Municipal Measures

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Just as the Power Development Department (PDD) has begun a publicity campaign for changing over to compact florescent lamps in government institutions to cut down on energy consumption, the Srinagar Municipal Corporation too needs to come out with advertisements aimed at arresting the city’s littering habits. The Corporation, however, should take care to use the language suited to a primary school text book, for, the intelligence of the average citizen, despite multiple BAs and MAs, not to speak of plagiarised doctorates, is incapable of handling anything more taxing. Otherwise, one would not have witnessed the public apathy, nay sanction, to the inveterate trash-mongering by shopkeepers, roadside stalls, and cart vendors in most parts of the city. Indeed, the argument applies to civic authorities themselves, as well as to the police, who do not lift a finger at the sight of the heaps of garbage left in the streets by traders of all sorts as well as by many households. Most of Srinagar seems to be suffering from compulsive littering habits and goes about in great style to ensure that it retains its distinctive mark of being a citadel of trash.

But to be fair, it must be put on record, that in many pockets, households and local committees had co-opted municipality staff long before the civic body started its sanitation fee scheme – for a minor consideration, municipal workers would cart off the contents of domestic dust bins, thus sparing the neighbourhood from unsightly heaps of uncollected garbage. But there are areas – and not necessarily only pockets – where residents and shopkeepers just cannot do without adorning the nearest street corner or lamppost with refuse from their homes and stores, even when municipal personnel come by for collection almost every other day. Evidently, owners – of shops, stores and homes – do not deem their establishments spic-and-span unless a neat pile of rubbish has come up just across the street, clearly visible from huge, expensively-stocked show-windows. It remains a wonder that streets and lanes lined with generous overnight donations of fruit-and-vegetable waste, discarded wrappers and paper bags, and indestructible plastic refuse, fail to disturb anyone taking an early morning constitutional – not even worshippers hurrying to mosques for dawn prayers who are supposed to know that cleanliness is next to godliness.

The government cannot escape blame for failing to pre-empt this situation – its half-hearted measures to provide large bins in some selected parts of the city should have been given some serious muscle and extended in suitably-modified forms to other parts. The manner in which plastic has entered urban and rural life, with almost every commodity coming wrapped in it in one form or the other, requires a holistic look at laws pertaining to packaging – if such animals exist – and an entirely new legal formulation over the subject. Together with this, garbage handling, management and disposal has to be totally overhauled in line with scientific techniques. In the short term, however, the district administration and the Municipal Authorities need to issue stern warnings for markets (including vendors) against littering, and follow it up with severe penalties for violators. This drive should not slacken with time, though it goes without saying that the SMC direly needs to reinforce its garbage collection apparatus and modify it suitably so that no one has any excuse to make the city’s streets an unwholesome sight. 

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