The state government has increased the budgetary allocation for solid waste management in Bengaluru to a whopping Rs 1,619 crore, citing additional expenditure on running landfill sites among other things.
Experts questioned the move, wondering why so much of taxpayers’ money is needed if authorities just dump the city’s garbage in landfill sites instead of processing it scientifically.
The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), which is without an elected council, had quietly uploaded the budget for 2022-23 on its website on March 31, just half an hour before midnight. The budget size (Rs 10,484 crore) was already big as it violated a special law aimed at ensuring fiscal discipline.
But things took a turn on May 7 when the Urban Development Department (UDD) increased the BBMP budget by Rs 377 crore, of which Rs 150 crore will go to solid waste management. In the original budget, the SWM allocation was Rs 1,459 crore. The budget revision happened with the approval of Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai.
The Rs 377-crore increase will put an additional burden on the BBMP’s revenues. The UDD didn’t explain how the BBMP will generate the additional funds.
The extra funds will go to the operation and maintenance of landfill sites (Rs 95 crore, up from Rs 20 crore), repair and maintenance of waste-processing plants (Rs 90 crore, up from Rs 15 crore proposed by the BBMP) and drinking water facilities (Rs 65 crore). Another Rs 200 crore has been set aside to match the contribution of the state government.
Love for landfills
Of the Rs 1,469 crore initially allocated for solid waste management, Rs 300 crore was to be spent on establishing two new landfill sites and undertaking village improvement works surrounding the dumping yards. The cost of maintaining landfill sites is to go beyond Rs 375 crore, a record high.
Solid waste management experts wonder why the city needs a separate unit if all the BBMP does is throw garbage in landfill sites.
“Neither the SWM rules nor the orders of the high court or the National Green Tribunal allow the dumping of mixed waste on landfill sites,” said Pinky Chandran, researcher and member of SWM Round Table.
“The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, too, mandates sending only inert materials to landfill sites. Still, the BBMP keeps sending mixed waste to landfill sites by allocating unacceptable sums of taxpayers’ money.”
Data from the last five years shows the expenditure on SWM has risen by 50 per cent. In 2018-19 and 2019-20, the BBMP spent Rs 1,000 crore each. The figure was Rs 1,622 crore in 2021-22.
Speaking to reporters, BBMP Chief Commissioner Tushar Girinath defended the revised budget, saying the government has “rightfully” hiked the allocation to landfill sites.