Kolkata, the City of Joy, is all set to become cleaner and greener with the help of Swachh Bharat Mission. The biggest metro of Eastern India is trying hard to come out of its prevailing image which does not speak highly of its cleanliness. Kolkata, ever since its taking up by the English in the 17th century, was reeling under a dichotomy of the Anglo-Europeans and the natives. The rulers, though they maintained a beautiful and clean city in the Alipore and Chowringhee areas, were indifferent to the native dominated regions of the city; those areas were full of dirt and all kinds of unhygienic practices of livelihood were prevalent there. It is in this backdrop that the growth of the urban areas of Kolkata is to be charted through the ages.

One of the biggest problems of an urban conglomeration in the developing world is its solid waste management; Kolkata is no exception. With high rate of growth of urban population since independence, the city has been expanding on all sides since 50s of the last century.

Kolkata, one of four major metropolitan cities in India, with an area of 187.33 sq km and a population of about 8 million, generates around 4,000 Metric Tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) at a rate of 450-500 g per capita per day. With rapid urbanization as a result of planned and unplanned growth and industrialization, the problems associated with handling MSW have increased at an alarming rate over the past few years. As no source segregation arrangement exists and with a limited (65%) house-to-house collection, the recoverable waste remains as heaps in some areas of the city. 50-55% open vats are used in the present collection system. The operational efficiency of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) transport system is about 50%, with a fleet that has about 30-35% old vehicles. The majority (80%) of these, particularly the hired vehicles, are more than 20 years old. The newly added areas covered by KMC have even lower collection efficiencies, and only an informal recycling system exists there. The waste collected has a low energy value (3,350 – 4,200 kJoules/kg (-1) with high moisture and inert content. A 700 td compost plant set up in 2000 has not been functioning effectively since 2003. Open dumping (without liners and without a leachate management facility) and the threat of groundwater pollution, as well as saturation of an existing landfill site (Dhapa) are the most pressing problems for the city today. KMC spends 70-75% of its total expenditures on collection of solid waste, 25-30% on transportation, and less than 5% on final disposal arrangements. The Kolkata Environmental Improvement Project, funded by the Asian Development Bank, was seen as only a partial solution to the problem. A detailed plan was needed badly to emphasize segregation at source, investment in disposal arrangements (including the use of liners and leachate collection), and an optimized transport arrangement, among improvements.

However, things have started moving positively since last year. With the introduction of Swachh Bharat Campaign by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, on October 2, 2014, the response to cleanliness among the city-dwellers has increased a lot. Meanwhile Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) has also initiated a change in attitude so far as manual scavenging is concerned. The KMC, with a view to put an end to manual scavenging, is trying to introduce a mechanized process like the developed and Smart cities of the world. Though the KMC is still using manual scavenging and sweeping in the Central Business District at the heart of the city, 85 Wards out of a total 141 are now Vat-free.

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The Solid Waste Management Division of KMC has taken a major step during the last one year to minimize manual scavenging operation. The Corporation has set up 44 Compactor stations all over the city, during the last one year. The Compactor stations are located at important places like Jadavpur, Southern Avenue, Kalighat, Camac Street, Shraddhananda Park, Kolkata Medical College etc. for a hassle-free disposal of solid waste, collected manually or with the tricycles, dumped straight into the Compactor chamber for incineration. The Compactor stations, built at a cost of Rs. 1 crore each, have been able to replace century-old garbage vats at places like Mirza Galib Street, Chetla, Samsul Huda Sarani etc. to relieve the city dwellers of the health hazard. KMC, in addition to these, has also acquired 38 movable Compactor Vans which are placed regularly at various strategic points including Behala, Charu Market etc. These mobile Compactor vans, at a cost of Rs.38 lakh each, are helping the civic body to dispose solid waste materials off the thickly populated urban areas in an effective and healthy manner.

Buoyed by the success of these Compactor Stations, the urban local self-governing body has decided to modernize the solid waste disposal system in a scientific and environment friendly manner. A huge project of Rs.152 crore has been submitted to the Government of India for approval. Mr. Subhashis Chatterjee, the D.G. Solid Waste Management, KMC said that the DPR of the Modernisation Project has been sent under Swachh Bharat Mission for approval and if it is approved, it will be the greatest boon to the people of Kolkata under Swachh Bharat Mission, a dream project of the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.

– By Shri Partha Ghosh, Assistant Director (M&C), Press Information Bureau, Kolkata

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