Mr Sarfaraz Khan, Jt Commissioner (SWM) – BBMP discusses waste management in Bengaluru

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is frequently in the news for its various waste management-related initiatives. Be it the controversy over its proposed Waste to Energy (WtE) projects, to a new agency dedicated to solid waste management (SWM), the BBMP is often in the limelight.

SolidWasteIndia’s Mark Doeing and Aafrin Kidwai caught up with BBMP’s Joint Commissioner (SWM), Mr Sarfaraz Khan for a detailed discussion on the civic body’s waste strategy for Bengaluru. 

Mr Sarfaraz Khan,
Joint Commissioner (SWM) – BBMP

Q1. Could you please give us a broad overview of how the BBMP is dealing with Bengaluru’s waste-related challenges?

Considerable work is underway to streamline the overall solid waste management (SWM) system in the city. Earlier, there was no end-to-end waste management and the city lacked a proper system for the collection, transportation, and processing of waste.

The BBMP has implemented innovative ‘Micro Plans’ for each ward. As part of our unique strategy, each ward comprising 10 – 12,000 residents is divided into blocks of 750 houses. GPS enabled auto-tippers with a capacity of 800 kg of wet waste are allotted for each house in the block. The wet waste is taken to a secondary transportation vehicle (ie. compactor), which takes it to the processing plant.

Also, there was little accountability previously, but now there are three levels of monitoring and verification: RFID, GPS, and manual attendance. BBMP Marshalls have also been assigned for each ward who keep us informed about the on-ground situation and leakages in the system have stopped. It not possible to manipulate the system now.

The best part is that all our planning is from the ground up. It is not only done by the bureaucrats but in active partnership with citizens, volunteers, and elected representatives. We have people’s representatives at every level who give us ground-level information on everything.

Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike

Q 2. Could you tell us about the new agency being formed specifically for SWM?

We felt that there are too many agencies working on SWM, which complicated our job. As part of Vision 2022 announced by the Chief Minister, a separate agency – a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) – for SWM is being set up. The new agency will look after MSW collection, transportation, and processing of waste. There will be no political interference. The new SPV will also be independent of the BBMP and have a separate CEO. The staff will include 18,000 pournakarmikas and over one hundred engineers. The by-laws of the new agency are being framed and it will start functioning as soon as we get a green signal from the government.

I hope this happens soon and officers who are truly interested in SWM join the agency. I also look forward to working with a good mix of civic officials and private sector professionals. Together, we will be able to reform SWM in Bengaluru.

Q3. There are media reports that not all wet waste processing plants in the city are functional. Could you please give us an update?

Technically speaking, all seven biomethanation plants are being used. The Chikkanagamangala plant is operational since November 2015. It is being managed by the BBMP after the exit of a private agency that failed to perform to our expectations. The plant is designed to process 500 tonnes of mixed waste. Seegehalli and Subbarayanapalya plants are currently being upgraded and undergoing modifications. Regarding the Lingadheeranahalli plant, there is a stay by NGT since 2015, against which we have filed an appeal in SC. The Kannahalli plant, which has 1000 TPD waste processing capacity is being managed by Satarem Enterprises Pvt Ltd, and the Doddabidarakallu plant being managed by Indium. It has a processing capacity of 50 TPD.

Q4. What is the status of Bengaluru’s first Waste to Energy (WtE) plant at Bidadi?

The Bidadi WtE plant is expected to be ready by 2022. It is being built on land owned by the Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL) and is jointly financed by KPCL and BBMP. Fifty percent of the cost will be borne by us. ISGEC Heavy Engineering Ltd., Noida, and Hitachi Zosen India will design and build the plant, which will have 600 TPD waste-processing capacity and generate 11.5 MW/day power. The plant will also produce RDF for power generation.

Q5. There has been a lot of controversy regarding WtE projects in Bengaluru, including the Bidadi project. How do you respond to this?

WtE almost feels like a gaali in India. Frankly, we, at the BBMP, are tired of foreign companies telling us about their successful WtE projects abroad. When I ask them about what have they done here, in India, they don’t have a good answer. India has unique challenges and what succeeds in other countries doesn’t apply here. We recognize that WtE projects in other cities have been facing problems and hence, we are spending our own money, along with KPCL, on all our initiatives. If private players are unable to perform, we are capable of managing it ourselves. I’m sure the new waste management agency will further improve things.

Q6. You sound pessimistic about the private sector’s involvement in waste management

We are open to working with the private sector. However, our experience has not been very good. For instance, there was a waste collection mafia operating in Bengaluru which took me nearly two years to dismantle.

I believe 50 percent of the waste management fleet should belong to the corporation since this helps avoid any harassment or blackmail by private players. We are ready to take the responsibility and spend our own money on establishing the plants if the commissionaires don’t deliver results.

Q7. How much does the BBMP spend on waste management annually?

Nearly Rs 1000 cr is spent on SWM each year by the BBMP. Most of the financing comes from the state government but we are planning to collect user fees of Rs 200. We are awaiting govt clearance on this proposal. Once approved, we will execute this within three months.

Q8. In your experience, what factors are working in favour of more efficient SWM in Bengaluru?

Bengaluru’s citizens are very good and we have a supportive government. The Chief Minister has given us a free hand. We also have very proactive staff at the BBMP and waste experts who provide great support.

Q9. Conversely, what are some of the challenges you face?

Every citizen needs to become more vigilant and contribute to keeping the city clean. Unlike Indore, for instance, where citizens actively stop others from littering, in big cities like Bengaluru, people look the other way. We want citizens to become more responsible. Admittedly, we lack in terms of our public communication, social media, etc to showcase our efforts but we are working on it.

We also waste a lot of time on unnecessary litigations raised by disgruntled parties. BBMP officials should be given more freedom to work efficiently.

Q10. Bengaluru’s rankings on Swacch Survekshan haven’t been too good. How is the BBMP preparing for SS-2021?

The Swacch Bharat Mission has helped educate citizens about cleanliness and the BBMP is also putting in a lot of effort to raise public awareness on waste segregation. Considerable work is being done by us even though it is not being showcased well. Also, the sheer magnitude of the city makes it hard to show all our efforts.

I am personally managing the communication effort and we are going to launch a public information campaign soon. There are multiple challenges we are trying to address but I am confident that within one year, Bengaluru will be restored to its old glory as a clean, green city.

You can watch the video recording of the interview on our YouTube channel here.

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