Saturday, November 17, 2007

Mumbai attempts to clean the city

How many times has it happened that you saw somebody throwing garbage on the streets and wondered as to why they did it ? Did you sometimes throw a wrapper on the street and felt guilty about it, or not even feel a twinge of guilt ? Take all these individual acts, put them together and you end up with a city (and this is about each and every city in India) full of garbage. Sometimes it is easily noticeable, for example, when the weather is humid, the smell of garbage is all around. But mostly, we criticize the municipal corporation (and rightly so) for the mess.
Surat, after the plague had gone, went through a government enforced cleanliness program with a lot of public support. That program was a good example of how a city can be made clean and kept clean. There are numerous other examples on a smaller scale that show how cleanliness can be kept. Private offices are a good example, where there are adequate facilities such as garbage bins and moral pressure to ensure cleanliness. The Delhi Metro is another example of cleanliness where the Metro ensures that people do not litter, and they also ensure that the facilities are always kept clean such that if anybody tries to litter, they will be seen as the first people doing the littering.
However, we also know that in addition to self-discipline, some amount of enforcement is also required. Singapore is one prime example of strict rules ensuring that no one tries any amount of littering, and people who do, suffer. And enforcement seems to be the measure that the Mumbai authorities are trying to use:

MUMBAI: Getting away with spitting, urinating in public, throwing garbage on pavements or any other nuisance which spoils the cleanliness of the metropolis will be harder and even costlier now.
To supplement the work done by the few nuisance detectors (NDs), the civic body today appointed five private security agencies to look after cleanliness and sanitation in the city with powers to impose fines ranging from Rs 100 to Rs 20,000 on offenders.

If you read the article, there is a lot of talk about not being heavy on the fines initially, but trying more education and getting people to be more aware of their responsibilities.
At the same time, it cannot be all enforcement. There is a crying need to have more facilities. One good example is the availability of garbage bins or dustbins and public conveniences. In our crowded cities, such infrastructure needs to be available at regular intervals and well maintained (and that is the killer nowadays many of them are not well maintained). It is easy to blame people for urinating in public, but in winter months, when there is no facility available for long distances, what can a person do ?

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 12:28 AM