What is a Smart City?

The Government of India has recently launched major initiatives for building a large number of smart cities all around the country. Discussions on smart cities in India are generating a lot of debate around what it means to be a smart city.

During such discussions citizens are represented as residents who live in the city, perform various activities and are passive recipients of the city’s services. The interactions between them and the city is often reduced to an economical or a transactional one, without acknowledging the complexity of the relationship. Everyone is assumed to be a homogeneous ‘user’, and thus it becomes easy for us to imagine new cities with infrastructure, autonomous and automatic systems, regional plans, lots of glass and sensors, landscaped gardens, and various portrayals one is familiar through brochures. We are then led to estimate and imagine how existing systems would operate better by reducing the amount of time, costs, size, complexity, etc. In the race to make cities more “efficient”, we have not considered the implications of working towards a narrow definition of “efficiency”.

We fail to take into account the diversity around us, despite the popular cliché quoted about India as a highly diverse country with a diverse set of cultures, languages, and aspirations. We are diverse in terms of scale of urbanisation,  geographic size, economy and population. We also face inequality across the dimensions of economics, social stratification, and gender.

The current rhetoric on smart cities lack discussions on one or more of the above factors. Furthermore, the question of inequality and hence isolation of the poor from the city’s services is one of the problems facing established smart cities.

As we are poised at the cusp of establishing smart cities in India, we are presented with a unique opportunity. We can collectively imagine what it means to be a smart city for the Indian context, and build on that conception to design smart cities for different local Indian contexts.

What we then need is a process to elicit from citizens what their requirements and aspirations are for a smart city, which will then give us the base to design the appropriate city for a given location in the country. We may be able to use this method beyond India to define smart cities in other parts of the world or to evaluate existing ones.

Anthony Townsend in his book, Smart Cities, envisions a smart city where citizens if they wish are able to participate in the defining, design and governing of their city. What we call for are technologies that create processes that enable citizens to participate meaningfully in their city’s future.

The question then is, how do we collectively imagine what it means to be a smart city in the Indian context?

At Fields of View, we are designing initiatives for citizens to participate in defining, designing, and governing their city.

In an effort to understand how the current discourse on smart cities has shaped our understanding on Smart Cities, we have created a quick survey. The aim is to understand how we visualize a smart city and if we have a certain visual definition of the smart cities we would like to live in.

Please consider taking the survey here.

To know more, mail us at info at fieldsofview.in

References:

  1. Townsend, A. M. (2013). Smart cities: big data, civic hackers, and the quest for a new utopia. WW Norton & Company.

How we designed waste profiles in ₹ubbish!

In ₹ubbish! each ward in Bangalore has a specific waste profile, which means that each ward generates a different amount of waste every round. What also differs from ward to ward is the amount of waste that actually reaches the DWCC. This is a reality in the city of Bangalore, some wards have a higher population, therefore they generate more waste.

After searching for some data we got our hands on detailed information about the amount of waste a group of DWCCs receives daily. This data was given to us by Hasirudala, and it was extremely helpful since now it was possible to make assumptions that were faithful to reality. Hasirudala manages 33 DWCCs in Bangalore, and they maintain information about the incoming and outgoing of waste daily.

From this data, we noticed that just a few wards actually received high amounts of waste daily. From 33 DWCCs, only 2 receive an average higher than 500 kg/day. And more than 50% receive less the 250 kg/day. The rest stays between 250 kg/day and 500 kg/day.

We used this information to create a simplified version of Bangalore. From 198 wards in the city we narrowed down to 18. Since the goal of the game is to build a DWCC in every ward, if the game had 198 wards each session would last a lifetime. Below you can see the current map of the game.

Rubbish! MapRubbish! Simplified map of Bangalore

This table shows our model of the wards in Bangalore and how much waste each of them generates every round. We also added how much that would cost to the player each round. The proportion between mixed, dry and segregated waste is something we had to speculate, since none of the DWCC we contacted could provide us with such detailed information.

Needless to say, this was a design decision we took to model this extremely complex context. Everything we designed is based in reality, not an exact representation of it.

Below are some of the cards we made to represent the storage in a DWCC, their waste profile and how much it costs per round.

DWCC Storage Cards

DWCC storage cards

What is education?

What does it mean to be “educated”? Does education necessarily mean a more heightened awareness about one’s role in society?

 

These are some questions that I was forced to ask myself after I met with John, the manager of the Dry Waste Collection Center (DWCC) near the Jayadeva Flyover. Let me tell you more about John. John comes from a family of scrap dealers. While thoughts of garbage generally trigger images of filth and refuse for most of us, the same object is a source of income for him. His grandfather forayed into scrap dealing in 1960, when Bangalore was still relatively small. His grandfather used to go around the city on foot and hand pick valuable trash. His father improved on this and bought himself an auto to collect waste. Now, he has enhanced his situation further by becoming the manager of a DWCC. He has a certificate to say that he has been trained to manage a DWCC, and he only recently passed the SSLC 10th standard exam. He calls himself “uneducated”.

