T(h)rashing it out

The solid waste management team at TC is working to finalise a proposal based on our research and sample survey for sustainable and inclusive solid waste management (SWM) in Ward 173. What we are proposing is a decentralised system of municipal solid waste premised on the concept of zero-waste. The key requirements for this are source segregation, door-to-door collection, separate transportation of different streams of waste, establishment of resource recovery parks for secondary segregation and organic waste processing units, and a monitoring system that is run by citizens.

Over this past weekend (February 8-9, 2014), we held four community meetings at various places in the ward to explain the important aspects of the proposal to the residents and seek their inputs. The first meeting was held at Govindasamy Nagar, the site of our pilot and subsequently the final sample survey. Residents in the neighbourhood who had participated in our survey had been given dustbins to segregate waste, and we were horrified to learn that the conservancy workers who had helped in the collection in this area during the nine day survey, had stolen the dustbins given to the residents here, claiming that they were needed to be given to another area where a similar survey was being conducted!

Graph 1: Researchers Aruna and Harsha explain the proposal to residents of Govindasamy Nagar

A common grievance was the inefficiency of the existing collection system and the residents were curious how our proposal would bring a change. They wanted to know about the regularity of waste collection that we were proposing and were happy to know door–to-door collection was being proposed for all residential areas, including theirs. Residents insisted that the key component of source segregation would not be a problem. Some continue to segregate even today, several months after the survey! Their other concern was of how the Corporation could be held accountable for efficient waste collection. The proposal was met with a lot of positivity and the residents assured us of their cooperation.

The second meeting, held at the Corporation playground on Broadies Castle Road, received a lukewarm response with about 12 people attending from different localities including Greenways Lane, KVB Garden, and Krishnapuri. Residents were frustrated with the poor garbage collection and performance of the existing private company, Ramky, in charge of SWM in the ward. Two important points that were brought up in this meeting were; First, that while suggesting bio-gas plants for processing wet waste, the usage of the gas must be ensured since non-usage of gas is often the reason behind breakdown of this technology. Second, that in situ waste management should be made compulsory for bulk waste producers with strong penalties for non-compliance.

Graph 2: Community meeting at the Corporation playground in progress

The third meeting was held at MRC Nagar, and was attended by residents from MRC Nagar and Karpagam Avenue. They expressed concerns about possible non-compliance by bulk waste producers (BWPs) in setting up in situ waste processing facilities and cited instances in the past where the residents have had to rally to stop BWPs from disposing garbage on a large scale and inconveniencing the residents. The residents were in favour of institutionalising processes and monitoring mechanisms to ensure compliance. However, the ‘Not In My Back Yard’ sentiment was very prevalent amongst the residents here, and is something that the proposed awareness campaign will have to take cognizance of to ensure success of the proposed system.

The last meeting at Keshavaperumalpuram was attended by 18 people. They suggested that to ensure compliance in segregation fines should be imposed on households that did not segregate, and that training should be provided to domestic workers since they deal with the waste disposal in most households in the area. Residents were completely in favour of a citizen-driven accountability and monitoring mechanism. Their main concern was how garden waste would be dealt with since the area generated dry leaves, etc. in large volumes.

The common threads through these meetings were a dissatisfaction and frustration with current solid waste management systems – poor service delivery and poor cleanliness on streets; and an eagerness to do something to rectify the situation. Everyone was in broad agreement with the contents of the proposal. Notably, nobody objected to charges being levied for apartment units of more than 50 units that did not process organic waste on their premises. People from all the localities wanted us to help them make their locality a model neighbourhood that would spur the Corporation to action across the ward, and perhaps, the city.

In total, we were able to speak directly with about 60 to 65 people over four meetings held on the two days, while flyers with details of the proposal were distributed to over a thousand people. We will continue our outreach efforts in other areas of the ward as well as take the proposal to as many people as possible before we submit a final version to the Corporation. Please do take the time to give us your comments here.

Written by Avni Rastogi, researcher, Transparent Chennai

Extensive Survey on Municipal Solid Waste in Ward 173

As per the Corporation of Chennai, the city produces 5000 metric tonnes of garbage every day. They know this because as each compactor or garbage truck enters the dumpsites at Perungudi or Kodungaiyur, they are weighed using weighbridges. Beyond this figure, there is no understanding of how much of the municipal solid waste (MSW) produced in the city is organic waste that can be used for composting, or how much recyclable plastic is disposed daily. As a result, the Corporation cannot effectively plan for sustainable management of MSW.

Transparent Chennai, as part of a project undertaken in partnership with the Madras Institute of Development Studies and Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, with cooperation and assistance from the Corporation of Chennai, is undertaking a survey to determine the quantity and composition of municipal solid waste produced in Ward 173 (in Zone XIII – Adyar). This ward level sample survey would provide detailed information about the quantity and kind of waste produced in the ward – information that is required to plan for an effective system of MSW management.

