Bhopal: Despite the negative image about Bhopal created by the Union Carbide gas leak tragedy, the position is different when it comes to the city`s concerns for its environment. Its campaign against polythene waste has brought a remarkable response from all quarters.
The polythene waste management project, a part of the vision of the housing and environment department, was launched three years ago by the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) with the help of a social organisation, Sarthak.
The battle is for a polythene-free environment for Madhya Pradesh`s capital city.
The initial results have been so encouraging that other municipalities in the state have followed the Bhopal example to get rid of their environment-polluting plastic waste.
It`s a win-win effort for all.
Sarthak, with the help of the city`s ragpickers, collects 2.5 to 3 tonnes of non-recyclable polythene waste every day for Rs.2.50 a kilo and sells it to the BMC for Rs.3.
The municipal workers segregate the material, sort it and sell it to cement companies like ACC, Birla, JP, Maihar and Satna for Rs.3 a kilo.
The BMC has made a deal with seven cement companies that buy plastic rag for use as an alternate source of fuel.
At present, the campaign covers five municipal wards in Bhopal. As many as 1,465 ragpickers are at work every day, making door-to-door rounds collecting the plastic waste.
They have set up four collection points from where the day`s polythene pick is handed over to the NGO officials.
"There are four centres in Bhopal`s main hubs where the pickers sell the polythene wastes they collect," Imtyaz Ali, head of Sarthak, told a news agency.
The organisation provides the ragpickers with clothes, gloves and masks and claims that it ensures no minor is engaged in the project.
The BMC has provided specially designed rickshaws to the ragpickers to help them move faster and cover all areas.
According to Ali, each ragpicker makes about Rs.150 a day.
"At present, our daily collection is 2.5 to 3 tonnes while Bhopal has wastage of 10 to 14 tonnes of non-recyclable polythene every day," he said.
Krishna Gaur, mayor of Bhopal, said: "Earlier the cement companies used to buy plastic rag for Rs.1.75 a kilo, but the new deal is for Rs.3. The plastic rag has more fuel value than coal and it does not create toxic gases if burnt at 1,400 degrees Celsius."
Bhopal`s success in the "polythene war" has encouraged the state government to launch the scheme in Jabalpur and Indore.
"We are planning to make all the 360 civic bodies in the state plastic-free, but it will take time. As of now the scheme in Bhopal, Jabalpur and Indore is showing good good results," said Babulal Gaur, the urban development minister.
According to Ali, a team from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recently visited Bhopal to study the scheme and recommended to the union government to implement it across the country.
However, sources said that even with the Bhopal campaign yielding good results, social organisations in other municipalities are not coming up to support the authorities.