 

John doesn’t consider himself a businessman, and isn’t in the scrap business for money. He himself admitted that since the DWCC doesn’t receive enough quantities of high value waste, he doesn’t cover the monthly expenses of running it. Curiously, this doesn’t seem to bother him a lot. Instead, John calls himself a social worker and thinks of his work as a service to society.

 

John was firmly convinced that if every citizen in Bangalore segregated their waste, garbage disposal wouldn’t be the problem that it is. “Today, we send our waste to landfills, dump everything into a hole and cover it up. We don’t deal with it the way we should. Maybe we can continue doing in my lifetime. But what about my children and grandchildren? They won’t have any more places to dump their waste, and they have to bear the brunt of our actions”, he said. A few bulk waste generators give their waste to John, and this waste is not segregated. When he tells them that segregation is very important if waste is to be recycled, they don’t listen to him, because “in their eyes, I’m only just an uneducated waste dealer”.

 

John believes that DWCC are a great way to make citizens more aware of the waste they generate. The landfill is like a black box – unsegregated waste is dumped there, and everyone except the people who live near the landfill are conveniently unaware of the repercussions of this unsustainable practice. Since DWCCs must be present in every ward, the citizens who live in that ward will be forced to come to terms with waste disposal, and the need to take some pro-active action (segregation, perhaps?) to ensure its sustainability.

 

After this discussion with John, we started walking on the footpath to catch an auto back. A man in a business suit nonchalantly chucked his used juice carton onto the footpath.

A Beautiful Encounter

Reading about phenomena often proves to be something fundamentally different than actually seeing something with your own eyes. Therefore, we decided that it was time for some field trips to experience how the new infrastructure provided by this new waste disposal law works in reality. We started at a place where garbage is generated: Madivala Market. Madivala is a traditional market where mostly fruit and vegetables are sold. Garbage is collected by two different trucks; one truck for wet waste, which is transported to the Karnataka Composting Development Corporation(or KCDC) and one for dry waste, which is suppose to be transported to Dry Waste Collection Centers (or DWCCs). We visited both the KCDC and a DWCC and made a short video about our field research, which can be found below.

Waste Wanderers from Fields of View on Vimeo.

The garbage generated in Madivala Market led us to some amazing people. One of the people we met in the DWCC in the Jayanagar Division, was John. John has been dealing with garbage his whole life. John’s father was a informal waste picker and worked for very low wages by doing heavy work in unhealthy environments.  John was most likely to end up working under the same bare circumstances as his dad. However, since the implementation of the new law in 2012, John was able to join a NGO which helps informal workers to formalize. Here, John was educated in recycling techniques as well as in management skills. At the end of the training, he received a certificate and identity card that establishes him as a formal scrap dealer. John now runs a DWCC in the Jayanagar Division in Bangalore, receiving between 400 to 500 kg of garbage a day. John weighs the garbage that comes in, documents it, pays the waste pickers and truck drivers, oversees the segregation of waste and sells the segregated waste to either wholesalers or recycling industries.

John manager of the DWCC in the jayanagar Division

John – manager DWCC Jayanagar Division

Even though John is very happy about his newly gained status and his now healthy working environment, he also pointed out a few problem concerning these DWWCs. First of all, he explained that Bangalore consists of 198 wards and ideally, there should be one DWCC for every ward. Although the BBMP has 204 DWCCs planned, only 147 are constructed and only 70 of these are functional. As a result, John’s DWCC has to cater to 3 wards instead of the proposed one. Although we speak about quantitative numbers here, we should note that these are highly estimated numbers, as there is a big lack of data about DWCCs in Bangalore. For instance, it is very difficult to find out their locations, the number of people working there, the amount of waste that it can process, the price offeredfor waste, where segregated waste is being sold to, etc.

 

A second problem John pointed out to us is the fact that the garbage that comes in to the DWCCs is often not segregated. Although the law now clearly states that every garbage generator has to segregate at source, for some reason this is still not happening. As they receive large quantities of waste, it is difficult for the workers at the DWCC to segregate it themselves. Although there are laws to penalize these bulk waste generators, BBMP doesn’t enforce them as the infrastructure for disposal is not yet in place. So although our initial research showed us that the legal framework for waste disposal is now in place, the reality of the situation is the fact that these laws are not yet fully enforced in society.

 

After meeting John we realized that these DWCCs have the potential to create more formalized informal workers, and thus, more John’s. We sincerely believe that this approach to waste disposal creates new jobs, helps the informal sector and will be responsible for a sustainable waste management in the future. But before this beautiful dream can come true, a lot should happen. Therefore, we formulated a new research question, which is as follows:


How can we aid in strengthening the infrastructure of solid waste management, which deemed a priority of the High Court, by focussing on the DWCCs which embrace a bottom-up approach and see the informal sector as legitimate?

