For five consecutive years from the late 20th century to early 21st century, Hyderabad was the winner of the prestigious national “Clean and Green City Award”. During those pathbreaking years, the city transformed itself from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan, with wide, neat and clean roads, elegant sidewalks, lavish greenery landscapes and so on. There was a palpable sense of pride among the city folks in keeping the city clean and green. The air was thick with optimistic feelings that the city has turned around the corner and there was no going back to the past when it was rated as one of the dirtiest cities in the country.
Unfortunately, the optimistic spirit slowly withered away and a sense of complacency crept in, negating the hard efforts put in earlier. Today, the city has been pushed to ninth place in terms of cleanliness and quality of life. A recent survey conducted by A C Nielsen ORG MARG, covered 18 state capitals, including Hyderabad, puts the city at ninth place. The survey criteria covered 11 factors that influence the cleanliness of city. Factors like purity of drinking water, drainage system, garbage disposal system, clean roads (with regard to spitting, urinating, defecating etc), air pollution, dustbins in public places, public toilets, greenery and plantations in the city, public transport like buses and trains, cleanliness of public places and the involvement of Municipal Corporation in the cleanliness of the city. People interviewed were all between the ages of 18 and 60, including an almost equal number of men and women across income groups.
J David Foster, an American working as urban advisor with Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI), attributes the city’s slide to the inability of the infrastructure to keep pace with the growth of the city. He and his wife Barbara Foster moved to Hyderabad last year and joined ASCI after retiring from the American Embassy in Delhi. Both have seen the city’s growth at close quarters since 1972. He further pinpoints, “During this recent period of rapid growth, unfortunately, Indian public infrastructure; water supply, sanitation, and transport; has simply not been able to keep up with the rapid urbanization and private sector growth and Hyderabad is no exception. Furthermore, as this urbanization trend is likely to continue for at least another thirty years, the only real solution seems to be in learning how to build and maintain that infrastructure more effectively and to make the cities as liveable and efficient as possible.” The past few years have seen the city being confronted by a host of daunting problems like potholed roads, traffic jams, overflowing gutters, and stinking garbage leading to a basic sense of despondency and frustration among the authorities as well as well-meaning citizens to meet the challenges.
City resident Malcolm Wolfe who was instrumental in raising the issue of fire safety in high-rise buildings with DG Fire Services that brought about transformation of mindsets, and currently working as a security consultant with a premier security agency, feels that the city folk’s nonchalant attitude and the authorities’ lacklustre response has been instrumental in the city reaching the present situation. “I have been living in this city since my birth and have seen it evolve from a beautiful and serene city into a bustling and unhealthy city. Hyderabad in the 1960’s and 1970’s was by and large a clean and neat city with wide roads, neat sidewalks, minimal pollution and so on. But now all of that has gone. Though there is no dearth of money to inject a new sense of life into the city’s look, there seems to be little pride in injecting them.
Of course, there are lots of bright lights and modernised looks all around, but that’s confined to just a few parts of the city. Only some parts of the city are cleaned regularly. But by and large, the lanes and bylanes and most parts of Secunderabad are far from clean. The areas seem to be in a constant state of disrepair, with half-finished buildings, incomplete roads, too many hoardings with inadequate traffic signals and finally, lots of pollution.”
NVVR Kumar, a Senior Manager with a premier public sector company BHEL agrees with him and says, “Yes, the city seems to have fallen by the wayside. These days, only the main roads seem to get cleaned whereas other roads, particularly in the interiors are left as it is. There seems to be general disinterest and apathy for cleanliness. Before the authorities appeal to the people to keep the city clean, they need to chip in with proper efforts. For instance, there is irresponsible digging by numerous agencies without proper approval from the concerned authority. It looks as if the officials neither have the capability nor the will to coordinate activities like road digging, etc. Also, roads are laid and re-laid umpteen times with the end result the roads develop uneven surface all along. The mud and stones that are dug up on occasions are simply dumped by the wayside or on the footpaths and left uncleared for days put together. Later, even if cleared, they are done shoddily and patchily. Manholes are opened up, left uncovered for days, with just a few rocks put around its border. Later, even if the covers are put back, are done shabbily, half-covered and protruding dangerously. The digging sign-board highlighting the work, are just kept aside on the footpath or on the road itself. The level of the manholes never matches the level of the roads. The people concerned seem to have learnt no lessons from the past when such shameless manhole openings caused deaths of innocents. Look at the case of Mayur Marg locality in Begumpet, wherein the water works personnel left unattended the laying of pipeline for days put together; and all this despite the case being highlighted vigorously in ‘Times of India’ newspaper for a month or so. It’s a real shame and if such a case happens in a prestigious locality; imagine the plight in lesser known localities. Your guess is as good as mine. Efficient officers need to be put in place and given complete powers to do what is best in the city’s interests. Also, city people in general lack civic character and a feeling of pride. They undo what the authorities do for them in good faith.”
