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  Home >> Environment >> Strategy for a Clean Mumbai


This paper has been written based on inputs from several experts in the area of environment, officials from the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and NGOs involved in work in various parts of Mumbai.

Strategy for a Clean Mumbai
·        The Essential Elements 
Initiatives Undertaken in the Recent Past
·        The Roadblocks
·        Initiatives Currently Undertaken
·        The Tough Decisions Required

The Essential Elements

Any strategy for a cleaner Mumbai needs to have the following elements:

·        Addressing the problem of Littering

o       Daily cleaning of the streets and public places (preferably night cleaning with,

o       Adequate number of street litter bins at regular intervals

o       An effective system of penal action against littering, spitting etc

·        Addressing the problem of Garbage

o       Adequate arrangements for the chain of collection, storage and transport of garbage generated by households and commercial establishments in a sanitary manner in closed containers and vehicles

o       Incentives and penalties to ensure segregation at source and arrangements for separate chains for collection

·        Addressing the problem of Other Types of Waste

o       Arrangements for separate chains of collection and transport of demolition wastes, silt from storm-water drains, debris, bio-medical and hazardous wastes

·        Addressing the problem of open defecation

o       Adequate number of public/community toilet seats for its residential and floating population

o       An effective system of penal action against open defecation

·        Ensuring Appropriate Disposal of all Waste

o       The collected waste should be disposed of in a manner that is environmentally safe and sustainable

·        Ensuring Safety of the Workforce

o       Workers involved in the cleaning, collection, transport and disposal of waste are provided with the necessary protective gear, tools and equipments required for their health, safety and productivity;

·        Introducing Competition in the Solid Waste Management function

o       A transparent system created through a system of user charges to be paid by generators of waste.

o       Registration/ licensing of all public and private entities involved in the handling, transport and recycling of waste and putting in place a regulatory mechanism to regulate the licensed entities.

o       Allowing licensed private operators to provide services to the citizens dissatisfied with the services provided by the primary public service provider ( e.g. the SWM department of MCGM)


     Initiatives undertaken in the Recent Past

·        Initiatives Undertaken in the Past

o       The Dattak Vasti Yojana for achieving cleanliness in the slum areas through financial assistance to Community Based Organizations  (CBOs) which currently covers     % of slum areas.

o       A programme of construction of community / public, Pay & Use toilets in slums (with the help of the World Bank) and other areas.

o       Involvement of Advance Locality Management Groups (neighbourhood residents’ groups) for promoting segregation of waste at source and vermi-composting in the premises of housing societies and residential colonies.

o       Supporting N.G.Os. to set up de-centralized Waste Management Projects (composting and bio-methanation) to serve as demonstration projects on municipal plots.

o       Supporting waste segregation activities of N.G.Os. working with rag-pickers by providing sites, vehicles etc.

o       Setting up a system of biomedical waste (BMW) collection, transport, treatment and disposal.

o       Besides the above initiatives, efforts were also made to set up large scale Waste–to-Energy Plants, through private operators at the dumping sites, which did not bear fruit due to reasons beyond the control of the M.C.G.M. such as certain decisions by the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) and the Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources (MNES), all the other initiatives have achieved varying degrees of success.

·        The limited success of some initiatives

o       The ALM movement did not succeed in achieving the level of success achieved by the ALMs in a few pockets due to the lack of a dedicated formal mechanism that can take care of training, monitoring, feedback and evaluation of  a large and growing number of  ALMs and their activities and  an effective and sustainable model to incentivise local residents to maximize segregation of garbage and do in-situ composting of Bio-degradable Waste within the premises of Housing Societies, colonies etc. The Dattak Vasti Yojana has been constrained by the lack of funds and absence of arrangements for training of C.B.Os  as well as proper monitoring and evaluation of their activities.

·        The Recent Initiatives

o       The following initiatives have been implemented by the MCGM recently :

o       A scheme for engagement of CBOs and NGOs (mainly Mahila Mandals) for sweeping and mopping of selected roads has been established successfully despite severe opposition from employees’ unions. At present 142 Nos. of such units are in operation all over Mumbai.A similar attempt in the area of transporting waste was subverted due to the financial weakness of CBOs. It is being planned to bolster this scheme with better supervision arrangements.

o       Under the guidance of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and the Dr. Maley Committee appointed by the Hon’ble High Court, steps have been taken for collection and treatment of leachate in a scientific manner at the dumping grounds.

o       Under the guidance of NEERI and the Dr. Maley Committee vents have also been provided at the dumping grounds to release excess methane and this has resulted in substantial reduction of fires occurring in the dumping grounds.

o       A programme for purchase and and installation of litter bins and public garbage collection bins of international standard in public places along with manning of all garbage collection centres.

o       The MPCB has finalized a proposal for setting up additional facilities for treatment of bio-medical waste and stricter implementation of bio-medical waste handling and management rules in the city of Mumbai which requires the MCGM to make additional sites for setting up the treatment plants.

o       A decision has been taken to strengthen the Dattak Vasti Yojana and provide adequate financial support to extend its coverage of slum areas.