Meeting with Hasirudala

Meeting with Hasirudala

Week 3

_____________________________________________________________________________

  • By Pawan Dhananjay

Research is always an incremental process, at every step we have learn something new. However, if there is anything we know for sure, it’s that Banglore’s waste management is a multi-dimensional problem. Most strikingly, the root of this problem lies at the source itself i.e the garbage generation.

We decided to talk to the experts abot this problem. This quest led us to Nalini Sekar from Hasirudala. What we learned from her was a real eye-opener. In 2012, a group of concerned citizens, activists and NGO’s moved the courts demanding a better waste management process for their city. Following this, the Integrated solid waste management act of 2012 was passed.

Since there was no segregation at the source earlier, different types of waste like the dry and wet waste ended up in a huge stinking pile in the landfills, which is hazardous not only for the environment but also the people living nearby. However, this law made it mandatory for all the waste generators to segregate their waste at source itself. The government also promised to provide all the necessary infrastructure for waste management. Under this new law, each ward (a region of the city) would have a Dry waste collection center (DWCC) where all the dry waste would be processed. It also proved to be a major boost toward the integration of the informal sector into the waste management of the city.

The waste generators of the city were now classified into Residential waste generators and Bulk waste generators. The residential waste generators are the ones who generate garbage in domestic spheres. Ms Sekar told us that Hasirudala and other NGOs have already set up frameworks for dealing with this residential waste in which the expertise of the informal sector was well incorporated. The Government has taken a step to legitimize informal workers by providing them with government approved identity cards. These NGOs have trained these waste pickers in management skills. Armed with these skills, many of the waste pickers have now become managers of some DWCCs which has led to a significant improvement in their quality of life. They have turned from waste pickers to “waste entrepreneurs”.

The bulk waste generators on the other hand are more of a “free for all market”. They include commercial centres who produce more than 10kg of waste/day or apartments consisting of more that 50 residential units. The government has instructed them to process their own waste in a proper manner. Hasirudala has been taking care of the waste management for some bulk waste generators but this is clearly not enough. As these big commercial centers are more likely to generate huge amounts of waste and they process it with little government intrusion, we saw a lot of scope for ‘healthy’ waste management plans which can incorporate the informal waste pickers on a much larger scale. What better way to understand their working and waste management processes than to go visit them. Once we decided to focus on these bulk waste generators, we decided to go on field visits to further our understanding of their waste management scenario. Our problem statement now, looks something like this:

How do we improve solid waste management processes of ‘bulk waste generators’, in light of newly introduced laws, in a way that we reinforce a bottom-up approach that sees the informal sector as legitimate?

Disconnected waste stakeholders

between hands and blackspots
garbage in the land
garbage in my thoughts

Cities are ecosystems. Urban ecosystems. A community of living organisms (humans, animals, trees) in combination with nonliving components (like streets, cars, buildings) interacting as a system. Therefore, we, the “living organisms”, have to do our best to keep this ecosystem up and working.

After a couple of weeks researching and talking to several people about the waste management situation in Bangalore I started to imagine the city also as a living organism, like a tree. When the leaves of a tree falls from their branches, it reaches the ground and then becomes part of the soil. This soil is later absorbed by the roots of the tree and contains several nutrients to nurture the entire tree. Additionally, the living leaves perform photosynthesis that uses carbon dioxide (and water) to generate energy for the tree, releasing oxygen to the environment.

This is a sustainable process that keeps the tree alive. What’s happening now in Bangalore regarding waste management is utterly unsustainable. It’s comparable with the tree ceasing its photosynthesis, for that reason cutting off the recycling process of the air. Simultaneously, the tree sends its leaves elsewhere, breaking the nurturing of the soil and, consequently, damaging it’s own subsistence. Crazy right? Sounds like nonsense, but if Bangalore were a tree, that would be the case.

The slight research we did in the past two weeks indicates that there are several issues in the waste management flow in Bangalore. From lack of awareness of the consequences of poor waste management, to deficiency in communication between stakeholders of the whole process; the overall garbage situation doesn’t look good. It’s like the unsustainable tree described above, the waste of the city is mainly sent to landfills instead of being recycled or converted into compost for reuse in agriculture.

On the next sections I will get deeper into this process and, finally, present what we agreed that would be a satisfying approach to this waste issue in Bangalore.

Bangaloreans (lack of) waste consciousness?

The amount of people that are concerned about the garbage in Bangalore is overwhelming. From local initiatives to larger institutes, people are working with recycling, composting and general awareness with all ages and groups about this messy subject. Unfortunately, this is just a small part of the Bangalorean population.

