Srinagar Facing a Garbage Crisis

By Haseeb Wani 

SRINAGAR CITY, the summer capital of Kashmir is famous worldwide for its natural environment, gardens, waterfronts, and houseboats. Emperor Jahangir (a Mughal king in the 17th century) said, if there is a heaven on earth, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here. But that is history today Kashmir is not what it used to be. In the latest government’s “Ease of living index” Srinagar ranked at the bottom in Indian’s most liveable cities.

There are many factors responsible for Srinagar’s poor performance; mismanagement of garbage is the most important one. Srinagar City produces 400 metric tons of waste each day. The real problem is not generated  waste but poor management of waste. After collecting waste from house’s hundreds of SMC sweepers empty their trolleys at open temporary sheds which mostly include Srinagar’s busy roads, piles of garbage are formed and these piles of garbage stay there for hours until finally cleaned and transported to landfills. This method of collection and transportation of waste seems a much-uncivilized thing to do, but in this part of the world, this is normal. 2020, taught humans the true value of the clean environment and sanitation, but in Kashmir even during the pandemic, this piling of garbage on streets was practiced. During the rush full morning hours, when streets are jammed with traffic, people rush to offices, children’s going to their schools, etc. SMC workers throw their collected waste on the streets which is not only ridiculous to watch. But in the summers it becomes almost impossible to breathe there due to production of gases from decomposing organic waste, decomposing organic wastes are also hotspots of microbial growth, which makes people and animals living around these areas’ vulnerable to disease. And  Viruses like “Bird flu” can also largely spread through these sites. These open dumping sites also pose a different kind of challenge, these site’s act as feeding and breeding grounds for local stray dogs, “the exponential growth of stray dogs in the city deserves an article of its own”, as it is among the major problems faced by the residents of the city. I have personally seen and survived far too many near misses between my car and dogs. There are a ton of strays  who wander all day around these street dumping sites. A fatal accident can happen so fast, and I feel very fearful watching dog’s running around these areas. There are many accounts of people who got attacked by the stray dogs in these areas, especially at night. These incidents can sometimes lead to serious injuries, even death. It is easy to understand why dogs prefer to stay on street’s as these garbage sites are a good source of easily available food. It is like a giant feast which SMC employees so kindly offer them. When it comes to the  mis-management of waste, the people are equally responsible. In Srinagar City, people seem to lack a basic sense of proper waste disposal. People prefer to throw waste in all sorts of places possible parks, rivers, ponds, lakes, or in the corners that are off site. Segregation of waste is largely not practiced. Organic waste and plastic waste are stored together and most of the time plastic waste finds its way into rivers and lakes. It is not hard to notice plastic bag wrappers, bottles, floating in Srinagar’s water bodies. Which are facing serious deterioration. The downtown area of the Srinagar city is worst hit by the garbage crisis, the downtown or often called as the Sher-e-Khas, the old city is famous for its historic places, religious monuments, etc. The “Sher-e-Khas” may look inviting in portrait shots but In reality the old city is devastated by garbage crisis. Allies filled with garbage, lack of dustbins, is just a glimpse of how worst the conditions really are. Walking along the river Jhelum one can easily notice the river embankment covered with plastic bags and all kinds of waste all the way from “Habba Kadal” to “Safa Kadal” it seems like garbage has rained down from the sky and accumulate along the embankment of the river Jhelum. Deteriorating lakes, overflowing dustbins, streets covered with filth and dogs feeding on them. The city is facing a serious garbage crisis and quick reforms are urgently needed!

Solid waste management is not rocket science; it is a simple way of segregating and reusing waste. The SMC needs to replace old steel bins with the colour coded ones, which can properly store and segregate waste. Educating people about the importance of waste management, storing and disposing of waste is also important. Plastic waste can be reused and recycled easily; organic waste can also be used to make compost and manures. Hence, solving the waste management problem. We also need to learn from European nations like Sweden, which produces 4.4 million tons of waste per year and only 1% of that goes to landfills the rest is either recycled or used to produce electricity. Only if we could only implement 5% of it our problems will be solved. Kashmir is well known for its clean environment and clean water, but that reality is changing thanks to our uncivilized ways of waste management.

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