A weak test: On Swachh ranking of cities- -The Hindu-Editorial- 03-01-2020
Sanitation and public health are responsibilities of State governments and the States have failed at managing growing volumes of municipal and hazardous waste.
The problem has been compounded by the absence of plans that take a holistic view of housing, sanitation, water supply, waste management and transport.
To address these issues and unleash the competitive spirit among States, the Union Government had launched Swachh Survekshan.
Ahead of the launch of Swachh Survekshan 2020, the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs is once again trying to stir up competition among cities, by pre-ranking them for their performance.
The idea of competition seems good but in reality, the problems confronting urban India require large-scale infrastructure creation, full adherence to legal requirements on waste management, and transparent technical audits.
Many cities remain clueless about handling their waste, one shocking example being the rising mountain of garbage at the Ghazipur landfill in Delhi.
Ironically, Bhopal, which figures among the top five cleanest cities, continues to live with the effects of the gas disaster of 1984.
Ranks and prizes clearly cannot solve the national waste management crisis.
Steps to be taken
The Urban Affairs Ministry has identified ambitious targets: “100% processing and safe disposal of waste and wastewater treatment and reuse.”
The Ministry has also sanctioned funds under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) to help States set up facilities necessary to manage waste.
States should ask for extended funding under such schemes to create the infrastructure for a future-focused clean-up and, simultaneously, institute measures to reduce waste.
The emphasis should be on creating a circular economy centred at the principle of material recovery from all kinds of waste, reuse, recycling and reduced pressure on natural resources.
A sound ranking of cities and towns is important but this will also require changes in the policy formulation and a switch to alternative sources to eliminate single-use plastic.