Evolution of the City:
In 1950, the population of the city was 11, 22,000 and it’s estimated to go up to 1, 04, 57,000 by 2015. As on date, it is recorded to be about 62, 55,256 and the population density of the city has been ascertained at 14,192 per square kilometre. The population of Hyderabad is a cross cultural potpourri of native Telugus and settlers from various parts of the country and the world. People from north Indian states such as Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal are migrating to Hyderabad in droves thanks to its emergence as a thriving IT hub and the centre of scientific and technological development in the country. There has been an upsurge in the number of people making a beeline to Hyderabad in search of better employment opportunities and educational institutions. The cosmopolitan culture in the city is another notable factor for heavy influx of people from across the world.
Narender Luther, former chief secretary to Andhra Pradesh government and currently a prominent writer blames increasing population for the city becoming congested and dirtier. He feels that both the municipal authorities and the people are to blame and says, “Garbage is not systematically and regularly cleared. People throw away garbage anywhere. People callously indulge in acts like urinating, etc, which negate the beauty of the city. Most of their acts are due to inadequate facilities. Also, wherever they are set up, the facilities are not properly maintained. People from nearby slums misuse them. No penalties against improper garbage disposal are enforced, as a result such acts go on unabated without fear and care-me-not attitude.”
Dr. S Jeevananda Reddy, an ex-expert/chief technical advisor to United Nations Organizations like Food & Agriculture Organization, World Meteorological Organization, a former scientist with ICRISAT and advisor to several environmental groups and currently Convenor for ‘Forum for a Sustainable Environment’, agrees that population explosion has been instrumental in changing the skyline of the city and says, “The city has become dirtier with passage of time and civic sense is at its worst. People in the city have poor sense of affinity for the environment. The problem seems to be totally incurable. The mindset needs to be changed.” Having seen the city’s staggering growth since 1940’s, he further points out, “The city is living on the infrastructure developed by Nawabs prior to formation of the State to meet the needs of over 5-lakh population. Then the city had good drainage system and roads, with good ecological balance with parks & lakes all around in the core MCH area. After the city became the state capital, these were systematically destroyed/ encroached upon. With increasing population density, there was massive infrastructure development supplemented by increased level of congestion. The infrastructure has been developed in an unplanned manner. Despite the submission of several plans by various committees for planned development of infrastructure; none of them has been properly implemented.”
The large-scale shift of population to Hyderabad has resulted in congestion and unplanned growth of human settlements forcing major changes in land use. Further, it has also resulted in enormous pressure for shelter and services fraying the infrastructure. The prevailing infrastructure is insufficient to cope with increasing demands on water, roads and sanitary facilities. This in turn has resulted in unhygienic conditions in many areas and the trend continues to date.
Experts further point out that the haphazard growth of Hyderabad has degraded natural resources like water, air, and soil. Environmental pollution has reached alarming levels in the last 5-6 years, chiefly due to growing congregation of industries and increase in number of automobiles. Several bulk industries on the outskirts feed their effluents into open pits, leading to extensive ground water pollution affecting the sources of agricultural and drinking water needs of the surrounding colonies. Several lakes have been inundated with effluents from industries, including Hussainsagar.
Vehicular pollution is responsible for more than 80% of the air pollution and domestic sewage for more than 80% of water pollution – ground water & surface water. Industrial growth in and around twin cities is also responsible for increasing air & water pollution. Corporate Hospitals are multiplying and piling up biomedical wastes. Domestic garbage & industrial hazardous wastes are dumped every where, more particularly along the roads, low lying areas, water bodies, parks, etc.
Environmental studies disclose that environmental conditions in Ramanthapur and Uppal areas continue to be a cause of concern. Most of the industries are in the midst of residential areas, with no proper drainage system and without any effective monitoring of the industrial discharges. This kind of ill-planned and haphazard growth has resulted in consequential effects on the quality of life of the city’s residents. Added to this, the city is battled by the ghosts of traffic congestion, deplorable road conditions, pollution and virtual breakdown of civic conditions, all of them interrelated, forming a network of problems, balancing and perpetuating each other.