The Roadblocks

The Municipal Corporation faces several challenges on the path to a cleaner Mumbai.  

·        Resistance to Change

o       A large workforce and unions of workers who resist necessary measures such as night sweeping, outsourcing, mechanization etc.

o       Entrenched lobbies of contractors engaged in the business of transport of solid waste who operate at various levels and stall any move to bring about radical changes in the nature of contracts for collection and transport of solid waste.

o       Resistance to any move to introduce user charges for waste collection and transport services on the basis of the “polluter pays” principle to be able to expand, upgrade and modernize the solid waste management services and practices.

·        Lack of Coordination amongst various agencies

o       Lack of proper coordination in waste management activities between M.C.G.M and other organizations who own/occupy large layouts such as the railways, the Mumbai port trust, MHADA etc.

o       A large informal sector consisting of rag-pickers, ‘raddi-wallahs’, scrap dealers and waste, recyclers whose role needs to be recognized and who need to be made an integral part of the overall system of solid waste management by a suitable method of compulsory registration/licensing and concessions to promote waste recycling activities.

o       Different departments and agencies responsible for removal of garbage, cleaning of storm water drains, regulation of hawkers, regulation of slaughter of animals and sale and pest control respectively resulting in divided and diffused accountability.

·        Apathy to the Problem

o       A very large and growing slum population (65% of the total population) living in congested areas, most of which have poor drainage, practically no sanitation whether in terms of sewerage lines, sanitary toilet seats or regular conservancy services resulting in open nallas and open plots serving as sewers and garbage dumps – both household and commercial.

o       The ‘NIMBY’ syndrome and the lack of appreciation about the dire necessity of obtaining sites urgently for setting up waste   processing facilities and sanitary land fill sites.

·        Outdated Means & Methods

o       The lack of a strong regulatory regime governing nuisances and waste management practices with adequately deterrent penalties for non-compliance with rules. 

o       Cleaning of open storm-water drains and nallahs before the monsoons instead of keeping them clear of garbage round the year.

Initiatives Currently Undertaken

·        IL&FS Eco Smart Co. have been selected and appointed as Consultants to study the condition of the dumping grounds, and the characteristics and patterns of the solid waste generated in the City and to make short term and long term recommendations regarding :

o       The most economically viable and sustainable waste processing technologies;

o       An integrated waste disposal system including sanitary land-filling and proper management of existing disposal sites as well as the development of new waste disposal sites on lands expected to be made available by the state government.           

o       They will also advise and assist the MCGM to float tenders for selection of developers who will build, maintain, manage and operate the facilities in an integrated manner based on the recommended technologies on a long term sustainable basis.

·        Various proposals for waste processing which have been received by M.C.G.M. including composting, R.D.F. and waste-to-energy and the NEERI-Maley Committee recommendations submitted to the Hon. High Court are being scrutinized by the Consultants and their recommendations are expected to be received by the end of September.  The short term and long term implementation processes will begin thereafter including the bidding process for selection of private developers of waste processing facilities.

·        Draft guidelines for integrated management and disposal of construction and demolition waste and silt have been prepared and will be finalized shortly after discussion with all concerned agencies. This will include charges to be collected from generators to meet the costs of containerized collection, storage and transport, tipping fees /gate fees to be charged at waste disposal sites etc.

·        Tenders have been invited for engagement of contractors for cleaning the Western and Eastern Express highways and major arterial roads with the help of power sweeping machines.

·        A programme for up-gradation of uniforms, implements and chowkies used by Solid Waste Management staff is being finalized.

·        The Dattak Vasti Yojana  for slum areas has been strengthened with a revised scheme for greater financial support, and stricter norms of performance to increase the coverage and effectiveness of the programme.

·        We are considering involving N.G.Os. in the training of CBOs and monitoring and evaluation of the their work on a sustainable basis. Discussions are on with the UNICEF to collaborate with for this purpose in ten wards. A pilot project is already initiated in H-east ward after the floods.

·        A model area based contract for Municipal solid waste handling and transport including street cleaning other than construction and demolition waste and silt is being drafted which will ensure that payment and penalties are linked to strict adherence to collection and transport schedules and maintenance of cleanliness in the allotted areas while promoting reduction and segregation of waste at source and increased recycling through a system of separate waste collection streams, collection of user charges, incentives and concessions. Distinct operation areas will be carved out for Municipal and contractual operations respectively to ensure accountability.

