While political parties blame each other, the city continues to grapple with problems like unclean toilets, open defecation, improper waste management and a toxic river
From the BJP-led Municipal Corporations of Delhi (MCD) to its AAP-led government the capital city’s administration has been unable to make concrete advances in its drive to make the city clean.
Be it the municipalities failing to reach top levels in the Swachh Survekshan survey – North MCD coming in the 45 out of 48 in the 10-40 lakh population in Urban Local bodies – or Delhi government’s Yamuna cleaning promises, the city has much to worry about in terms of sewage, and waste disposal.
First, we look at the Swachh ranking, a part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which comes at a time when elections for municipalities are around the corner, scheduled to be held in April of 2022. It will be seen whether the AAP can wrestle the seats from the BJP which has had the power in the MCDs since 2017 – and whom they have blamed in the past for corruption.
The ranking has also taken into account citizens’ viewpoint which the report says was “motivated” to provide feedback, and in Delhi’s case over 7.1 lakh did (7,16,684).
In the MCDs, as mentioned earlier, the North performed the worst, more so from last year where it had ranked 43. The East Corporation stood at 40, while the South Corporation remained at 31.
The North civic body in Delhi is the only municipality that failed to get ODF certification despite repeated efforts. ODF forms an important part of ‘Swachhata rankings’ given by the Union government.
Patriot reported in September 2020, finding that public toilets of the city were in an appalling condition. Unfortunately, this despicable condition of public toilets is not a problem under one civic body — in the entirety of Delhi, most of the public toilets are unclean and unhygienic.
In 2017, Nirmal Gorana, a social activist, filed a PIL in Delhi High Court looking at the condition of public toilets in Bhatt camp in Badarpur. The PIL demanded accountability of the authorities. The Delhi High Court came down heavily on authorities and observed, “If you maintain toilets properly, the public will never come to court”. But that wasn’t enough to wake the authorities from their slumber.
Patriot’s visits to various slums like Madanpur Khaddar, Shakurpur Basti, Shamshan area in Munirka revealed that even when SDMC is ODF free, open defecation is in practice due to unclean public toilets in slum areas.
People sitting half-naked along the railway track for nature’s call marks is a sight that marks the train’s arrival in Delhi. This characteristic of a typical north Indian city is haunting Delhi even in 2021.
Commenting on the Swachh Survekshan 2021 ranking, the commissioner in a statement issued by EDMC, said that they have improved their ranking from last year, “It is heartening that EDMC has scored far better than last year’s survey and has performed well in three parameters.” Last year EDMC ranked 46, and NDMC ranked 43. This year, EDMC performed better than NDMC.
SDMC thanked the work done in the field of sanitation for improved ranking and hoped that it will help them do better in future. Sanjay Sahay, Director (Press & Information), SDMC said “a lot of work in the field of sanitation in the last few years will surely improve the ranking in future”.
The NDMC which fared poorly in ranking said in a statement, that they were “first rank” in the category of India’s Best Mega City in ‘Citizen’s Feedback’, in the Swachh ranking awards.
In the certification process, the municipalities were marked on the Garbage free city status and also on the Open Defecation free status. In the ranking, North MCD received a zero on both counts. East Delhi managed to get a 300 score out of 700 in ODF ranking while SDMC managed a 500 for the same.
The administration here was unable to keep up with the promise made by the Union government to stop open defecation. In the case of community toilets, a report by Praja foundation, called ‘The status of civic issues in Delhi’, from 2020, found that the state under the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (21,398) had more toilets than those built by MCD (9,030) as on 2019. The EDMC had a total of 1,642, NDMC had 3,741 and SDMC 3,647 community toilets.
But the perennial problem of poorly managed community toilets and ODF creates an even bigger problem – untreated sewage and its flow into the Yamuna.
Water in the Yamuna is no doubt polluted. The recent visuals of people taking a bath in the frothy water of the river during the Chatth puja was a reminder for the government of the toxicity of its waters.
Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal later promised a 6-point approach to clean the Yamuna with two important ones for this report being – increase in the number of and more efficient sewage treatment plants and second, seeing waste from community toilets getting linked to sewage lines for treatment.
The Yamuna as it stands now, is the dirtiest in Delhi. The Central Pollution Control Board data from 2019 shows shockingly high numbers of Coliform – bacteria found in faeces of all warm-blooded animals and humans. At its highest level it reached 240 lakh (24000000) Most Probable Number (MPN) per 100 ml in Nizamuddin, and 170 lakh (17000000) MPN/100 ml at Okhla Bridge (Inlet of Agra Canal), and a whopping 490 lakh (49000000) MPN/ 100 ml at Okhla after meeting of Shahdara Drain.
These were the highest throughout the course of the river that runs through Uttrakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh.
CPCB’s report on sewage treatment plants also showed that in Delhi, the installed capacity was of 2,896 MLD (86.96 %) against sewage generation of 3,330 MLD. It shows a gap in treatment capacity of 434 MLD (13.04 %).
Interestingly, the likes of Uttar Pradesh which generates sewage of 8,263 MLD has an installed capacity of 3,374 MLD and operational capacity at 3,224 with 107 STP installed. For Haryana, the sewage generated was 1,816 (in MLD) while the operational treatment capacity was 1880
According to Delhi planning Yamuna Action Plan Phase – III- State share the expenditure in 2020-21 was Rs 6000.00 lakhs while the budget for 2021-22 is 5,907 lakhs.
Sewerage Facility in Squatter Resettlement Colonies expenditure was Rs 10 lakhs in 2019-2020 and 2020-21 but increased to a budget of Rs 100 lakh in 2021-22.
Heaps of garbage
In Delhi, garbage collection is mostly done in an unsegregated manner, which is often the case in lal doras of the city — unattended garbage rotting in bins is a common sight.
“MCD periodically takes waste from our area. All waste comes to one place and then MCD trucks load everything and take it,” says Vijay Dhaiya, a resident of Munirka. “Our biggest problem is sewerage, and drainage. Every year during monsoon, water logging becomes a big problem resulting in issues in movement in Munirka.”
“We send complaints, sometimes they are promptly addressed, while in some cases we have to wait,” he adds. Not just that, though, the SDMC is considered better off as most of the areas under it are considered posh, the problem of unclean public toilets persists.
The city also grapples with the ever growing problem of increased waste and sewage generation. Praja Foundation also pointed to an increase in waste generation of 29% from 8,370 million tonnes per day (MTD) in 2014-15 to 10,817 MTD in 2018-19 in Delhi.
A resident of Rohini, Nishant Gulati says despite repeated attempts to get the attention of the North MCD to the civic issues around his area, the requests go unheard. “It has been months since I complained about garbage dumping, tagging the authorities on Twitter in October. It was about ill-maintained garbage collecting in heaps in areas near an MCD school in sector 25 of Rohini. Some media outlets covered it, but there has been no action taken yet”.
When it comes to the rankings, AAP blames the MCD for having no vision. Durgesh Pathak, member of the political affairs committee of AAP said, “Delhi is India’s capital and it should be cleaner than Indore. Open defecation, drains are full, heaps of garbage is the common problem here. And MCD is only blameworthy for that — they have no system of garbage collection, they have funds but no vision.”
“Cities are governed in a modern way, it is not being done by MCD. Most people in MCD are corrupt. This is done in a systematic manner like non-payment of salaries to sanitation workers, not giving them permanent jobs, no system of processing waste etc.” He added.
However,Patriot reported recently that the individual performances of many councillors which included councillors from AAP and Congress were not good either. Responding to that Pathak said, “we have a proper review system.” He went on to say that, if any councillor doesn’t do well they will not continue with them.
(Cover: Getty Images)