This week we went to Daily Dump to get more insights in their approach to this issue. Daily Dump is a company focused in designing and building solutions around waste management. They have a huge variety of products concerning segregation and composting that ranges from books to specific tools to assist in a waste-conscious lifestyle.

 

Daily Dump

Daily Dump office and their composting and segregation products
Photo credits: Sandro Miccoli

 

One main aspect about waste in Bangalore that we should take in consideration, is the culture of dumping garbage in the streets. After talking to several locals, we discovered that this was a natural thing to do, if you were living in Bangalore decades ago, since the waste generated by houses basically comprised organic material. This garbage, also know as wet waste, would then be spread around backyards and land around the houses, and would naturally decompose, becoming part of the earth again and restarting their cycle in a completely natural process.

With the economic growth of the city, combined with intense rural-urban migration, the consumption culture also transformed. Nowadays, along with this organic waste also exists a huge diversity of the so called dry waste, like plastics, glass, metal and so on. This kind of garbage doesn’t decompose easily, so it tends to pile up all around streets and corners, which are know as blackspots.

 

Blackspot

One of the inumerous blackspots in Bangalore
Photo credits: Sandro Miccoli

After 3 weeks living in Bangalore, I regularly saw piles of garbage in corners and in the streets. Although we talked to several people that are very concerned about waste management, what we see in the the city is another picture. We found that there is a noticeable behavioural barrier that’s rooted in a big portion of the Bangaloreans way of perceiving the waste that they generate. Instead of thinking of what happens after they dump their consumed goods, they prefer to distance themselves and ignore the problem by keeping it out of their sight. However, since it’s no longer a natural cyclic process, the problem will eventually return to them, by polluting their land, rivers and air.

 

smelly

Woman displeased with the smell caused by street garbage at the Madiwala Market
Photo credits: Sandro Miccoli

Where is the waste going?

Although there are several amazing initiatives to promote segregation of dry waste, some of those who segregate lose faith in their attitude, since there is, essentially, no formal initiative to collect segregated waste. The garbage collected around the city is, basically, thrown together in one truck and ultimately dumped, in the streets or in a landfill.

The waste in Bangalore that is recycled is mainly the result of the informal sectors’ efforts. The ragpickers manually segregate dry waste and search for valuable recyclable material in open dumps. They sell these goods to traders, who in their turn are connected with recycling industries. Another important informal dry waste dealers are the kabbadiwalla. They also collect and segregate waste to resell to traders, but the main difference from the ragpickers is that they gather their waste straight from households.

Essentially, the transportation of the waste mainly winds up in landfills and recycle centers. The small portion that doesn’t ends up in one of those two, become blackspots around the city. Currently, there is only one official landfill used by the trucks to dispose the city’s waste: Mandur. Mandur is a village in the outskirts of Bangalore, and has been used since the last landfill, Mavallipura, closed, in 2012. In June of this year, the state government set a four-month deadline (December 1st) for the municipality of Bangalore (BBMP) to find an alternative dump site, since the Mandur residents have been protesting because of this disastrous situation (The Times of India, 6/6/14).

Recently, the BBMP declared that they intend to reopen Mavallipura, even though the area still contains accumulated waste from the last time it was used (The Hindu, 11/09/14). However, BBMP announced that the landfill will be used purely to dump wet waste and convert it to compost. Now, some questions still remain: how will the municipality guarantee that the trucks will only take wet waste to the landfill? And what will happen with the tons of waste that are just laying there for the past 2 years? And the waste in Mandur?

 

Tragic situation at the Mandur landfill

Tragic situation at the Mandur landfill
Photo credits: Bhagya Prakash K from The Hindu

Simplified Garbage Flow

We analyzed this garbage flow in Bangalore and created a simplified model that has mainly four stages: Consumption, Collection, Transportation and Disposal. We are aware that before a product can be considered as waste it was created by a manufacturer and distributed to consumers. This step does not enter in our first analysis, considering that each industry has it’s own methods of production and distribution. The variety of types of waste is also very broad, from e-waste to several kinds of hazardous waste, and each of those have their own singularities.

 

Garbage Flow

Simplified Garbage Flow: Consumption; Collection; Transportation; Disposal

There are several stakeholders in this process: individuals to higher organizations; formal and informal sectors; and innumerous crucial participants of every single stage. We noticed that, in spite of considerable attempts of connecting these stakeholders, this group is extremely disconnected. Obviously, they are all connected because of one main component: garbage. Although they share this common element, the relationship between the different stages of waste management is inadequate.

In our research we found several projects regarding source waste segregation, that is supposed to be one of the most effective ways to achieve sustainability in waste management. However, there is no formal collection service that takes into account segregated waste, invalidating any attempt of source segregation.