Poor civic sense of City folks:
The biggest problem that confronts the city and the country as a whole is that of civic sense or the lack of it. Former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam is reported to have said in one of his many famous speeches, “Why do we Indians as a whole score so poorly on civic sense? What intrigued me is that the same Indian who let his dog dirty the pavement in India would not throw as little as a bus ticket on the pavements of Singapore!” Therein, sums up the difference in the attitude of the Indians in India and abroad. Why? Because of the fear of law abroad, where rules are strictly enforced and no person, irrespective of its status or position in society is let off scot-free, if found guilty of flouting rules. On the other hand, in India the rules are flouted with impunity and without fear, caring a damn for the country’s image or the inconvenience of fellow citizens. Another classic case, wherein rules are flouted with contempt is by flamboyant two wheeler drivers. Throwing caution to the winds and without an iota of concern for fellow pedestrians, these modern day stunt masters drive with gay abandon on footpaths, whether on the ground level or flyover. A walk-in to places like NTR Marg footpath, Raj Bhavan Road footpath, Lifestyle Mall flyover, etc, will allow one to sample the sight of reckless and thoughtless two wheeler drivers driving on them at ultra-furious pace. Traffic cops just swish away any complaint made in this regard. This is bad, traffic cops need to come down hard on these daredevil heroes and nip the bud before a life gets taken away. Taking away their driving license and making them cool their heels in lock-up along with heavy fines would instill in them a sense of fear for the law and chisel them on the right path.
Indians including city folks basically are in the dark about the meaning, importance and value of civic sense. It is a common sight to watch people in the city throw trash as and where they like, spit without any concern for others and answer nature’s call in every available vacant space they can find. Also, at many places, we can see construction materials being dumped in a crude manner on roads or just outside house or incomplete buildings. All of these not only cause inconvenience to others, but also result in severe health problems. Diseases like malaria, diarrhoea and many viral infections today are spread due to unclean surroundings. Malcolm Wolfe puts it across very well when he states, “Most people believe in personal hygiene and corporate filth. They believe that they have all the right to throw anything on the street, as long as it does not affect them. In other ways, their attitude is why bother if my waste thrown on the streets spoils the shirt of the other person, but does not spoil mine.”
A frequent visitor to the city, Bangalore resident Sujatha Bagal laments the complete absence of civic sense. “I have been abroad and seen at first hand as to how their citizens respect civic rules. I saw with my own eyes as to how a German mother taught her littler boy back to carry the candy paper till the next trash bin. On the other hand, in India garbage is dropped instantly when it occurs anywhere, anytime. Not to say that Indians wouldn’t keep their houses clean. By contrast, one could usually eat from the floor. But step outside, and you have not a joint habitat, but a common garbage dump. Peeing openly is a habit in India and one can see floods of male urine running down the walls in Indian cities. All of it is not at all a matter of poverty. I remember 3 years back when I used to deal in jewellery, I went to a 17-storey building in Bombay where all the wholesalers have their showrooms. Each and every of them a multi-multi millionaire and the offices were small, functional but immaculately clean. When I stepped outside on the aisle to walk to the next door, I could feel a stench mixed with disbelief coming up my nose. I walked further when I looked into the joint floor-toilet of these multi-multi millionaires and it looked as disgusting as the train station toilets in Germany’s small towns looked back in the 70’s. If these jewellery dealers were to Invest jointly $ 2000 once and for maintenance another jointly $ 60 per month, it would have made this toilet look like a palace. But no, it doesn’t happen now, and I don’t believe it will happen in India in the next 1000 years. Because it requires a feeling of co-ownership, of a joint cause of, yes, call it civic sense. And that is certainly not one of India’s strongest traits.”
She further pinpoints, “In Hyderabad, there is simply not sufficient infrastructure to support its burgeoning population, a sizeable portion of which settles down in slums and sidewalks upon arriving into the city. Early morning ablutions and life, for that matter, have to happen in full view of the rest of the city. There is no alternative. Let me give an example of how Ulsoor Gate traffic police in Bangalore made their area stench-free. They catch those urinating on the footpath and give them three options – pay the fine and get away OR get a bucket of water and clean up the area OR hold the ears, and do sit-ups. This policy worked and today, no one dares pee in the area.”
Dr. S Jeevananda Reddy agrees with her and states, “In many parts of twin cities, people answer nature’s call openly in regal style, wherever they find an empty space or a boundary wall, whether it’s in the heart of the city or the interiors. Also, people bring their pet dogs and dump their dirties in front of other’s houses. Public parks have become dumping yards & centre for anti-social activities including prostitution & drug trafficking. In many areas, parks are used as toilet zones by hut dwellers. It’s just not the uneducated, but also the educated and well heeled people who indulge in activities detrimental to the city’s look. They are least bothered about keeping the surroundings clean. Everybody thinks it is not his duty, but the Government’s duty to keep the surroundings clean. With every passing day, the city has become dirtier and civic sense seems to only deteriorate with each day. It looks as if the problem is incurable. The people’s mindset needs to be changed drastically.”
