Garbage! The very word triggers images of stink, filth, rot and disease. And yet, garbage was the topic that we had decided to focus on for the next five months as part of the project. Having lived in Bangalore all my life, I had a vague idea that garbage might be a problem, but I had no knowledge about the specifics.
Since we were to focus on the garbage problem in Bangalore specifically, the first logical step was understand and familiarize ourselves with the city. With this agenda in mind, a city tour was organized for the people who would be working on the project.
The date was set – the tour would be on Thursday. I was very excited because although I was a native Bangalorean, I had never actually been outside the areas where I have lived. So it was as much a new experience for me, as it was for everyone else.
We started off the day (or rather afternoon) with lunch. We ate a traditional Karnataka style meal, complete with jola rotti served on a banana leaf. There was so much food, and it was delicious! It is interesting to note how the traditional method of eating on a banana leaf is far more sustainable that eating on a plastic disposable plate. While the disposal of a banana leaf is not a pressing problem since it is biodegradable, a plastic plate will never decompose, but continue to persist in the environment.
We passed the Madivala market on our way. I had been on that road at least a hundred times before, but this time, I noticed things that I hadn’t paid attention to earlier. Apart from the piles of fruits and vegetables on either side of the road, there were mounds of garbage at fairly periodic intervals, mostly consisting of rotting fruits, vegetables and leaves. Stray dogs and cows were feeding on them.
Our first stop was Richard’s Park in Richard’s Town. Richard’s Town was a clean, friendly looking neighbourhood, with footpaths and wide roads. We walked around for a while in Richard’s Park. Then we proceeded to a quaint little shop just opposite the park called Apaulogy. This shop was filled with paintings, mugs, bags and other curios, decorated with caricatures of India of the 60s. Obviously, Bangalore had changed a lot since then. The streets were more crowded, the buildings were taller and there were far more people living in the city now.
Later, we boarded the metro at the Sampige Road station. The station was practically empty except for the guards. It was the quietest place that we had visited so far, which seemed a bit weird because it was supposed to be a place bustling with people. The train was also not crowded. We spent some time at the Yeshvathpur station, looking at the traffic zooming below us and the industries around us. From the perch of the metro station, one thing that struck me was the sheer size of the city; So many people, and consequently, so much garbage. Our last stop was the Sandal Soap factory, where we unsuccessfully tried to catch a whiff of sandal from the factory.
One thing that was ubiquitous in all areas of Bangalore was piles of garbage. Sometimes it would be in the form of two plastic bags of rotting waste just left in the corner of the street, or sometimes it would be an enormous pile of all kinds of refuse. Every few roads, one would come across a stinky, pile of waste, with a dog or two feeding on it. The unsettling thing is that passers-by would barely glance at the garbage pile before continuing to walk past it. Garbage lying around streets had become so common that most people seemed to have silently accepted it as a fact.
What makes the city of Bangalore so filthy? How does garbage get managed here? We hope to find answers to these questions in the following weeks.