The informal wastepickers take responsibility in manually segregating dry waste to, eventually, sell the most valuable items to traders and recycling industries. The Hasirudala organization works on integrating the wastepickers and other informal workers to the formal sector. However, we consider that the extent of this integration is questionable, since we heard stories of the informal sector going against some of the Hasirudala’s initiative. This is a subject that we should get deeper in to better understand the needs of the informal sector.

 

Centralized Garbage Flow

Centralized waste management

The question that we keep asking ourselves is: where should we focus on in order to cause a heavy impact in the big picture of this waste situation in Bangalore?

One option is to work at source. Segregation and composting, if done well, can cause a huge impact in later phases of the flow. However, if the next steps can’t handle the efforts made initially, maybe we should approach with another perspective. Recycling is also a great solution for excessive dry waste, but it also needs some connection between initial and later steps in the garbage system.

Along these lines, we noticed that there is a lack of communication between these stakeholders. If the individual is not immersed in this waste consciousness mindset, he or she probably won’t be aware of the consequences of poor waste management.

Therefore, we concluded that an interesting approach to this problem is to investigate the connection between the stakeholders and attempt to support the communication between each participant in the process.

 

GarbageFlow-04

Interconnected waste management ambition

  

First Cisco meeting

This week we also went to Cisco’s Bangalore office to present them these initial findings and meet for the first time the Amsterdam team.

 

Cisco Bangalore Office and TelePresentation between Amsterdam and Bangalore

Cisco Bangalore Office and TelePresentation between Amsterdam and Bangalore
Photo credits: Sandro Miccoli

 

During this meeting we received valuable feedback from Cisco about our analysis and some suggestions for our next steps. The most important observation was to work hard on our problem statement. Basically, we need to use our creativity to ask the right question about this garbage situation in Bangalore.

It was also nice to see that in their office they have waste awareness posters and that they also segregate their dry waste.

 

Waste management at the Cisco Bangalore office

Waste management at the Cisco Bangalore office
Photo credits: Sandro Miccoli

References

Daily Dump, Trash Tour Trail booklet

H N Chanakya, “Towards a sustainable waste management system for Bangalore”, CST, Bangalore.

Times of India, “BBMP can dump garbage at Mandur for 4 more months”, <http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bangalore/BBMP-can-dump-garbage-at-Mandur-for-4-more-months/articleshow/36119370.cms>

Ramani, V. Chitra, “BBMP sets its sights on Mavallipura”, <http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/bbmp-sets-its-sights-on-mavallipura/article6401893.ece>

The Hindu, “BBMP looks for ways to deal with city’s trash”, <http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/bbmp-looks-for-ways-to-deal-with-citys-trash/article3834645.ece>

Pushby DonBLC 123 from The Noun Project
Garbage Truck by Edward Boatman from The Noun Project
Rubbish by chiccabubble from The Noun Project
Network by Brennan Novak from The Noun Project
DNA by Zoe Austin from The Noun Project

Garbage Flow

The trashcan is like a magic hat; you put a bunny in it and magically, it disappears. If you are living in an major Indian city, you roughly produce between the 0.2 KG and the 0.6 KG of waste per day (India Together). Unfortunately, by performing this magic trick, the garbage you throw in this trashcan is not being shipped off to a mysterious fantasy land, but rather enters a waste chain in which it affects the environment and lives of all that are allocated to make a living out of this.

Curious how your garbage can affect the lives of people you never even met? So were we. Therefore, we investigated the waste situation in Bangalore. We found that garbage poses great complications in Bangalore and is rooted within different layers of society and accordingly poses issues in different fields. Concerned fields here consist of government, municipality, economics, public health, geography and culture. In order to better understand the issues concerning garbage, literature research was done. As we attempt to describe the current situation, please be aware of the fact that we have only scratched the surface of the problem. Here we seek to map out the landscape in which the garbage problem currently exists.

 

So where does garbage actually come from and why has this become an ever present problem? Twenty-five percent of all Indian population now lives in urban areas, due to the rural-urban migration over the last decades. Rural-urban migration is estimated to account for 40 percent of urban growth. Although this is a steep increase in a short timespan, the urban centres have not simultaneously created the capacity to deal with this growth. Naturally, the quantum of waste generated varies across urban centers, depending to some extent on the population, the degree of industrialism and consumption patterns (Venkateswaran, 1994). However, not only the amount of generated waste increases, but also the nature of the waste is changing. More plastic is produced in contrast to the decrease of organic waste. Economic growth simultaneously encourages consumption culture, which will ensure of more waste being generated. Currently, Bangalore counts approximately 8 million inhabitants, who generated about 3500 tonnes waste per day (Daily Dump).

Before understanding the different issues, we propose to first identify the basic flow of garbage. In mapping out this garbage flow, we solely focused upon the disposal of domestic waste within Bangalore. This waste is largely generated by households, markets and small businesses and is roughly composed of 60 percent organic waste, 20 percent recyclable waste, 10 percent toxic waste and 10 percent rejects (Daily Dump).

