipe Nery Rodrigues.
But then a minister told me that such free work done for government has no value because government likes to engage expensive consultants. We have seen the great performance of various consultants at Sonsoddo. If there is no value for the wisdom of local science students who are the real community stakeholders then I see no solution to “demand side based solid waste management” problem in future. Member secretary of Goa State Biodiversity Board Pradip Sarmokadam had successfully implemented door-to-door collection of segregated solid waste in Penha de Franca village panchayat. Impressed by his simple and effective model, we decided to prepare a detailed SWM plan for whole state and submit it to the Governor of Goa who heads State Environment Protection Council (GEPC).
In three different meetings before three different governors, as GEPC member, I submitted copies of this plan which was shown the dust bin by the government even without giving any acknowledgment. Later I understood that government wants complex and expensive technological solutions for solid waste management and it is not interested in decentralisation of the whole mechanism and involvement of local stakeholders. Solid waste management has now become a lucrative Rs 2000 crore annual business in Goa and private consultants and companies don’t wish to end the problem because higher scale of economies rewards them with fatter tenders. The ‘demand based solid waste management’ model would fail in Goa because people here have highest purchasing power in whole country. A single branded shop at Porvorim mall generates an annual business of Rs 110 crore. The extravagant use of water and power in Goa is without any parallels. To waste generator domestic population of 16 lakhs we can add the footfalls of eight million tourists.
It is a joke to see the beach cleaning campaigns by various NGOs because they have failed to impose any personal environmental ethics on the beach users. If I love the beach then in first place why should I take there anything which is left behind to create pollution? So, the solution is to prevent the pollution of the beaches in first place. If every shop keeper in every urban and rural market takes care of the solid waste in front of their business area then at source itself the solid waste issue is controlled. Why people use bridges to dump solid waste in the rivers? Because the religious heads or priests whom they follow have not drilled on their mind the correct behaviour. People are habitually dumping waste at the borders of their respective panchayat or municipal limits. You can see this phenomenon at Santa Cruz, Merces, Nuvem, Navelim. These roadside dumps are now serving as ugly markers of village and town boundaries. These dumps are created by Goans for whom waste creation and disposal in public places has become a popular hobby.
Behind my house very close to a sacred banyan tree, on way to Cancra fishing village I see educated and rich people dumping bags full of solid waste, empty liquor bottles in an open area within the university property. Then someone lights fire to this waste every week. This is due to failure of the Santa Cruz village panchayat. Once they get the blank cheque to do anything for five years we see the 1400 panchas and about 200 municipal council members forgetting their job of carrying a house-to-house non-political campaign to educate their voters on SWM. Why there were no waste bins in any village 30 years ago? Now runaway consumerism and flood of disposable items of consumer packaging have added to mountains of solid waste. The solution is purely the behavioural change in the individual, the polluter himself. Government would never find a solution without waste generators joining the efforts.