When asked as to what must be done to revamp people’s mindset, Malcolm Wolfe said, “Two things are needed, Education and Enforcement. Also, the media needs to get involved deeper in educating the public in all languages. As on now, some areas are a huge health risk and the residents don’t even know about it. The general public need to be sensitised and encouraged to improve their civic sense. It’s better to not wait for the people who matter, but rather it’s better to mobilise the people’s power and ensure a drastic change in civic consciousness. I also recommend the proper usage of ‘Right to Information Act’ to bring about needed changes.”
Prominent social activist Capt. J Rama Rao agrees with him and pinpoints, “Awareness and concern for others normally bring in the required change in the mindset and attitudes of the people. But it is a very time consuming process in our setup, where there is too much of bureaucratic control and less of ‘Governance’, resulting in the ‘Rule of Jungle.’ The only thing that works is the fear of deterrent punishment by implementing the Rule of Law uniformly and ruthlessly, while at the same time undertaking awareness programs and activities.”
In advanced countries like USA, Britain, Japan, Singapore, Germany, Sweden, etc, people don’t dare to flout civic rules. If they dare to do so, they would be caught and fined more often than not for flouting civic rules. American expatriate Anthony Sicola, who works as a senior manager in a top-notch city-based firm, affirms this and pinpoints, “The fines for throwing garbage and litter are extremely high in the US, somewhere between Rs. 12,000/- to 40,000/- per infraction. The US was pretty bad about littering in the 1970s, but these fines have helped to control the litter problem in most US cities. Spitting is as disgusting in the US as it is in India and it is often overlooked. Urinating is akin to public nudity and indecency in the US and the fines for those infractions are large as well. Indian authorities could add so much money in fines to the public coffers if the police would just enforce rules like these.”
Cities in the advanced world have a fleet of regenerative air street sweepers and highly skilled operators who clean the City streets in accordance with framed civic guidelines. The cities are kept clean and free of debris by both daytime crew and special crews that work through the night after most businesses have shut down for the day. Also, rules are strictly implemented and offenders irrespective of their standing or stature are penalised and reprimanded. No person is shown undue favour and it is this approach that has been largely responsible for inculcating a sense of civic sense and pride among the people in these countries. Hyderabad could do very well by following this approach.
When asked about the models followed in the cities of the advanced world, J David Foster replies, “Some American cities offer good models but they are by no means perfect. In fact, compact energy efficient European and Japanese cities may be more appropriate models for India than the typical sprawling American city. Just as in India, cities in these regions experienced most of their growth before the advent of the automobile. Both American and European cities as well as those in Japan, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand all do a much better job of enforcement, transparency, and cost recovery than is generally done in India. World wide there actually is a strong correlation between trust, transparency, freedom from corruption and freedom from litter. In addition, where citizens are fully aware of the costs of providing good services and pay their fair share of those costs, they also tend to take more pride in their cities.” Fellow American Anthony Sicola agrees and says, “Inhabitants of cities in the advanced world tend to follow rules and the fine is so hefty in many cases that not following them is just like opening one’s wallet and letting the notes just fly out of it. Why chance it? Here however, police tend to look the other way. Else, they bypass laws by collecting dole from offenders. Pride is something that is learned. I see so many people here in Hyderabad and India who are so proud of their country, and they should be, but in the same moment I see the person that is so proud of their country littering. Something doesn’t add up here.”
NVVR Kumar emphasizes the need for a proper blueprint for the orderly growth and maintenance of the city and urges the authorities to have a concrete vision to bring about a change in the look of the city. He pinpoints, “Else the sorry state of affairs will continue and the city will slide further downhill. Also, I suggest poor conditions prevailing in various parts of the city need to be properly highlighted so that proper and swift action is taken to rectify them. The local municipal representative needs to be made accountable for poor sanitary conditions. The media should play a more proactive role in highlighting these matters rather than focussing on the irrelevant activities of so-called prominent people. The municipal authorities must nominate one person to whom complaints can be mailed/ represented and the officer should give a commitment for the correction in a specified time frame.”
Not only, Hyderabadis aren’t averse to breaking rules, but are also not scared of fines, as they very well know that they will never be caught and even if they do, why, they can get away with bargaining tactics with the authorities. The city authorities must employ a mix of high technology, proper education and heavy fines to bring about a change in the mindset of city folks and instil in them a sense of fear for the rule of law. Anthony Sicola suggests police authorities need to clamp down hard on offenders and pinpoints, “The police need to begin fining people for these infractions and then, maybe things would change. Changing the mindset however is much more difficult. This needs to be done through public service campaigns that show people the reasons that they need to stop doing a certain thing (spitting, dumping, urinating, etc.). This should be handled at the city level or the state level. Goa seems to be doing a pretty good job of this.” The offenders should not only be reprimanded, but also should be reported in the press and questioned about their attitudes live on television. If the person concerned is found littering the streets, such a person must be made to sweep the streets or roads where they littered. Prominent social activists suggest that cameras, CCTVs and the latest technology is the need of the hour if offenders are to be caught. People will not argue their innocence, and cops will find it impossible to accept bribes.