In order to collect this waste, the municipality in Bangalore collaborates with certain contractors. These collaborations between public and private bodies are called PPP’s. The contractors subsequently employ Pourakarmikas, who are responsible for picking up the city’s garbage using trucks and vans (note that the Pourakarmikas therefore are indirectly employed by the BBMP). The garbage is transported to landfills located just outside the city centers. Here the non segregated waste is thrown on huge piles. This system roughly characterizes the flow of garbage in the formal sector and is responsible for approximately 60 percent of the waste collection. Meanwhile, the informal sector is responsible for 30 percent of all domestic waste collection. These so called ragpickers search the trash for valuable recyclables and subsequently sell these to recycle businesses. Note that about 10 percent of waste ‘leaks’ to so called blackspots; sites in the city where waste is illegally dumped.

 

Issues concerning waste management

As already discussed above, waste disposal is deeply rooted in various different dimensions. Many of the issues are intertwined with each other and must therefore be evaluated as complex systems. Below I will elaborate on a majority of the associated problems concerning waste management in Bangalore.

First of all, waste is considered to pose a threat to a person’s dignity and status. Therefore, waste is not desired in the house and subsequently thrown on the street. This human tendency to ignore the consequences of behaviours we can’t see, can be described by the term distancing. This also relates to a lack of ownership, as people do not consider garbage to be their problem. But in an attempt to keep their houses clean, the garbage now piles up in front of someone elses frontdoor, namely the inhabitants of for instance Mandur or Mavallipura. These enormous landfills are located just outside Bangalore and have triggered many protests by local inhabitants.

When not done properly, landfills can cause great threats not only for the environment, but also for the health of nearby residents. Disease outbreaks around these areas are not unusual, due to all kinds of rodents and pests attracted by the garbage mountains. Ground water gets contaminated and due to lack of better commodities, the residents are forced to face the risk of health problems. Recent studies show that there has been a sudden spike in rate of cancers, kidney failures and heart diseases (ESG). Furthermore, livestock at these landfills die, as they also are exposed to contaminated water. Therefore the locals are also suffering from economic loss. However, not only the local residents are subjected to contaminated water. The Mavallipura landfills are only 2.5 kms. away from the flow of River Arkavathi, which ultimately discharges in Tippagondanahalli Reservoir. Research has shown that leachates released from Mavallipura landfills have contaminated surface and groundwater. As Tippagondanahalli reservoir functions as a major drinking water source for Bangalore, this consequently means that bangalorean citizens may possibly also be exposed to contaminated drinking water (ESG).

 

Another landfill that activists protest against is Mandur. According to BBMP commissioner M. Lakshiminarayan, Mandur landfill will close the first of December (The Hindu). Although the landfill might close, the question remains: Where will these 3500 tonnes of waste generated daily in Bangalore be shipped off to?

Given the high percentage of organic waste (60 percent) in Bangalore, segregation at the source of waste generation might provide the answer. Organic waste could be composted at individual and domestic level and the compost can be used in gardens or parks. The rest of the waste would be segregated and recyclables should be brought to scrap buyers. The BBMP is setting up Dry Waste Collection Centres in individual wards, so waste collection can be done on a more local level.

 

Although composting and segregation of waste  will reduce the amount of garbage significantly, there are some problems concerning this system. One significant problem consists of the lack of knowledge about the waste disposal problems. Education makes for more awareness, not only about how to segregate and compost, but also about the consequences of failing to do so.

Furthermore, as described above, a significant percentage of waste is collected by informal workers who sell the valuable recyclables to scrap buyers. But as the BBMP is now setting up DWCCs, their waste supply is being jeopardized and subsequently they face economic loss. Some organizations (Waste Wise, Hasirudala etc.) have tried to minimum the competitive relationship between the formal and the informal sector, by attempting to formalize the informal workers. Grounds for successful projects are based on understanding cultural differences and monitoring.

 

Evidently, when mapping out the problem landscape of the waste disposal in Bangalore it is important to understand the inter-relatedness of all areas concerning the waste disposal problems. Although the problem is rooted in a variety of dimensions, it should be considered as a holistic system, in which every part is connected to the whole cycle.

 

References

Saritha Rai, The Indian Express <http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/garden-city-garbage-city/3/>

ESG, Environment Support Trust Group

<http://www.esgindia.org/campaigns/mavallipura/press/bangalores-toxic-legacy-investigating-ma.html-0>

Chitra V. Ramani, The Hindu 03/09/14

Daily Dump, Trash Tour Trail booklet

Sandhya Venkateswaran, “Managing Waste: Ecological, Economic and Social Dimensions”

<http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/4401996?uid=3738256&uid=2&uid=4&sid=21104153862971>

India Together

<http://indiatogether.org/environment/articles/wastefact.htm>

Bangalore City Tour

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.

