Bhubaneswar: In a significant achievement for the Keonjhar District Administration and the city Civic body Keonjhar Municipality, NITI Aayog, the country’s highest think tank and economic policy advisory institution, has hailed it for its best practices in Technological Innovations. The NITI Aayog report titled “Waste-Wise Cities” has found in the nationwide survey that Keonjhar is the best city in implementing best practices in Municipal Solid Waste Management in the Technological Innovation category. This recognition comes as the administration is implementing the 5T Initiatives for governance and service delivery. This achievement is just a substantiation of the success of the 5T Initiatives of Government of Odisha to make the urban places more liveable.
To make Keonjhar town garbage-free and promote source segregation with the help of women’s self-help groups, the city adopted several innovative technological measures to improve its waste management system and provided livelihood support to the SHGs. With GPS-enabled vehicles and transportation introduced for monitoring waste collection and segregation, the town has used technology to smoothen waste management. The town has also made the system more robust and transparent by putting details of fees and fines collected and the finances of micro-composting centres and material recovery facilities on a publicly accessible mobile-based app – Ama Sahara.
Keonjhargarh Municipality also monitors littering and penalties are imposed through CCTV cameras installed at public places. It has achieved 100 per cent source segregation and processing with no garbage-vulnerable points largely due to technological and policy-related interventions.
According to the NITI Aayog Report, Information Technology and decentralised wealth centres have helped Keonjhar create an efficient and transparent waste management system.
Keonjhar produces about 26.5 tons of waste daily at the rate of 400 grams per person. It has been able to harness the power of information technology to improve the efficiency and transparency of its solid waste management system. The decentralised ‘wealth centres’ have opened a window of dignified employment opportunity to the city’s women self-help groups.
With a humble beginning in 2019 as a Waste-to-Wealth program as envisioned by the Government of Odisha for all Urban Local Bodies, Keonjhargarh Municipality made a beginning by roping in Self help Groups and Mission Shakti Members. The members of these self-help groups were housewives and female daily wagers, who got a source of income and improved social status due to their association with the programme.
Door to Door awareness campaigns were conducted by trained members of the SHGs with municipal officials regarding the need for improvement in solid waste management, particularly the importance of source segregation. Households were provided separate bins to segregate waste – blue bins for non-biodegradable waste and green bins for biodegradable waste. Door-to-door collection of waste was carried out by trained Swachha Karmis under the supervision of Swachha Sathis, who have also been trained for the job.
Harnessing digital technology, local WhatsApp groups were created with Swachha Karmis and residents as members for everyday communication and better coordination on waste management, and to register grievances. The state government developed the ‘Ama Sahar’ app, easily accessible to the general public, providing updated information related to solid waste management. Citizens can also pay user fees through the app.
Harnessing Information Technology, the city also incorporated several technological steps to improve its waste management system. First of all, sector mapping was done and route charts of vehicles transporting waste were prepared. All transport vehicles were equipped with GPS to frequently monitor movement.
Keonjhar Municipality has provisions for monitoring littering through CCTV cameras installed at public places. There is a fine of Rs 75 for individuals, Rs 500 for shops, Rs 1,000 for hotels and restaurants, and Rs 2,500 for other commercial institutes for littering. This has almost put an end to the practice of open garbage dumping. The operational details of wealth centres are recorded in the Ama Sahar app by facility managers. These details include the quantity of biodegradable waste collected by the dedicated garbage collection vehicles, details of Swachha Sathis and Swachha Karmis accompanying each vehicle, the quantity of compost generated, packaged and sold, and the revenue generated from selling it. Details of fines collected for use of plastic by shopkeepers, public littering, open defecation, urination, and burning of dry leaves and other solid wastes are also recorded in the Ama Sahar app.
Koenjhar has been able to harness communication technology to improve its waste management system. GPS-enabled collection and transportation has made these processes efficient and smooth. By putting details of fees and fines collected, and the finances of micro-composting centers and material recovery facilities, on a publicly accessible app, the city has ushered in a new era of transparency. The city municipal administration also lays emphasis on timely redress of grievances related to solid waste management. Grievances received through different social media platforms are transmitted immediately to the relevant staff members and a strict timeline of less than 24 hours is adhered to. The complainants are then intimated about the action taken.
The results of the transformation are clearly visible. With a clearly visible cleaner environment, the number of tourists to the district has increased. Health wise, the occurrences of dengue, malaria and diarrhoea in the district have abated by about 60 percent. The dumping site at Judiaghat has been developed into a tourist attraction. Women involved with the self-help groups handling waste have been empowered socially and economically. Public grievances related to solid waste management have been reduced by 70 percent.
The NITI Aayog Report says that, a change of attitude among government officials as well as citizens (through properly planned awareness programmes) can bring about the change needed to invert the traditional perspective on waste. Keonjhar’s waste-to-wealth programme not only generates revenue from the city’s waste, but has also provided dignity of employment to the women traditionally involved in the waste business, usually the lowest of the low strata of the Indian society. A well-directed technological intervention can be a force multiplier in a municipal solid waste system. IT-based solutions like GPS-enabled vehicles as well as apps to pay user fees and fines, track the financial situation of ‘wealth centres’, and address grievances in a time-bound manner and have helped Keonjhar achieve substantial improvements in its waste management system rapidly. By making these apps accessible to the general public, the municipality made people closer participants in the management of solid waste, thus ensuring their cooperation.
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