Hyderabadis need to get their act right and fast. With the city becoming a favoured destination of many global companies, there has been a rapid inflow of foreigners into the city; foreigners who are civic conscious people, brought up on a diet of cleanliness and respect for proper hygiene. For them, the prevalent civic scene comes as a culture-shock. They find it difficult to comprehend as to how the city folks, who are so conscious of keeping and maintaining their bodies cleanly, aren’t averse to do the exact opposite when it comes to the city they live in. It remains imperative for the Hyderabadis to change their mindset, become more civic conscious and play their due role in keeping the city neat and clean rather than passing the buck to the authorities.
From being a winner of the prestigious national “Clean and Green City Award”, for five consecutive years, from the late 20th century to early 21st century, Hyderabad today has a different picture to portray. Unfortunately, the optimistic spirit slowly withered away and a sense of complacency crept in, negating the hard efforts put in earlier.
Today, the city has been pushed to ninth place in terms of cleanliness and quality of life.
A recent survey conducted by A C Nielsen ORG MARG, covered 18 state capitals, including Hyderabad, puts the city at ninth place. The survey criteria covered 11 factors that influence the cleanliness of city. Factors like purity of drinking water, drainage system, garbage disposal system, clean roads (with regard to spitting, urinating, defecating etc), air pollution, dustbins in public places, public toilets, greenery and plantations in the city, public transport like buses and trains, cleanliness of public places and the involvement of Municipal Corporation in the cleanliness of the city. People interviewed were all between the ages of 18 and 60, including an almost equal number of men and women across income groups.
Last issue we started talking about the civic sense of the city. We read about the evolution of the city, to the mega city that it is today. We also read about the poor civic sense of the people. Read on further to know more about this problem and what can be done to tackle it.
To be clean, a city has to face and solve many problems that otherwise lead to unsanitary conditions and poor health as well as possible economic stagnation. Clean energy needs to be produced for industry, homes and transportation and executed reasonably with proper regulation and control.
Everyday, tons of garbage is generated in the city. Around 3,500 tons per day of domestic waste along with unaccounted industrial waste are dumped in unscientific landfills along the roads, low-lying areas, municipal dumpsites, etc, contaminating the soil and ground water. Sometimes they are openly burnt emitting dangerous gases that cause severe health hazards. The whole process, of garbage disposal, is badly managed, characterised by apathy, irresponsibility, unaccountability and utter lack of concern. There is frequent shifting of garbage dumping sites, or centralised collection, which does not solve the growing garbage crises. With growing urbanisation and changing life styles, garbage composition has also changed. Further, there has been an enormous increase in the density of population, which has brought in its wake a ten-fold rise in garbage quantity.
Sujatha Bagal believes that the problem of littering lies with city folk’s callous attitude. “Even when there is a trashcan in plain sight (outside fast-food restaurants, for example), no one bothers to use it. Wrappers are strewn on the sidewalk, banana peels fly out of rolled-down windows of cars, and straws are dropped nonchalantly on the streets or footpaths, as are plastic drinking cups. Empty sites are promptly co-opted to be garbage-dumping sites. Just flip that garbage over the fence, no one is watching, is their thinking. It’s not as if the city folks are not clean. They are; they all keep their houses clean, the fronts of their houses clean, their backyards clean. But when they walk out of the four walls, their attitude towards cleanliness, undergoes a drastic transformation. It just does not translate to keeping the streets clean, keeping the community clean, not dumping garbage in the neighbor’s empty site, and not dropping garbage on the streets wherever one feels like it. It’s not just the uneducated lot who do this, but also the educated lot with education and with good jobs, the ones that are supposed to know better. It is time Hyderabadis shed this nonchalant attitude, alter their civic sense and alter them drastically. People should think this city as their own and keep it clean. Every colony president and ward counsellor must educate their ward members about proper garbage disposal and respect for civic decorum.”