Cows in Madiwala Market (Picture Credits: Sandro Miccoli)

 

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.

Richard's Park
Richard’s Park (Picture Credits: Tanmayee Narendra)

 

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.

View from Yeshwanthpur Metro Station (Picture Credits: Tanmayee Narendra)
View from Yeshwanthpur Metro Station (Picture Credits: Tanmayee Narendra)

 

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.

Report on the SprintCity game session at FoV

We played a session of the game SprintCity on the 20th of July 2013. This session of the game was facilitated by Merten Nefs remotely, who also played the Zuid Kennemerland municipality. From FoV, Murali played the Alkmaar municipality, Harsha played the Zaanstad municipality, Vardhan played the Amsterdam municipality and Onkar played The Province. Namrata Mehta from Centre for Knowledge Societies, Delhi. This blogpost is a report of the game session, written by Merten Nefs.’

About SprintCity

SprintCity is a planning support tool which simulates urban growth and train frequencies along a rail corridor, over a period of 20 years. The purpose of the tool is to give decision-makers insight into the relationship of spatial development and infrastructure, competition between municipalities and the specific qualities and opportunities of each stations on the corridor.It is an initiative of the Deltametropolis Association, in collaboration with Delft University of Technology CPS and Movares. In its prototype phase it was partially funded by the Next Generation Infrastructure foundation. Today, the development of SprintCity is paid fully by the users of the tool, in most cases a Provincial government.

In order to include human decision making in the simulation, SprintCity has the format of a role playing game (ideally played by the real stakeholders), supported by a computer model with realistic data input. It features three types of players: The Province-player controls the overall development of the corridor, and needs to find an optimal location for regional functions, such as a hospital or educational facility. The Transport-player controls the time table of the rail services on the corridor, and aims to increase ridership while running a profitable service. The Municipality-players control the land use plans of each station area, and have the goal to develop these areas according to previously chosen ambitions and a master plan.

 

Participants
Bangalore: Onkar Hoysala (Province), Murali Krishna Ganji (Alkmaar), Harsha Krishna (Zaanstad), Vardhan Varma (Amsterdam)
New Delhi: Namrata Mehta (Rail Transport)
Rotterdam: Merten Nefs (Zuid Kennemerland)

Remote Game session of SprintCity
Remote Game session of SprintCity
merten
Remote Game session of SprintCity

Report of the game session at FoV

In the first rounds, municipalities competed severely over urban developments. In later rounds this problem was in part solved by communicating. However, Heerhugowaard and Sloterdijk kept having trouble to fill the extensive development areas until 2030.

 

The Municipality-players initally did not realise that they could zone areas by density as well. After this was clarified in the second round, the municipalities began adding varying densities of zoning in their regions. This added another dynamic to the game: the municipalities began communicating with the province and the Transport player about the sort of plan they had made, and what they would require for such a plan from the Province and Transport. For example, Zaandam player said he would need more train stations along all his stations as he had planned a very high density residential zone at Krommenie, Wormerveer, Koog Zandijk, Koog Bloemwijk and Zaandam. Similarly, Amsterdam player said since he had zoned Amsterdam Sloterdijk as high density commerical area, he would require hotels there.

stationareaplanning
Station area planning screen: current situation (left side bar) versus future situation (right)
traintimetable2030
Train time table screen (2030)
corridor
Corridor overview screen (2030)

Even though the session was held online, at three different locations, communication on the Google+ platform was fruitful, especially between Province and Transport players (concerning placement of new facilities and adjustment of time table).

 

Session results
The teams were able to accommodate 76% of the demand for urban functions along the corridor, hereby performing better than the Business as Usual scenario (56%) and slightly worse than the real stakeholders did at the Zaancorridor (86%).
These spatial developments resulted in the following increase in inhabitants, jobs (including visitors of facilities) and ridership. It must be noted that a great deal of the increase in jobs, visitors and ridership can be explained by the extraordinary building activities of the Province player. He built two education centers, two furniture retail centers, three hotel + conference centers, four hospitals and three recreation facilities, while in reality only one of each functions is needed in the area.

 

Future

We are trying to organise more game sessions of SprintCity in India, and we will be working on an English version of the game. With FoV, we are also planning to implement a version of this game for Bangalore.

Understanding the complexity of energy systems with a simulation game

This post is by Dr. Émile Chappin, Assistant Professor of Energy & Industry, Delft University of Technology, and a Visiting Researcher at Fields of View. Dr. Chappin worked with us on developing a simulation game to understand to complexity of energy systems. These are his thoughts about the complexity of the sector and how a simulation game helps in understanding it.

