Dawn to Dusk – Blackspot elimination!

On an average, there are 50-60 blackspots per ward in Bangalore. This means, we easily have 10,000+ blackspots across the city! On an average, less than 40% Bangaloreans hand over garbage; the rest simply litter on the streets, lakes or vacant sites.

Wards such as Konanakunte (no. 195) has over 100 blackspots, Dasarahalli (no. 15) has around 70, Nayandahalli has one in every street and a few better-off wards such as Nagapura (no. 67) and Kamakshipalya (no. 101) has less than 10 blackspots.

Not only does this affect the aesthetics of the city and raise a stink, it also acts as a breeding ground for health issues. Any end disposal solution, be it composting or Anerobic Digestion or Waste to Energy will have failures if the feedstock is from blackspots, owing to the moisture and dust that comes with it if picked from ground. Even for those promoting segregation, you can only target less than 40% of the population and the rest of it cannot be segregated as it ends up on the streets. Blackspots encourage rag pickers and manual handling of garbage which is inhuman.

Why this is not a pressing problem for the BBMP, activists or citizens is a question not many seem to ask. Improving garbage collection and minimizing blackspots is the first and most basic step in addressing the city’s waste management problems. It simply cannot be ignored anymore.

This write-up will attempt to capture our experience, observation and measures to improve collection and minimize blackspot in Ward no 101 (Kamakshipalya).

The gaps in collection

Only when you chase a garbage collector at 6.30 am, will you come to terms with the fact that less than 40% people actually hand over garbage to BBMP. This is true in most wards, including the wards with so-called aware citizens such as Malleshwaram, Koramangala and Indiranagar. And before we go into a tizzy blaming the BBMP and citizens’ bad habits, let’s try and understand what really is going on here. Multiple reasons contribute to a poor collection and piling up of garbage on ground. Although we have got some grasp of it, we imagine that the reasons vary from ward to ward and a continuous and thorough involvement with the BBMP will reveal more issues. However, here is what we learnt so far:

  • Waste Management was earlier under the Health Department for a long time and only recently, it came under the ambit of the Engineering Department. The Engineering Department is still trying to get adjusted to managing the city’s waste, while juggling the other tasks alloted to it
  • The Veterinary department is responsible for animal waste, the KEB for collecting tree trimmings, the BESCOM for waste from drains, and the Engineering Department for Construction Debris. However, most of the others do not take responsibility and simply dump it on the already burdened BBMP. As quoted by the BBMP Health Inspector, Ms. Rajeshwari of ward 101 “Anything that falls on the streets is considered BBMP’s responsibility, be it garbage, tree trimmings, animals, humans or anything else!”
  • According to the Senior Health Inspector from ward 101, when Waste Management was under the health department, they had around 80 Pourakarmikas (Pks) to manage one ward. Now, there is an average of 40 Pks in each ward despite the increased population. In some locations like Srirampura, there is a total of 58 Pks for three wards! This huge shortage of manpower compounds the problem.
  • The resources allotted to each ward such as autos is lesser than that shown in the tender. Someone somewhere is having to give a cut.
  • When activists and media began questioning why BBMP is spending 300 odd crores on waste management while other cities are spending much less, BBMP was forced to act. As a result, they further cut down on manpower and the money saved was shown as reduced expenses. So now, thanks to all the activism, we spend lesser, have fewer Pks and the city is a bigger mess than before.
  • In wards like Nayandahalli(131) and Vrushabhavati (102), there is no designated Health Inspector and usually, the health inspector of another ward is in charge, making it difficult to manage.

While these are the larger reasons why we have an inefficient collection, zoom in and there are other problems on ground zero.

  • In wards like 101, BBMP is trying very hard to keep the streets clean. So they spend a lot of time clearing blackspots each morning. While this is a good and needed effort, it eats up into precious time of 7 am to 9 am when most people want to get rid of their garbage. Instead of spending more time on door-to-door collection, the BBMP autos are engaged in clearing blackspots during this time.
  • Unless there is perfect sync between pushcarts and collection autos, the Pks who sweep will end up dumping their load on the street creating a blackspot.
  • Residents are not willing to coordinate with BBMP to hand over garbage or leave it outside their door. Most of the residents who dump, are rarely even aware of who their PK is.
  • Enforcing segregation at source is also leading to creation of blackspots by those who do not want to segregate.
  • In very narrow lanes where autos can’t enter and pushcarts are not assigned, residents do not wait for the collection vehicle and dump it in a street corner as per their convenience.
  • Few residents do not want to pay the PK(not mandatory) and to avoid it, dump on streets
  • Sometimes, a badly planned clean-up drive can lead to creation of other blackspots when one is eliminated, as was seen in one location of ward 101.

