This article is based on interview with Mr. Nagesh Aras of Sobha Aquamarine, Sarjapura Outer Ring Road, Bangalore who has been leading the STP related regulations for Apartments with KSPCB and now on the SWM rules.

When the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) framed a draft of its new Solid Waste Management (SWM) plan in late 2012, there was a collective sigh of relief as the policy was seen as the much awaited first step towards a cleaner Bangalore.

Improper waste disposal has been one of Bangalore’s burning issues

But a deeper look into the tenets of this plan throws up critical questions on the role of apartment complexes in this SWM drive. The new recommendations hold apartments responsible for processing their own solid waste – a move that has evoked strong reactions across the city’s apartment associations.

So where exactly do apartment complexes fit into the current scheme of things? More importantly, how do the new regulations affect apartment owners?

The Events That Led To The New SWM Plan

Improper waste management is a problem that has plagued Bangalore for over two decades, and the issue hit the spotlight again when the BBMP’s act of dumping solid and wet waste (without proper segregation) in the village of Mandur started causing ecological problems in the locality, along with rising health hazards.

The BBMP ceased dumping waste in Mandur amidst growing protests

Close to 500 trucks loaded with 3000 tons of garbage from the city were regularly sent to the Mandur landfill on a daily basis, till rising tensions prompted the Bangalore High Court to intervene and stop the BBMP from using its landfills entirely.

The growing mountains of waste in the landfill and the ensuing diseases prompted the villagers from Mandur to protest against the BBMP in the year 2012, bringing the entire cycle of waste segregation and disposal to a halt, and leading to the accumulation of excess waste along the city’s roads.

The revised waste management plan is part of the BBMP expert committee’s efforts to outline a clear cycle of waste segregation and disposal within the city, with an eye on the growing population and the mounting need for better waste management facilities.

How The SWM Plan Affects Apartments In Bangalore

Although the new SWM plan mainly outlines the need for proper waste segregation at all levels of the disposal cycle, certain key statements in the plan dictate that residential complexes and apartments are solely responsible for processing their own waste.

Under the new guidelines, apartments are internally responsible for processing wet waste

Under the SWM plan, which was announced in September 2012, residential apartments that have more than 10 housing units or above have been classified as ‘Bulk Generators’ of waste, along with hotels, malls, shopping complexes, public offices, and transportation terminals.

Apartments have been classified as ‘Bulk Generators’ by the BBMP

The revised guidelines specify that:

  1. Apartments should internally segregate their dry and wet waste
  2. Composting units should be installed in every apartment to process the wet wasted generated
  3. Apartments that fail to install their own composting units should hand over their wet waste to the BBMP
  4. The BBMP will levee a standard fee for collecting the waste from such apartments

The BBMP regulations clearly state how different types of wastes should be handled by the apartment management.

  • Dry Waste: This includes waste materials like plastic, paper, metal objects, wood, rags, rubber, and thermocol. Dry waste should be handed over to the nearest collection center.
  • Wet Waste: Wet waste includes uncooked and cooked food items, and compostable material. This should be processed through composting units or given to the BBMP for a fee.
  • Sanitary Waste: Sanitary napkins, any material contaminated with blood, and disposable diapers fall under this category. These need to be disposed at biomedical waste collection centers.
  • Inerts And Rejects: Road sweepings, silt, dust, ashes, broken glass, and construction and demolition wastes are part of this category. Inerts will be collected from apartments on a weekly basis, again for a standard fee.

More than a third of Bangalore’s residents live in apartments; and this unexpected move from the BBMP expert committee has spurred debates on how effective these efforts are. In fact, Mr. Narayan Aras, who is leading the efforts to educate apartment residents about the new SWM plan, has compiled an analysis on why the BBMP’s recent measures are impossible to implement.

The new policy has come under criticism mainly because these long-term regulations have been passed overnight without providing residential complexes the space to learn about and install such composting units within the complex. To add to this, there are no fully functional KSPCB (Karnataka State Pollution Control Board) approved disposal centers across the city, complicating the entire waste disposal process.

Many planned apartment complexes don’t often have the space to accommodate these units, and the BBMP’s lack of operational support in terms of setting up and approving these units is an important factor as well. Installing and maintaining a composting unit is an additional expense that apartment owners will have to bear, and these are just some of the many reasons why apartment residents can’t process their own waste.

In an ominous move, the rules also specify that housing units that don’t adhere to these new regulations will have their electricity and water supply cut off, with a looming threat of nonconforming residents being forcibly vacated or imprisoned too. It remains to be seen if the BBMP will listen to protesting homeowners who are challenging the components of its ill-advised draft.

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This article is based on interview with Mr. Nagesh Aras of Sobha Aquamarine, Sarjapura Outer Ring Road, Bangalore who has been leading the STP related regulations for Apartments with KSPCB and now on the SWM rules.