 

Vibrant Electronics City sets the scene for three weeks of intensive research on serious gaming. We are driven by the need for stability and affordability of our energy supply – they are essential for flourishing societies. That’s the reason to deal with the nitty-gritty of typical European electricity markets in which billions of Rupees or Euros are at stake but where megawatts and megawatthours are easily mixed up. The key is not only in the details: electricity markets are complex systems, of which the performance is the result of the transactions in the market, the responses to the influences from outside, such as (proposed) policies, the evolving institutions and rational or irrational expectations.

 

This is where we start: how can we really learn to understand the essential workings of this system? The pure nature of complexity tells us that we can’t, really. But that’s not a satisfactory answer. We should do something that helps us – students, researchers, policy makers and companies – to gain better understanding of these systems. We need to start learning how we can somehow manage the system as a whole throughout the coming decades. Not in the classical sense of management, which presumes that some form of direct control is possible. We need to find new ways of shaping the system in a (more) desired direction. How? Join us in the world of simulation games!

We would like to share four insights we learnt from complexity and developing and using simulation games and models:

  1. The notion of optimality is void. There is no perfect outcome of this system/problem. Such judgments of the system state are observer-dependent, time-dependent and cannot be predicted. One can only speak of trajectories that appear desirable or not, given a set of strong assumptions, a time-frame, a set of objectives and a delineated system.

  2. Simulation and gaming should be used as tools for discussion. Because the system we’re observing is complex, any model we make and any simulation we run is definitively wrong. That, however, does not make them useless: they can be used as a digital laboratory, our laboratory in silico. By applying many modeling and simulation techniques capturing parts of the real-world system and its problems, and using those in a variety of relevant contexts, we may get a glimpse of understanding what patterns may emerge and how we can contribute in shaping the system [1]. That is the approach for TU Delft’s Energy Modeling Laboratory [2].

  3. Experience and involvement leads to deeper understanding. The complexity in the real-world system works in counterintuitive mechanisms and leads to patterns that are hard to really understand. Our experience shows that grasping some of these patterns by experiencing them in a serious game really helps to build an intuition for the consequences of the system’s complexity [1]. That in itself implies that lessons learnt – or patterns observed – may well contribute to understanding the complexity of the real world system and any effort in shaping the system accordingly. An example in our game is the understanding that ‘simple’ economic laws such as the notion of marginal cost bidding really work (at least to a certain extent). Other examples are the irrational response to soft information of future developments, the almost unbelievable developments on world markets for fuels, the wicked trade-offs between short-term profit, market share and the reliability and affordability of energy supply in the long run.

  4. Managing is the art to use the mechanisms that drive change. Understanding and exploring what the mechanisms are that drive our societal system is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Let’s consider this management that, making use of that, an art, an “attempt to bring order out of chaos” [3]. How to know what decisions matter, what actors matter and what outcomes matter? How to measure performance? How to measure change? To answer such questions, we need to bring together theory from various fields (history, engineering, multi-actor systems, complexity, economics, policy, design, etc.) and knowledge from application domains (energy, water, transport, IT).
    We hope that simulation and gaming contributes to this process. By doing so, we make the theory operational in specific domains: we ask questions such as how we can develop and maintain an affordable electricity sector which is both decarbonized and in which supply is secured. It helps us to define what change and stability really means and how we can measure it. That way we hope to find out how we may bring about changes that put our systems on a more desired trajectory. If we can manage our precious infrastructures – the backbones of our society – that may be how.

How can a three week trip to Bangalore help gaining insight in the Dutch electricity sector? Which countries – including their energy sectors – are more different than the Netherlands and India? Well… despite the fact that the Indian and the Dutch culture are fundamentally different, both societies show many communalities. Both India and the Netherlands are quite busy: at least traffic is a pain. The fraction of the Indian population that resides in Holland may not be so far apart from the fraction of Dutch people that are in India. What Indian food is, is impossible to define, as it is for Dutch food (although for different reasons). It is easy to complain about the weather – umbrellas are a requisite in your backpack. Dutch and Indians can express themselves in peculiar ways in English. Indians like chocolate and ‘stroopwafels’ as least as well as the Dutch. And… more often than not, we can meet each other in humor.

These commonalities show that the complexity of our societies does not mean we cannot try to understand and improve them. It means we need to find new ways of doing so. The mechanisms and laws probably do not work as we expect them to! There is only one way forward: dive in the deep, experience new things, debate with an open mind, challenge all assumptions, indulge in to cultural diversity, and… embrace complexity!

 

Literature

[1] Chappin, E. J. L. (2011). Simulating Energy Transitions, PhD thesis, TU Delft, the Netherlands. http://chappin.com/thesis

[2] Energy Modeling Laboratory, TU Delft. http://emlab.tudelft.nl

[3] Stephen Sondheim, composor and lyricist, 2005.