The existing collection mechanism in ward 101

Ward 101 is one of the better wards in Bangalore when it comes to collection. The BBMP Health Inspector, Ms. Rajeshwari and her team are very hard-working and have a reasonably good system in place. In addition, the corporator Mr. Ranganna is cooperative and offers full support to the BBMP. They have devised the following collection mechanism:

  • There are 8 garbage collection autos and around 47 pushcarts and Pks.
  • Pks with Pushcarts only do street sweeping
  • Autos are engaged in door to door collection, clearing of blackspots and taking the garbage collected by pushcarts. The auto also collects waste from poultry shops, cowdung from cowsheds, waste from marriage halls and from other commercial establishments in his area
  • Each auto driver is required to get the signature of a resident from each street he covers, to mark attendance
  • There are around 15 blackspots in the entire ward, with around 10 being reasonably large (>50 households who dump)
  • There are two transit points in the ward, where autos transfer the garbage to compactors

The auto assigned to us, began at 6.30 am each morning by clearing the blackspots (4 in his area) and doing door to door collection simultaneously. He makes between 3 to 6 trips to the compactor, further eating into the collection time, and finishing his work around 11 am every day.

Monitoring the blackspot

We were assigned what was considered an impossible-to-eliminate blackspot. The spot earned this reputation after the many failed attempts by the BBMP and the corporator to eliminate it, including appointing a security guard 24×7!

As we arrived early each morning and stood by the spot, we observed a pattern in dumping. Most dumpers say that they leave early to work and hence need to dump. So, we gave them an alternative. Each time we saw a person who came to dump, we politely informed him/her to instead keep the garbage outside the house and ensured that it would be picked up by the auto. When they said that it would be scattered by dogs, we said that the Pks would sweep it clean if that happened. We also gave them the phone number of the Area Supervisor who they could call if it was not collected. All this was of course done with the complete involvement and support of the BBMP ward staff, right from the Health Inspector to the Pks.

So here’s what we have done over the last 10 days.

# Time slot Number of dumpers Number eliminated
1 6 am to 7 am 19 18
2 7 am to 9 am 37 35
3 9 pm to 10.30 pm 10 7
4 9 am to 9 pm 20 Yet to be done
Total 86 60 (70%)

The reason we didn’t just do a clean up drive is because the intention was not just to eliminate dumping, but for it to result in an increase in collection efficiency as well. And that can only happen when the people who dump are given an alternative and there is good coordination between the BBMP and citizens.


The blackspot on 5th main Meenakshi nagar in its original splendor with over 85 households dumping here

6.30 am – The blackspot on 5th main Meenakshi nagar in its original splendor with over 85 households dumping here

Bhaskar early morning - requesting a resident to not dump and to leave the garbage at her gate instead

Bhaskar at 6.30 am – requesting a resident to not dump and to leave the garbage at her gate instead

The blackspot at around 10 pm

The blackspot at around 10 pm

Bhaskar by night - requesting a dumper on bike to go back home and keep the garbage out

Bhaskar at 10.30 pm – requesting a dumper on bike to go back home and keep the garbage out

Recommendation to the BBMP

Based on our observations, we made the following recommendation to the Health Inspector and she immediately implemented the same, which also helped in improving the collection.

  • Do not club door to door collection and blackspot clearing, as it will eat up into the time slot when most people want to throw garbage. Ideally, collection should finish by 9 am so that no one has a chance to dump.
  • Assign a separate auto for clearing garbage from the blackspot, so that the other autos can spend more time in door to door collection.
  • Pks should not dump garbage on the streets and should wait for an auto to transfer their load.

The outcome of the above changes was that

  • The number of people who dump in the blackspot we monitored has been reduced by around 70% in about 10 days
  • Seperating door to door collection from blackspot clearing led to minimal turn around times for the pickup auto, resulting in improved collection
  • Pushcarts are able to sync up with collection auto and are able to transfer their waste, instead of dumping on the streets or near the blackspots

Even though we titled this blog Dawn to Dusk, it involved some mid-night patrolling as well. The next step would be to engage local residents or volunteers with the BBMP to work on other spots in this ward and other wards simultaneously.

Are there other mid-night patrollers out there?

The blackspot this morning at 6am - huge reduction!

The blackspot this morning at 6am – huge reduction!

Finally, the Clean spot!

Finally, the Clean spot!

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