Indore recently made headlines for being the cleanest city in the country. After all my zero waste travels, articles and campaigns I was happy to find myself in the city and see for myself! The roads are definitely clean, markets have dustbins everywhere and there are waste collection trucks making regular rounds of the colonies with catchy jingles playing on the loudspeaker.
With a population just over a million and over 85% literacy rate the tag of being the cleanest city in India is definitely easier to achieve here than in other metropolitan cities like Delhi or Mumbai which have population numbers soaring around 20 million. Not to take away from the achievement – it definitely must not have been an easy journey and is rightly so a model city for the rest of the country in terms of waste collection, segregation and awareness.
The question on my mind now is – Where is the waste going? Is it being swept under the carpet? How much emphasis is being put on reduction of waste? Because the facts remain clear – our landfills cannot take anymore, our oceans are bursting with plastic and non-biodegradables and ecosystems are suffering. With over 45,000 tones of waste being dumped into our oceans every year we cannot afford to add to that. Initiatives like Swatchh Bharat are much needed in a country like ours but cleanliness is only the first stage and we must not get fixated on that. What happens to our trash after the dustbins? Where does it go from there? These are questions that we must start dwelling into more.
Over the last 3 days in the city I have done my best to avoid unnecessary plastic – straws, bottles, plates, bags- the usual suspects. This evening I visited “ Sarafa” with my family. Sarafa is Indore’s only street food night market. Located in one of the oldest parts of the city, anyone from Delhi will find it much like Chandni Chowk – crowded with humans of all sizes and age groups, surviving buildings with olden architecture and all sorts of smells challenging your olfactory senses – from body odours to cooking oil. If you’re not careful you might fall inside one of the massive cooking vessels and will find yourself getting deep-fried with jalebis and samosas. Unlike most markets you can keep your eyes on the different food stalls instead of looking down on the road trying to avoid potholes and trash. Every stall has a dustbin next to it and I even overheard one woman shouting “ my stall will be declared as the cleanest”. The pride people take in their surroundings is definitely shining through – whether this was a result of the recent award or it was from the past – who knows?
Knowing that majority of the food stalls would be serving the food in onetime use/ throw – away plates, cups and bowls we decided to go prepared! Every member had one spoon, one box and a glass. We tucked into Pav Bhaji, Jalebis, Aloo chaat, Bhel and other potentially dangerous , diabetes causing snacks – we ate guilt free!! 4 people ate and we produced ZERO trash! It was definitely a win for me as no one complained, it was not inconvenient and our small actions today did make a difference. We told every (almost every) shopkeeper we spoke to about why we were carrying our own boxes and in the process a few people around us noticed too!
I noticed most stalls had just one dustbin next to them. The waste being produced by each of them was not being segregated. Wet waste and plastics were all being thrown into one bin. When I asked one of the shopkeepers about this he said they don’t have time to segregate their waste and the pick up truck that comes takes everything together. Majority of the waste that I noticed in the bins was wet waste – waste that can actually be composted. Tomorrow I will be visiting the Indore landfills to find out how exactly waste is being segregated and what are the various steps being taken to consciously avoid the build up of dangerous and toxic landfills around the city.
Recent reports of Henderson island having up to 38 million pieces of plastic on its shores rocked the environmental community and to some extent the general public as well. People have begun to think about waste and the impact it has on the environment once it leaves the dustbin. But with reports like those about Henderson island , we must accelerate our efforts and encourage as many people around us to join the movement and help reduce the amount of waste we are generating as a society.