·        Since the SWM operations in most of the areas have to be carried out departmentally due to the huge existing staff and establishment, a suitable management structure and procedures which will ensure economy, efficiency, service standards and accountability on corporate lines are being worked out. While retrenchment of existing staff is not envisaged the additional requirement of manpower and machinery will be outsourced.

·        An agency is being appointed for third party monitoring of visible solid waste in the form of cleanliness indices for all wards, congested areas

·        A programme for up-gradation and improvement of existing public toilet blocks on the basis of a new set of guidelines and standards is being drawn up along alongwith a plan to increase the availability of public toilets at all locations where they are required. A proposal for the second phase of the world bank aided slum sanitation programme has been submitted to the Govt. of India.

·        A time-bound programme for elimination of waste collection bins from public roads (to be replaced by house-to-house / door-step collection) will now be launched in all the Wards after successful pilot projects in H/West and G/South Wards.

·        A concept paper for introducing user charges for providing door-step segregated waste collection services and /or conservancy services in large sized residential / non-residential internal layouts with a system of penalties and incentives for segregation and waste reduction / recycling is proposed be prepared after discussions with the MPCB and all concerned agencies /entities such as the Railways, the Mumbai Port Trust, the MHADA, the Central and State P.W.Ds. etc who have large estates and private entities involved /interested in trade and recycling of waste materials.

·        International standard community garbage bins and wheeled bins of different sizes have been introduced in some parts of the City resulting in better storage and collection practices. Such bins will be provided in a phased manner all over the City after ensuring compatibility with garbage collection vehicles along with high quality street litter bins this year and arrangements will be made for such bins to be cleaned and manned properly.

·        Discussions are being held with NGOs for providing them with manned   neighbourhood dry waste collection centers / kiosks which will be designed aesthetically and can be located near public toilets, existing public waste collection centers, sites from which collection bins have been eliminated and other convenient places  where citizens /rag pickers can deposit /sell dry waste for recycling or from where door-step collection of dry-waste can be organized  conveniently through authorized workers employed by   N.G.Os.

·        A system of compulsory registration in collaboration with the MPCB of all N.G.Os., individuals and firms engaged in the cleaning services, collection, transport, segregation or recycling of waste of all kinds is being contemplated.

·        Discussions are being held with employees’ Unions with regard to, work and productivity norms and re-deployment of staff which will be required to effect some of the changes which are planned along with better uniforms, safety gear, tools and working conditions for them.

·        M/s McKinsey & Co. and IL&FS Eco-Smart are working very closely with the Solid Waste Management Department of MCGM on day-to-day basis for the preparation of time-bound plans for developing a sustainable and integrated solid waste management system covering all the above initiatives / programmes along with the necessary structural and procedural changes required in the Solid Waste Management Department for this purpose.

·        A public awareness programme along with a massive cleanliness drive was planned for launch in October this year by which time the preparatory work for all the new initiatives listed above would have been over and comprehensive strategy and plan for Solid Waste Management would have been announced. However in view of the concerns regarding cleanliness and health which have been generated due to the recent flooding of the city it is felt that the cleanliness drive and awareness campaign should be launched immediately.

·        A massive cleanliness drive has been launched already by the MCGM after the recent flooding of the city by pumping in additional manpower and machinery and the results are evident in many areas already. However, to sustain the drive the creation of a supporting environment through public awareness and participation is a must. The participation of the corporate sector, educational institutions, celebrities, experts, mass media , creative and communication agencies and N.G.Os.  is crucial for creating  public awareness . For this purpose it is proposed to quickly establish a core group of advisors who can provide direction and co-ordination and help to take forward this process as a public- private-citizen partnership.

The Tough Decisions Required

The political establishment has to be prevailed upon to take some bold decisions such as:

·        Banning the use of plastic / Stern enforcement of regulations for the manufacture and use of plastic

·        Involvement of the police in nuisance detection and enforcement

·        Dealing firmly with employee unions who oppose changes which are required in the interests of economy and efficiency and do not involve any loss of wages or retrenchment of existing employees.

·        Making land available at the earliest for developing sanitary landfill sites and making finances available for developing waste management infrastructure.

  • Allowing reasonable user charges to be levied for provision of doorstep services and heavy penalties to be imposed for nuisances with nuisance detectors being allowed to keep a part of the collections as an incentive.
  • Banning of tabelas within the city limits and shifting of slaughter houses away from Mumbai city so that the entry of cattle, sheep and chicken into Mumbai can be restricted. 


It is one of the beautiful compensations of this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. --Charles Dudley Warner