This survey is being done in two phases: mapping and sampling. Over the last few months, the team, with the assistance of a number of volunteers and community participants, has mapped Ward 173. With the use of paper maps, we marked the location of houses, apartments buildings, open spaces, hotels, eateries, and schools, and recorded the total number of households and shops. We found that there are 14,443 households and 960 small commercial establishments in the ward. There are also 19 educational institutions, 27 offices, 2 hotels, 13 stand-alone eateries, and 8 community halls / kalyana mandapams. This data was digitised using GIS software to create a map of the ward, and separated into blocks of 250 to 300 households each.

In the second phase, that began on November 15, 2013, we are conducting a sample survey. We selected 750 households and 50 shops in the ward at random. We have provided them with separate dustbins to collect their organic, inorganic, and sanitary wastes, along with adequate numbers of garbage bags. Starting on November 21 we will collect these garbage bags for 9 consecutive days. Each garbage bag shall be weighed, and each component of the inorganic waste will be separated into recyclable categories. Cooperation by households and segregation at the household level will be crucial to the survey’s success.

This data, along with our earlier mapping data, will be able to tell us the total quantity of waste produced in the ward by households and shops, the total amount of organic waste produced, the monetary value of recyclable components that could be used productively, and also a correlation between the composition of waste and different socio-economic categories of residents. We are also separately surveying each bulk waste producer to determine the quantity and composition of waste produced by them.

These survey results would be used as the basis of a comprehensive plan for waste management for the ward based on concepts of a decentralised model that moves the ward towards being “zero-waste”. This proposal shall be presented to the residents of Ward 173 in community meetings, and inputs and suggestions from the community shall be incorporated into the proposal. The final proposal shall then be submitted to the Corporation of Chennai for implementation in the ward. Through this exercise, we also hope to present a model of participatory planning based on good spatial data for the Corporation to emulate in other wards of the city with the assistance of civil society organisations.

Towards the organisation of informal waste workers in Chennai

On the morning of August 14th, 2013, 10.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m., in a small marriage hall near the Thiruvanmiyur temple tank under a large banner that read “Chennai Corporation waste pickers meeting for demands/entitlements,” the first official meeting of informal waste workers from across South Chennai was organised by the Chennai Metro Construction and Unorganised Workers Union.

The meeting was attended by about 200 waste pickers belonging mostly to the Narikuruva, Irular, and Dalit communities from Thiruvanmiyur, Besant Nagar, Kotturpuram, Saidapet, Thoraipakkam, Semmencheri, and Perungudi. It was an uncharacteristically rainy morning, and while we waited for attendees to trickle in, a mollam (traditional drum) player and two folk singers kept the assembly entertained.

The proceedings began with the welcoming and garlanding of the guests at the dais – Comrade S.S. Thiagarajan, the All India Vice President of AITUC, R. Leelavathy from Pennurimai Iyyakkam, and Saidai Anbudasan, the President of the Ambedkar Association.

Leelavathy, fondly called akka (elder sister), was first requested to address the gathering. She spoke of the services that waste pickers provide for the Corporation, by cleaning the city and reducing waste sent to the landfills. Instead of being acknowledged for their contributions, she said that they face regular police harassment. She said that the city of Pune, where households segregated waste at home and where waste pickers were integrated into the formal waste management system of the city, should be a model for Chennai.

Leelavathy also mentioned a survey done of waste-pickers at Kodungaiyur by the Community Environmental Monitoring group, along with other local organisations, a few years ago in 2007 that led to recommendations being made to the Corporation of Chennai for recognition of the contribution of waste pickers. Although the Corporation said it would take action, no action has been taken since. She ended her address by saying that waste pickers should come together in a union so they will have strength in numbers while seeking better living and working conditions.

Kudisai Perumal, Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Gudisai Vaazhvor Sangam and Project Coordinator for National Alliance of Women, then spoke briefly, and said, “No one has done anything for us, it is about time we did something ourselves!”

Members of different communities and settlements of waste pickers then addressed the gathering, sharing the problems they faced and articulating their needs. For example, Godavari of the Narikurava community at Kotturpuram, argued that waste-picking should be recognised by the Corporation, because their work actually helps the city. “We’re not criminals,” he said, “we’re only trying to help through our work.” Instead, waste pickers face regular police harassment and taunting. He also said that waste-pickers were often taken advantage of by private waste collection companies. In the past, some waste pickers had been offered jobs at Rs. 4,000 a month, and only received Rs. 2,000. Godavari concluded by saying that waste-pickers’ immediate needs were for ID cards, health insurance, and housing.

