A Clean Sweep!

Garbage, stray dogs, and proper hygiene. SMC Commissioner G N Qasba converses with Syed Asma about the intricacies of keeping Srinagar clean.

Kashmir Life: ‘Keep your city clean and green’ and ‘use dustbins’ are among many campaigns that SMC runs. How successful do you think these campaigns have been?

G N Qasba: I am satisfied with what we are doing. We are gaining the tempo and are hopeful of having even better results in the near future. I think we now have a cleaner city. Media is not satisfied with what we are doing, so I have decided to take them with me from the next week hopefully and will show them how we work!

KL: SMC’s dustbins are not seen in much of the places, besides, heaps of garbage is seen all over in the city. What do you think are the reasons why SMC is not able to deliver properly?
GQ:
I don’t think so, our dustbins are all over in the city and we will be adding 200 more in the place in next 12-15 days. Heaps of garbage will be there and the thing is where ever it exists our employees go there and collect it.

KL: What do you think are the reasons, why isn’t the city look cleaner then?
GQ:
People will have to understand they will have to corporate with us. They should stop throwing waste in open. They will have to dump the waste in a more scientific way. By scientific way I mean to dump the garbage in a properly lid canisters. We each day collect about 500 metric tons of garbage and almost have 2000 people engaged in keeping the city clean.

KL: What should people do?
GQ:
They should keep a garbage canister. A household of 32, at Naseembagh have hired a person at Rs 50 and he used to come and collect the garbage once or twice in a day and used to dump it properly at a proper place. He was working in proper collaboration with SMC.

KL: Why did you arrange a garbage collector privately if SMC has recruited a work force for it?
GQ:
Everybody has to pay a user fee at SMC to enjoy the services provided by it but most of us do not. You either have to pay user fees to SMC or make arrangement for cleaning your area on your own. Many people are paying but many are not paying. We are looking into the matter and I have been able to convince many of them and progress is seen happening. Things are taking a better shape and we have many cleaner places around us today.

KL: How does SMC identifies a temporary dumping site?
GQ:
SMC looks for a piece of land, if it is government owned then it is good if it is not  we look for wider roads or for the places where people do not raise any objection against garbage dumping. From these temporary dumping sites garbage is regularly lifted by our vehicles. And if you notice somewhere it is not happening get connected with our staff, we will act as soon as possible.

KL: What are the steps that SMC is taking to keep the city green?
GQ:
The first campaign of Green Srinagar was started by us only. We have done many plantation drives; we have planted Chinars and many other trees and plants to beautify the city. We will be doing it in phases. It is a symbolic gesture that we have made, I would like other institutions to participate as well, though some education population is seen conducting plantation drives and it is appreciated!
We are green in mind. We have taken an initiative and would like others to follow.

KL: SMC in one of its reports in 2009 confirmed that 44.2 per cent of the waste generated does not have collectors, vanishing into water bodies through a huge network of open drains. About 60 sewer drains pour into the lake along the Dalgate-SaidaKadal water channel, transmitting a chunk of solid waste. What is the present status?
GQ:
I don’t know what is the present scenario but what I know is that the number of collectors has been increased and we are planning to work in double shifts but I am yet to talk to my employees regarding that and know their responses. We are changing everything but it will take some time. We are working on Sundays also; we are doing right efforts I guess.

KL: Where is Srinagar city’s waste dumped?
GQ:
It is dumped at Achan in about 991 kanals of land and another 700-800 kanals of land is notified so that no new house comes up in there. All over the world, some area is demarcated for waste management but there local populations don’t intrude. People here knowingly or unknowingly have created problems for themselves when they build up their houses in that notified area. May be then the authorities were not strict, were not caution, can’t say anything.  But now no new illegal structure would be allowed to get build in any area.

KL: What about the already existing ones?
GQ:
We will have to see, if they fall under SMC’s master plan they will have a chance to get regularized, if not we will think what can be done.

KL: What about SMC’s own edifice, it too is counted in illegal structures as it didn’t have proper permission?
GQ:
Not anymore, all the paper work and permission formalities are sorted and this structure is regularized under SMC’s norms now. Yes, we had to stop the new constructions for a while but now everything is in place.