When asked about city folk’s poor attitude towards their environs, Anthony Sicola answers, “Well, the first thing is that many people are living in squalor. They have nothing to be proud about, and therefore they do not care about their environs. Again, the police enforcing dumping rules would help here, but if the people don’t care, then what is the point? It’s not only in Hyderabad, but also in most other cities that I have been in India, I don’t see any real garbage collection and even when it is collected, I’m not sure where it goes. In the US we pay to have garbage hauled off and taxpayers pay into the refuse collection sites on a yearly basis. There needs to be better infrastructure for refuse and sanitation.”
The old model of collecting garbage and disposing them off through burning at a central place does not work out well anymore. It is here that garbage collection needs to be prioritised professionally. Waste needs to be properly segregated and eliminated. Recycling is the only long-range answer, but this takes civic discipline, a system and preferably a system that turns a profit. In addition a city has to look closely at its transportation infrastructure (roads, rail, air, subways) and their impact upon being clean or going dirty or staying dirty. The logistics infrastructure is also critical in terms of efficiency that can translate into money and fuel savings that in turn affect cleanliness (air quality, water quality and ground quality).
It is also advisable that city citizens need to change their thinking, take it upon themselves to follow proper garbage disposal guidelines and not just expect the municipal authorities to do the entire job themselves. Capt. J Rama Rao stresses on this and further states, “There is a need to focus on ‘Demand Side Management’ (DSM) rather than ‘Supply Side Management’ (SSM). Also, there is a need to tackle the problems at the very source of their generation and when they are manageable, rather than wait till the problems are shifted elsewhere making no one accountable. If this happens, problems become massive & unmanageable making them expensive to solve.”
NGO’s can be taken on board and encouraged to run waste management project, wherein black garbage bags can be distributed in different areas and educate people on proper garbage collection and disposal. Ms. Pirjo Rinnepelto of Finland working for Sukuki Exnora, NGO, Hyderabad, engaged in Solid Waste Management emphasises the need for proper and scientific sanitation for urban and rural areas. “I come from North Europe, where such epidemics as Dengue fever and chikungunya are extremely rare, nonexistent even. I’ve been travelling a lot around Europe, also a bit in Middle East and I’ve seen countries of diverse cleanliness levels. Still, to be honest, Hyderabad and India shocked me. Taking into account that there are one billion people living in this country, there are only very basic sanitation systems in place. In the best cases, you can find dust bins here and there, the waste is collected from them and the main streets are kept relatively clean. Elsewhere, we need to hold tightly our nose breath or wrap a kerchief around the nose.” When asked about the difference between Hyderabad and other Indian cities, she answers, “From Indian standards, Hyderabad is a clean city and it has every right to be proud of this. In terms of global or even Asian standards, it’s not clean. There is still the sight of overflowing dustbins on the streets, the disordered dumping yards around the residential areas and garbage burning on the streets. Also, the fact how the collected waste is handled or not handled, really surprises me. Dumping is not a solution, it’s postponing the problem. The reasons behind the present situation can be easily identified; they are insufficiency of sanitary approaches, lack of knowledge, information, technical know-how and dedicated human resources. In Hyderabad alone, over 2,500 tonnes of waste is dumped daily, 2500 tonnes of waste that could be used as a resource, if we just understood how.”
She also exhorts the people to take it upon themselves the task of keeping their neighbourhood and the city environs clean and litter-free, rather than always leaving the same to the Government. “In India, there is an obvious vacuum created for practical specialist services and technology providers and the missing link is obvious. There’s a gap between the service provider and service receiver and it is growing day by day despite the many initiatives by the government. In this gap, live the households, the people who carry the power of the change. It is proved that there’s no one to take care of the waste we create if we don’t take care of it ourselves at individual level. We just need to look around. The key issue is that the change for better won’t happen, if we ourselves don’t see the actions to be taken to prevent the tragedy to continue and getting even worse.” For those who are keen to know about the NGO’s activities, they can log into www.cleanindia.co.in
Noted social activist Kurian Joseph recommends the usage of different collection and treatment options, which include prevention, recycling, energy recovery and environmentally sound land filling of solid waste. Further, he says, “It is also necessary to ensure the full participation and involvement of all the stakeholders like waste processors (formal and informal recyclers), waste generators (households, industries and agriculture), and Government institutions (regulators, waste managers and urban planners).”
Hyderabad must also imbibe case studies that have worked successfully in cities like Tokyo, London, and Singapore, all densely populated but efficient all the same and fine-tune them according to Indian conditions. Take the case of Singapore which has a programme called ‘Singapore, Litter-Free’ Programme. It is an initiative to engage everyone attending large-scale events such as parties, parades and rallies to take ownership of their litter and not leave anything of their unwanted items behind for someone else to clear. A nodal agency called National Environment Agency (NEA) works with partners and several event organizers to ensure that large-scale events are litter-free. The event organiser encourages participants and spectators alike to make a conscious effort to take away all their rubbish with them and deposit the rubbish in the litterbins provided. Event organizers are encouraged to implement initiatives like provision of adequate and sufficient facilities to aid the proper disposal of unwanted items, display bold messages to communicate, promote, and remind the audience/ participants to take ownership of their unwanted items and make the event ‘litter-free’.
