With just ten days to go before Panjim votes for a new MLA, the city has rushed into a garbage crisis that has all the signs of being manmade.
At the beginning of the month, the Commissioner of the Corporation of the City of Panaji has issued notices to 44 hotels and housing complexes asking them to set up a processing unit (composting/bio-methanisation) within their premises at their own cost, to treat bio-degradable waste generated from the establishment within a period of 15 days, failing which the Corporation of the City of Panaji would not collect any bio-degradable waste generated from the premises.
This notice from a Corporation that has not been capable of setting up a waste management plant of its own to take care of all the garbage of the city, is audacious to say the least. How does the Commissioner expect housing socities, some located in the centre of the city and built decades ago with limited space and finances, to set up their own bio-degradable plants and that too within a period of 15 days? Can CCP prove that it can set up a plant in 15 days before it tells housing societies to do so? We do understand that there are directives from the National Green Tribunal, but there should be a process to be followed before notices are issued and a fortnight is too short a period to set up a plant. Besides, the rules are in exsitence since 2016, and it is only because NGT sought complinace last month that the CCP has acted. Where was it all this time?
Then came the charges from the Mayor of the city that the council was not taken into confidence before this notice was sent. And a day later came a post on social media by the Congress candidate Atanasio Monserrate stating that this was being done at the behest of a former city MLA. To put this post of the Congress candidate into perspective, there is need to look back at tensions that have surfaced in the corporation. The Commissioner and the Mayor have been at loggerheads for the past few weeks. The Mayor has gone on record to state that the notices issued by the commissioner to the hotels and housing societies is due to him – the mayor – having stopped the road digging work being undertaken in the city by the Smart City team. The commissioner is a director of the Imagine Panaji Smart City Development Limited, and so is the BJP candidate Sidharth Kuncalienker.
It is interesting that while there are claims that the Solid Waste Management Plant at Saligao has declined to treat wet waste from Panjim, the CCP Commissioner neither confirms this nor denies it. He instead states that the Saligao plant has been overburdened beyond its capacity and that Panjim will have to take ‘moral responsibility’ to treat its own waste and not let the treatment plant collapse. Since when did local bodies begin to take ‘moral responsibility’ in anything that they have done? The entire episode does smack of politics being played at the cost of the people, who will be the ones to suffer if CCP stops collecting their waste from May 15.
If the impending garbage crisis is indeed the result of political oneupmanship, than never has politics stooped to such low levels in the city. There’s an election coming up and the people in Panjim are already facing a shortage of water. A garbage crisis created where one does not exist is unwarranted. The Panjim Mayor and the CCP Commissioner need to settle their differences before this escalates into a long-drawn battle, where the victim will be resident of Panjim. This garbage of politics will have to cleaned first if Panjim is to be saved.