KL: Residents of Achan have been protested since long about them being affected by the dumped waste in their nearby area. What have you done to help them?
GQ:
All of them are living in a notified area and that is why they are suffering but now we are trying to help them, we are taking up a project with ERA which will help us to decompose the waste in a more sophisticated way and the extent of stinking in the place would be lessened. Similarly their problem will be addressed.

KL: Where and how is the waste decomposed in Srinagar?
GQ:
It is done in Achan only and is done in proper scientific manner.

KL: Srinagar in an Indian survey was ranked as the forth dirtiest cities in India. Comment.
GQ:
It is one of the cleanest cities of India. I have recently been to Mumbai, Delhi, even Jammu and it is the cleanest. I don’t know where the criteria for that survey came from but I don’t agree with it.

KL: Local body elections are on cards. What are the changes you expect once you get a newly elected team?
GQ:
Naturally, once I have a new team new things will come up. Public interaction will improve and will increase. We will be more organized.

KL: What is the corporation’s agenda after the elections are over?
GQ:
A Green Srinagar and clean Srinagar.

KL: Dog menace is an old story. What are the steps that you are taking to save humans from them?
GQ:
We are trying to keep our lanes and by-lanes clean, so that dogs will have no food to eat. There is no barking in the areas which are clean. If we would keep our places clean, dogs would vanish. They will get weak when no food will be provided to them. People will have to approach us to keep their places clean or will have to mange on their own to get away with dogs. People should develop good sanitation habits.

KL: Khurshid Ahmed Mir, nicknamed as ‘Pied Piper’ has proposed a plan to get rid of dogs without killing them? How far has that project reached?
GQ:
I don’t know about him. He hasn’t approached me. If he really wants to start he can start from his own area as a social good and then ask for funds to continue. If he today comes to me and will have a realistic plan, I will surely give him a consideration but for now he is not in the picture.

KL: Dachigam was recently cleared of dogs. If it could be possible there why not in the city?
GQ:
It had clear gates which helped us to keep dogs away. It can even be done in University of Kashmir and other institutions.

KL: But we don’t see it happening anywhere, why? We have dogs in University of Kashmir, Lal Ded Hospital, G B Panth, SKIMS.
GQ:
They should keep their vicinities clean so that dogs will not get anything to eat, dogs would vanish.

KL: Can’t these dogs be taken away somewhere, away from human lives, the way it was managed in Dachigham?
GQ: Oh! There we just made them to run away. We just showed them with hands and closed the doors.

KL: What were the reasons to clear up Dachigham?
GQ:
Because it is a national [animal] park.

KL: Don’t you feel, dogs suit more in animal parks rather than in hospitals carrying babies and on roads running after people?
GQ:
You keep your surrounding clean they will themselves run to jungles.

KL: Tell us about Tripartite MOU which SMC has signed with Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and Dean F.V.Sc and A.H (SKAUST-K)?
GQ:
It is a MOU which will help us to sterilize and immunize dogs so that their population is checked and risk of rabies is reduced.

KL: Encroachments are hindering smooth traffic movement. Traffic management says they have repeatedly requested you get the problem fixed. What is hindering SMC to deal with these encroachments?
GQ:
I can’t speak for the past but presently, we are working in collaboration with the traffic management. And in coming months we will be acting strictly against these encroachments. But presently I have to think of an alternate space for them.  I can’t be ruthless with them as they are managing their living through these small stalls. I have to give them some time. And later I can act hard if they don’t obey.

KL: SMC started a project of beautifying the old city. It has been two years. It has either built fountains or demolished structures there. What else is in the plan?
GQ:
Yes, they have come up with a lot of fountains. Fountain is a symbol of joy, happiness and cleanliness. While looking at a fountain you feel good. You would soon see a better city, InshAllah. The beautification of the city includes more plantation, lifting of encroachments and building of new structure which will fall in the SMC’s master plan preferably with architecture of our historical importance.

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Syed Asma completed her masters in journalism from the Islamic University, Awantipore, in 2010. After working with Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Times, she joined Kashmir Life in February 2011. She covered politics, society, gender issues and the environment. In 2016, she left journalism to pursue her M Phil from the University of Kashmir. She is presently pursuing PhD.

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