BENGALURU: It has been three years that I am living in Bengaluru. I am still discovering the city and learning about new bars and restaurants, discovering new temples and parks. Bengaluru is such a dynamic place full of enthusiastic young people with business ideas, talented musicians with a passion for rock and classical music, and dedicated innovators who want to change the world. But what really bothers me when I go out or drive through the city is garbage thrown lackadaisically. There are parts of the city that are beautiful and well-maintained, especially in the city centre, at company compounds or at the roadside on the way to the airport. But I was really shocked once when I took the train to Hampi from Bengaluru Cantonment and saw all that litter and waste thrown around near the tracks and behind people’s houses.
I understand that waste management is a huge challenge in a place with 10 million people because each and every one of us generates waste. But let me give you an example from my own country, Germany. Even though much smaller in size, we had similar problems in the 1970s and ’80s, but we managed to turn the tide through education. First, by sensitising schoolchildren and young people about littering and proper garbage disposal, then, by introducing a system of separating waste, much like you have it in Bengaluru. Today, the awareness in Germany is so high that you can’t get away with littering on the road. If you throw a wrapper on the streets, there would be a conscientious grandmother or grandfather who would ‘not so gently’ ask you to throw it in the bin. It is part of the collective conscience now. For India, it’s now or never. There are innumerable health risks and spread of diseases associated with unhygienic waste disposal. In the end, the problem of waste is also a problem of climate change. With so many young creative minds, I am sure a solution will be found. Unfortunately, the clock is ticking and it’s time to act soon.
If schoolkids were made to clean the city one day a year and taught that the place is theirs as much as their parents’ house, I am sure after this exercise, they would never throw litter around. Powerful educative measures have a lifelong impact on young minds.
Margit Hellwig-Bötte, German Consul General
Let your mixed feelings about Bengaluru get stirred up, as an influential person talks about things nice and nasty about the city in this weekly column