BANGALORE : If waste collection and segregation poses a problem regularly, it's only worse during festivals — often cranes have to be used to clear truckloads.
When it comes to Diwali, there's all the more to clear up, thanks to the crackers. What is the city to do with the cracker waste?
Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) commissioner M Lakshminarayana says that additional manpower has been assigned to clear heaps of waste that have collected, but they are unsure how to segregate it.
N S Ramakanth, BBMP Expert Committee member and member, Solid Waste Management Round Table says segregating it with paper might help. "It will have toxic elements but it might be possible to remove them during the recycling process," he speculates.
The city generates about 30 per cent more waste during festivals, he says. "And honestly, we're not able to manage. Luckily this year, people lit fewer crackers than usual," he said.
While the showers this year might have discouraged people from bursting as many crackers as they otherwise might have, they have made it harder for the pourakarmikas to gather the waste that they leave behind. "The paper bits become like pulp," says Ramakanth.
Further, other toxic remnants of the crackers too mix with the water and pollute the environment. "The metal waste and packets and cardboard boxes can usually be recycled. But most of the paper becomes too fragmented to collect. All this accumulates in sewage, which becomes hazardous," environmentalist A N Yelappa Reddy says, adding that these issues aren't being studied seriously enough. People aren't aware of what the crackers are made of and are unaware of the health hazards they might be passing on to future generations, he adds.
It's not merely lack of awareness that causes problems, feels N Mukunda, president, Citizen's Action Forum, civic sense has to play an important role too.
"People should understand that each individual is responsible for the waste he/ she generates. They should light fireworks together in a playground or some such open space, which will make it easier to clear the waste," he says, adding that this will also serve the purpose of a community celebration.
Taking a dig at the Palike, he says, "BBMP has to take care of two things — garbage and town planning. Instead, they're all trying to split Bangalore up into three parts, and have three mayors. Even 30 mayors can't help bring the change the city really needs."
Most pourakarmikas, whose job it is to clean up the city after Diwali don't get time off to celebrate the festival, according to S Balan, president, Contract Pourakamika Association. And they're not paid bonuses either, he adds.
"About 95 per cent are hired on a contractual basis, and they have to work through the year," he says.
They don't get protective gloves to clear away the toxic waste. "But that's true even for all other days of the year. They're not even provided soap. Though labour laws are being violated, the Labour Department has become a mute spectator," he adds.