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Lessons From Indore In Urban Management

In both these cities plastics were a historical menace – often streets looked like they had gone in for a plastic make-up mask.

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For two cities, Indore and Bhopal, to continuously bag top ranks as the cleanest cities in the country, is testimony not only to effective waste management practices adopted by them, but also to good urban governance at the state level. In a milieu that has traditionally believed in the not-in-my-backyard policy of caring only about itself and remaining indifferent to the appearance of public places, it has taken a 360-degree change in the mindset of citizens to make them guard their new status zealously. Good cities funnel investment and are the crucibles for citizen happiness. There are several lessons to be learnt.

In both these cities plastics were a historical menace – often streets looked like they had gone in for a plastic make-up mask. So as a first step, these cities came down heavily on single use plastics of thickness less than 50 microns. This was particularly an uphill task – in both cities street food is extremely popular and both have had an easy, anything-goes lifestyle.

Discipline was brought into the ranks of municipal employees across the state by giving them a distinct identity and recognition. Steps were taken to energise the moribund staff. A defined municipal cadre was created; uniforms were introduced along with lapel cards; a tracking system was introduced to keep tabs on municipal vehicles and most importantly, the concept of spot fines was introduced under the Municipal Act – to be administered instantly by municipal staff.  (Earlier a person could only be penalised for littering if a formal police case had been registered by a regular policemen under the IPC provisions.)  

With a population of 27 lakhs, Indore is today practising 100 per cent door-to-door collection of municipal waste, after segregation. This is the first differentiating strategy, as most cities today  including the NDMC – expect you to drop your segregated garbage in municipal waste bins in each colony – but it is not part of the Indian psyche to be seen carrying waste. Waste collected in a door-to-door collection system, wherein wet and dry waste is already segregated, is taken to the Garbage Transfer Station where it is kept in designated containers: wet in green and dry in blue, and then taken to the Material Recovery Facility (MRF). At the MRF, the waste is then put on a conveyor belt, where it is manually screened further by deploying rag-pickers. Igloo Machines (to reduce moisture content), Shredders, Briquetting Machines and Bailing Machines are deployed, along with grinders, chippers and granulators, to reduce the size of the plastic waste so that it can be used elsewhere. The compressed and pelleted plastic is used for road construction (for flexible pavements) or in cement plants to be used as RDF (refuse derived fuel) and for recycling. In the first year alone, the Indore Municipal Corporation seized 1,500 MT of plastic bags from vendors and imposed hundreds of spot fines, to earn several lakhs. More than 600 rag pickers are deployed. The Pet in water and soda bottles is recycled and is used for fleece garments, carpets and stuffing for pillows and life jackets, and the HDPE is used for making dust bins etc. Likewise, for other recyclable materials.  

At the national level, we need legislation like the German blue-dot packaging regulation whereby citizens are charged until they return the packaging. As for plastics, we need a Plastic-free Trust Mark and need to always use our own carry bags. The goal should be to move speedily – from a throwaway society to a throwback society – by reducing our consumption and emulating the innocent generations before us. Until then, effective municipal waste management is the key to economic success.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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management urban management

Raghav Chandra

The author is Former Chairman, NHAI

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