In addition, they also conduct interactive activities to encourage/ motivate the public to keep the event venue clean. Besides working with the public event organizers, NEA also works closely with the grassroots and community organizations to implement the mentioned initiatives everywhere in Singapore.
The survey conducted by A C Nielsen ORG MARG disclosed that availability of dust bins in public places remains the primary demand of Hyderabadis, followed by a demand for greater participation by their respective municipal administrations in the maintenance of cleanliness, and for clean roads. Apart from these three major demands, the survey also disclosed that people want improved greening and tree-planting activities in the city.
With the city turning into a global hotspot and many expatriates making a beeline to the city, the city owes to them the gift of a healthy quality of life. As Anthony Sicola says, “The first thing I do when I come to a new city is see how clean it is. If it is clean, it shows that people care and that caring is also seen in the people that live there. There is a sense of pride in the fact that these people care how their city looks. There needs to be a culture of caring in cities, where when you see someone littering, you ask them to pick up their mess.” Capt. J Rama Rao expresses concern over the decline in the city’s quality of living and states, “Quality of life in urban areas is centred around, ‘Ensuring the designated Land Use’- namely Water Bodies, Drains, Parks, Open Spaces, Playgrounds, Forest Area, Hillocks, Conservation Areas etc. I suggest that urban Land be preserved as an asset for the future rather than being treated as a commodity. Indiscriminate land use changes and auction of urban land will only adversely affect the quality of Urban Life, apart from exposing the well-being of future generations to unforeseen consequences.”
J David Foster feels lack of trust in authorities is the root cause of all that is negative about Hyderabad and emphasises greater cohesion between the authorities and the city citizens. “I actually believe that the most serious shortage in Hyderabad and most Indian cities is not the lack of water or land, power or parking spaces but the basic lack of Trust. For a variety of reasons most Indians do not trust their government organisations to provide fair and efficient service and the government representatives generally do not trust their citizens to pay for these services or to use them wisely. Similarly, the same citizens who will keep their own homes spotlessly clean don’t trust other citizens to pick up after themselves and consequently no one seems to take care of public spaces. When this pattern is combined with poor maintenance and poor enforcement, the city is rapidly consumed by its own litter. Tragically, this pattern of neglect even impacts Hussain Sagar, the most valuable jewel in the Pearl City, as trash and raw sewage flow directly into this beautiful lake.”
In advanced cities like London, Toronto, San Francisco, etc, citizens are encouraged to report any unsafe conditions, excessive garbage, unsightly debris or illegal dumping on a private property in their neighbourhood, to the local Municipal Office so that immediate action can be taken to eliminate the hazard. In case, the rules are flouted, a contractor is hired to clean up the property and the cost is applied to the negligent citizen’s property tax bill supplemented by strong legal action. There is strong public/private partnership with businesses, schools, and neighbourhood groups that focuses on education, enforcement, and abatement in every community and neighbourhood. Children are taught the value and importance of civic sense early in their schooling and effective messages are drilled into their minds. Civic workers are trained as Citation officers and authorized to issue litter citations in addition to their regular duties. They issue citations that begin at a fixed rate and increased with repeat offences or especially egregious behaviour. The officers will focus on individuals who actually litter or spit or urinate, levying fines to encourage behaviour change. The strong and successful implementation of these citations allied with strong financial deterrent has led to more respectful behaviour. Nearer home, Bangalore is leading the way, with the formation of a policing group comprising well-trained litter cops. These utilitarian people patrol the streets, and catch the offenders, with the help of a camera. The offenders are fined a sum of Rs 5,000, if guilty of littering. Those of whom unable to pay the fine within 15 days of the offence will get a photograph of them in the act, as a reminder. Hyderabad would do well to follow and implement the procedures followed in these cities.
J David Foster also suggests that the city needs to move fast to provide basic facilities to its residents, which as on now is provided on a time-basis mode. “A major failing of Hyderabad and virtually all cities in India, however, has to do with major weaknesses in water supply and sanitation. While cities throughout the Americas, Europe, and even many cities in Asia and Africa have continuous (24/7) water supply, only one city in India approaches this standard and Hyderabad typically provides only about one and one half hours of supply every other day. Not only does this system make it impossible to guarantee clean water to all residents, studies by the Administrative Staff College of India demonstrate that this intermittent form of supply is actually more expensive than 24/7 supply. To its credit, however, Hyderabad has launched two small pilot projects for providing 24/7 water and is committed to eventually extending this policy to the whole city.”
