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Waist deep in Waste


The government must work out a solution to Imphal city’s waste management. The city continues to sink into its own waste. It must either streamline its own Imphal municipality to do the job efficiently and adequately, or else think of leasing out the responsibility to private entrepreneurs in the field, and thankfully, there have been a growing number of such private enterprises in Imphal today. These private enterprises live by what they earn, unlike those in the public sector who seem to think it is their right to live beyond their means, and more atrociously, to place their rights while ignoring their responsibilities and duties for which they are entitled to be paid from public money. If this were not so, the garbage piling up into virtual mountains all over Imphal city, and making the air in their vicinity putrid and sickening, would not be. Whatever the resort has to be, the government must take it. The most important consideration must be to keep Imphal city clean and hygienic. It does not matter if this is done by a government undertaking or else leased out to private parties.

We see no reason why the Imphal municipality cannot earn enough to sustain itself. This particularly so in view of how private companies with much less resources have survived and are growing in not just in popularity in residential colonies in much of greater Imphal but also in terms of business turnovers. The fact is, residents are willing to pay for this extremely important service, and these private enterprises take the best advantage of this in a mutually beneficial way. Those in government services see things differently and much more prefer to only earn and not work. This work culture can remain disguised and relatively invisible in many other white-collared departments where file pushing is the main preoccupation, but not so in a blue-collar situation as in the case of waste management. In the latter, there is an inverse proportionality between work done and stench in the air – the more the work, the less the stench in the air, and vice versa. It also means, if many of the government departments were asked to earn and live by their earnings only, many of them would suffer the same fate as the Imphal municipality. Their only saving grace is, their inactivity is not felt (or smelt) as quickly as that of the municipality.

This also implies that the municipality tax structuring will have to be rationalised. Especially in the congested Imphal Bazar area, the municipality tax rates would have to be hiked up. Each shop, each vendor and each family living in these commercial streets should be made to pay a tax slot higher than or at least matching the collection fees families away from the Bazar area pay to private garbage collectors. The government could also add a little to this tax revenue, after all, the Bazar streets are also public places, the upkeep of which would benefit not just the residents and shops, but also everybody else in the city, who all undoubtedly depend on the commerce that happen in these streets. Let everybody be made to understand and internalise that public services have a cost, and also the better the service they want, the more they would have to pay.

Waste management problem however is not just about picking up city waste, but also about disposing them. Here, at least for the moment, it is only the government which can do something. It must acquire enough incinerators and other modern waste elimination technology at the soonest and on a priority basis. Simply lifting garbage from the city and dumping it at another place may have been sufficient three or four decades ago, for then the volume of waste was not overwhelming and there would be time for the dumped waste at a particular spot to decompose and became earth (dust unto dust) before another pile was ready to be disposed. Again it is not just population growth, but also the “use and dispose” market cult driven by the new age consumerism, and the emergence of non degradable synthetic products, which have made sure waste management is a gigantic problem. The natural decomposition cycle is grossly inadequate and there is no other way than to depend on technology to overcome this problem. But not any less important is for the people to also begin realising their own responsibility in keeping their immediate environment clean. They must begin seeing this responsibility as not just a question of lending a hand in the governance process, but also as a necessary effort in ensuring themselves and their families, good health.



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