Kolkata/New Delhi – Environmentalists, rejoice – no, every city dweller who has ever seen chip packets, chocolate wrappers and all manner of junk lying on the streets – exult! The Union Environment Ministry has introduced spot fines for people who litter public spaces and streets. Moreover, fines will also be levied on any household that fails to segregate its waste before handing it over to the garbage collector.
The Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, issued by the ministry have asked for the introduction of “user fees” to be paid by “waste generators”, i.e. households, offices and marketplaces; to the local authorities for collecting the waste. These rules also call for street food vendors, housing societies, political rallies and wedding organisers to take steps to segregate their waste before disposing them. Many states are no strangers to some of the rules being proposed by the ministry. In Shimla, littering of garbage is punishable with a fine up to Rs 5000.
What may come as a surprise to most Calcuttans is that a similar law exists in our city, with fines ranging from Rs 50 to 5000 - on paper at least. The biggest obstacle in the way of the ministry is how to implement these new rules, many environmental experts are unclear on how to get about this. The challenge ahead of us is commendable, but to make Kolkata a clean and green city, we need to make sure that these new rules and legislations don’t just remain on paper.
|Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar, who announced the rules, acknowledged the fact that there is a role for civic and rural bodies, saying, “The quantum of user fees and spot fines will have to be decided by local bodies.”
But experts and the common man understand that rules alone would make little difference. “Rules alone mean nothing. Improving waste management will require states to increase funds for this. Local bodies depend on resources from state governments,” said Rajeev Pratap Singh, an assistant professor at the institute of Environment and Sustainable Development at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.
Aparup Biswas, a second year student of BCom Honours from the Bhawanipur Education Society College Kolkata, was excited by the possibility of seeing his hometown in a cleaner view, but he was wary of the obstacles ahead of the authorities in their quest to do so. “There will need to be very strict laws,” he said, “Moreover people should be educated about the advantages of segregation of waste and should be made aware of the damage littering does to our streets.”
A nice clean bin encourages
people to dispose of their waste in a responsible way.
Finally, while the government is taking steps to ensure a cleaner and greener tomorrow, especially for us city people, we too need to play our role in making sure these rules and enforced - and don’t commit these offences ourselves. NGOs are playing a role to bring about this change in our own attitudes but it has been an uphill task. Maybe the new rules will finally be able to convince the public they need to clean up their act, or pay up.
The bin rusts away, unused as people seem to aim for the area around it to litter...