The growing automobile craze of city folks is not a happy augury in his opinion. It only tends to exacerbate the already worsening traffic problems and compounds the problem of pollution. Today, Hyderabad stands third in the emission of nitrogen dioxide after Calcutta and Lucknow. It is stated that over the last few years, the gross domestic product increased by 2.5 per cent, but vehicular pollution has increased by 8 per cent. J David Foster feels the city needs to get over its craze for automobiles. “Hyderabad needs to get over the idea that the automobile is King. It is ironic that cities such as Berlin, where most people have access to automobiles, still provide excellent footpaths and bicycle paths, while in Hyderabad where comparatively lesser number of people have cars, the footpaths are almost non-existent. With several thousand new vehicles coming on the roads of Hyderabad every day both transport and parking in Hyderabad will continue to get worse until several significant policy changes are implemented. The authorities need to make Hyderabad a more pedestrian-friendly city by providing safe and convenient street crossings and footpaths, make major improvements in mass transit (bus and/or light rail) and authorise all shops and apartments to provide adequate parking and rigidly enforcing those requirements. Also, it must be recognised that expecting government to provide subsidised parking for the wealthy few is both inefficient and inequitable and that the business owners and their car owning customers will ultimately need to pay for the cost of off-street parking.”
Narender Luther urges city authorities to tackle the problem of haphazard parking on a war-footing and points out, “Commuters have no sense of discipline. The traffic police people focus more on challaning rather than providing proper facilities. The citizen going for shopping will park his car near the shop. The Police say parking is not allowed there. Where then? We don’t know, they say, ask the Municipal Corporation. That is not a proper reply, but then functions are split. Traffic should be under the Municipal authorities. So should be water supply, lighting, transport etc. We have split natural whole into artificial parts. That causes problems of coordination. Residential areas have been converted into commercial areas thus lowering the quality of life of the residents. People park their vehicles in our street thus reducing the effective width of the street. The police do nothing. There are shrill noises from places of worship. In spite of the orders of the Supreme Court banning the use of loud speakers, the Police authorities have taken no action for fear of community reaction.” He urges the authorities to study as to how the situation is tackled in advanced cities where rules and regulations are strictly enforced and people know that any infringement on their part will lead to strict punishment.
Human nature tells us that unless there are consequences attached to bad behaviours; it will be more difficult to change that behaviour. As such successful civic campaigns must be launched with appropriate level of enforcement. Through education, enforcement and abatement, it is possible to change the behaviour of people. Malcolm Wolfe puts it succinctly when he says, “I have been abroad, but not all is hunky-dory in advanced cities. There are other problems they have that thankfully India is free of. What makes the big difference is the passionate involvement of people over there plus factors like proper education and accountability of authorities. For the benefit of road users, I have written a book and interested people can log into my website www.streetwise.co.in”. Hyderabadis need to discard their care-too-hoots attitude if Hyderabad needs to be a clean, vibrant and healthy city. They should understand that the city belongs to them and to help it become a top destination in the world, they need to consign their age-hold disgraceful civic habits to dustbin.
While complementing Hyderabad as a nice and progressive city, open to new ideas and willing to invest in its own future, J David Foster states, “Hyderabad needs to implement more path breaking concepts. Global cities of the future will need to be far more dynamic and invest in their own future and cannot hope to use the national patrimony to provide heavily subsidized services to some of the wealthiest people in the country. Personally I admire those cities that have worked hard to improve themselves and been willing to take on new challenges. One of the critical first steps is to improve trust among stakeholders. The city of Ahmedabad, for example, was the first to prove its credit worthiness and use municipal bonds for urban development. Other cities have helped build confidence by improving accountability and transparency, not only meeting the requirements of ‘Right to Information’ but actively promoting public disclosure regarding public policies and finance. Alandur, a suburb of Chennai, has become the first city in India to provide complete underground sewerage and treat all of its waste water and it did so without government subsidy. Similarly, Surayapet in AP has developed one of the best solid waste management systems and helped develop real civic pride in keeping the city clean.”
It is said that great value is often associated with a clean city. A clean city is a strong reflection of our moral and civic values. But clean cities do not just come by chance. They require much responsibility and dedication to maintain, not only by the authorities, but also by the citizens of the city. The message is stark and clear, be it a CEO or an ordinary rickshaw-wallah, every Hyderabadi must realize that the city belongs to him or her, and as such he or she must take responsibility for its upkeep and maintenance. It’s now or never; else the city will be stuck with the tag of a city in terminal and irreversible decline. #KhabarLive