Godavari speaking on behalf of the Narikuruva community at Kotturpuram

Another waste-picker, Vijaya from Saidapet also spoke. She works at the Perungudi dumpsite, and said that the dumpsite was like her home. She said that the police would frequently accuse waste pickers of theft, take away the men, beat them up, and put them in jail for weeks at a time. Only the Thooimai Thozilalar Sangam (Waste Pickers Association, which is part of the larger Ambedkar Association) would intervene to prevent arrests.

Based on the experiences shared by attendees, the waste pickers assembled that day adopted the following resolutions:

  1. Issue of ID cards to all Waste Pickers by the Chennai Corporation as recognition of their work and to end police harassment.
  2. Enrolment under the Chief Minister’s Health Insurance Scheme.
  3. Enrolment under the Tamil Nadu Manual Workers’ Welfare Board.
  4. Night shelters for homeless waste pickers along with provision for community kitchens.
  5. More Amma canteens to benefit waste pickers.
  6. More TNSCB tenements within the city with priority of allocation to waste pickers.
  7. Ration cards and Voter ID cards to homeless waste pickers.
  8. Old age pension for all waste pickers above the age of 60 years.
  9. Annual or bi-annual health check-ups for waste pickers and their families at Corporation Dispensaries.

After the resolutions were adopted, Saidai Anbudasan, the president of the Ambedkar Association, spoke about the negative attitude of the government towards waste workers. Four years ago, he had been invited to a meeting that he thought was about the welfare of waste-pickers. It turned out that the government wanted him to warn waste pickers affiliated to his organization.

Finally, the meeting ended with an address by Com. S. S. Thiagarajan, who spoke poetically about the conditions of waste pickers. He argued that policemen do not harass private bus drivers because of their strong union, and waste pickers should similarly unionize to fight effectively against harassment. He guaranteed the support of AITUC for waste workers in their struggle.

Health Camp at Perungudi Dumpsite

During one of our first meetings with waste pickers and the Ambedkar Association, a political association to which approximately 200 waste pickers working in Perungudi dump site belong, their lack of access to health services was identified as a major concern. To address this, the Association’s president requested us to arrange a health camp at Perungudi. This was not something Transparent Chennai had done before, and it was only by accident that we learnt the procedure for getting the Corporation of Chennai’s permission to conduct a health camp.

We wrote to the Solid Waste Management (SWM) department at the Corporation requesting for permission to conduct the health camp at the Conservancy Inspector’s office at the dumpsite. The SWM department forwarded our request to the Deputy Commissioner (Health) from where it went on to the Commissioner, who happily for us, approved the request. The file then found its way to the office of the City Health Officer, which, if I may say so myself, is where the request ought to have been submitted to start with. The CHO gave us a letter of thanks with a two-page form with numerous undertakings that was to be filled in and signed. Once this was submitted we got official permission to conduct the health camp and advice to get in touch with the Zonal Health Officer for further assistance.

TC Researcher heading into the Perungudi dumpsite.

We had four very dedicated interns – Mullai, Indumathi, Santhoshi and Padma – from the Social Work Department of S.D.N.B. Vaishnav College for Women, who had some experience in organising health camps and knew which hospitals to get in touch with. They took up the responsibility of organising an eye camp and a general health camp. They approached Dr. Agarwal Eye Hospital, Cathedral Road and the Hindu Mission Hospital, Tambaram to volunteer the services of their doctors and staff for the health camp, both of which readily agreed. The interns also took it upon themselves to look for sponsors for bit notices, medicines, and refreshments for the camp. With the permission letter in hand, the hospital staff was given a tour of the CI’s office to plan the camp. On Day 1 Dr. Agarwal Eye Hospital sent two optometrists, one ophthalmologist, one counsellor and one coordinator and on Day 2 five doctors came from the Hindu Mission Hospital.

Unexpectedly, the hardest part of this entire exercise turned out to be bringing waste pickers from the dumpsite to the health camp for a free check up. Close to 70 waste pickers and Corporation staff came to the Camp on the first day, which was less than we had expected. The problem we had not foreseen on the first day was that the waste pickers were intent on collecting recyclables that would earn them their living for the day rather than get a medical check at the health camp. However, Transparent Chennai researchers and interns and the NSS volunteers from S.D.N.B. Vaishnav College for Women who came to help were undeterred and made forays into the dumpsite to explain to the waste pickers about the importance of the health camp. As a result 207 waste pickers came to the health camp on the second day. Not surprisingly, the most common ailments included eye and skin infections.

The busy reception desk on Day 2 of the Health Camp.

Written by Avni Rastogi, researcher, Transparent Chennai

Demystifying legislative jargon

For the layman, the number of terms used by law and policy makers may be confusing. This post is an attempt to demystify the various terms used in the legislative and rule making process.

1. Law: An Act, Ordinance, Regulation, Rule, (Order, bye-law, etc.) which is enforceable i.e. required to be followed by all persons.

2. Draft Law: A draft of a law or legislation is the first stage of law making procedure. It is a proposal for a new Act or an amendment to an existing law. This can be drafted by anyone – a stakeholder, the related government department, a civil society organisation. A Draft Law obviously has no force of law and is only a proposal for a law. It would require to be tabled before Parliament/State Legislature, which can only be done by a MP or MLA.

3. Bill: This is another term for a draft law. The term is usually used for a law which is ready for introduction before a House of Parliament/State Legislature in terms of format.

4. Ordinance: This is a temporary law made by the Executive to address extraordinary, unforeseen and emergent situations at a time when the Parliament is not in session. It is proposed by the Executive (Prime Minister and his Cabinet) and signed by the President of India to come into effect. An Ordinance is valid till six weeks after the Parliament reassembles. The same limitations on law making that attend an Act also apply to an Ordinance (such as it must not violate fundamental rights and that it must be within the competence of the legislature; for e.g. a central ordinance cannot be on a matter in the state list).

5. Act: This is the final law which is passed by the Legislature. A Bill once passed by both Houses of Parliament and on receiving the President’s assent becomes a Central Act. A State Act is an Act passed by the Legislature of a State and assented to by the Governor of the State. However, an Act comes into effect on notification in the Official Gazette on the date mentioned in the notification.

6. Amendment Bill/Act or simply ‘Amendment’: An Amendment Bill seeks to and an Amendment Act amends an existing Act. An Amendment Bill needs to go through the same procedure as a normal Bill to become an Act. A Constitutional Amendment Bill/Act seeks to amend or amends the Constitution of India.

7. Subordinate or Delegated Legislation: Acts provide the main principles of law and policy which require rules for their operation. An Act usually has a provision giving a particular authority or government department (i.e. the executive wing of government) the power to make rules, regulations, and/or by-laws for the operation of the Act. These Rules or Regulations are required to be within the scope of the parent Act. Once drafted, approved, and notified by the authority/department they are tabled before the legislature (Parliament/State Assembly) where the Committee on Subordinate Legislation may evaluate the Rules for conformity with the parent Act and the Constitution. They are referred to as subordinate or delegated legislation since they are subordinate to the parent Act and the power to formulate them is delegated by the legislature to a subordinate executive body. They can be amended by the executive body as well.

8. Rules: These are a form of subordinate/delegated legislation made in exercise of a power conferred by an enactment. As per the General Clauses Act, the term ‘Rules’ includes a Regulation made as a rule under any enactment (i.e. rules and regulations are similar in the way they are formulated, but differ in content. For e.g. the Employee State Insurance Act, 1948 gives the Central and State Governments the power to make rules to give effect to the provisions of the Act in Section 95 and 96 and give the ESI Corporation the power to make Regulations for the administration of the affairs of the Corpora¬tion and for carrying into effect the provisions of the Act. These Sections also provide the scope of what the Rules and Regulations should cover.

9. Notification: A notification is issued by the executive wing of government (central/state) in exercise of a power granted under an enactment. It is usually in the manner of public announcement of an action under a particular provision such as notification of an area as a slum area under Section 3 of the TN Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Act, 1971. It is an executive action under a legislation.

10. Government Order (G.O.) and Circular: G.Os and Circulars are also forms of executive action in pursuance of powers invested in the executive. They need not be relatable directly to any particular enactment, but they cannot be contrary to any law in force (in terms of content and procedure).

11. Policy Documents: These are in the nature of broad principles of the ruling government on different matters of importance. For e.g. the National Environment Policy, 2006.

12. Guidelines: These are framed by a government department (the executive), usually a governing ministry or other overseeing body, in furtherance of a policy document for the purpose of explaining to the implementing body how to go about its role.

13. Gazette of India or the Official Gazette of a State: These are published on a weekly basis by the Central Government and State Governments to give notice to the public of, among other things, proposed laws (Acts, Rules, etc.), to give effect to proposed laws and to notify the public of executive action taken in furtherance of an enactment (Notification, Government Order, Circulars, etc.). When a law is being given effect to, the Gazette mentions the date from which such law shall come into effect. The Gazettes are authorised legal documents of the respective Governments and are meant to be the most reliable source of Government notices.

The Central Gazette is available at: http://www.egazette.nic.in
The Gazette of the State of Tamil Nadu is available at: http://www.tn.gov.in/stationeryprinting/gazette/gazette_list.php

Written by Avni Rastogi, researcher at Transparent Chennai.