Swachh Shimla: tourists to get jute bags for storing of waste
Next time you make a trip to Shimla, do not be surprised to be greeted by jute bags as you enter the hill town.
Shimla Municipal Corporation (SMC) along with the district administration in Solan have drawn up an innovative plan to make tourist destinations along with highways litter free.
They plan to give tourists arriving in private vehicles the jute bags so that they they can store their garbage and dump it in the dustbins placed at specified places, instead of littering the highway.
Disposal of litter strewn along the national highway leading to Shimla has become a major problem for the administration. It is mainly the tourists that indulge in dumping of garbage. While the move has been appreciated by the people, social activists say that it should be introduced at all the entry points of Himachal Pradesh as the problem is not just confined to the roads leading to Shimla.
Jute bags and cleanliness
Under the initiative, tourists will be given a jute waste bag at a nominal rate of Rs 50 at the state excise barrier in Parwanoo. They would be requested to put all their wrappers of sweets, wafers and other edibles along with empty beer cans, cold drink bottles etc., in the bag instead of just throwing them out of the car along the highway.
"This will at least take care of the dry garbage. We plan to set up special disposal sites for such garbage at a minimum of three places between Parwanoo and Shimla. These disposal sites can be near Dharampur, Solan and Kiarighat where people normally halt for a small break to eat and also refresh themselves," said deputy commissioner at Solan Rakesh Kanwar.
Kanwar added that the plan would be executed by both the Solan administration and SMC jointly. "We are going to discuss this with the chief minister Virbhadra Singh very soon and then launch the initiative."
The bags will be procured and supplied by the SMC while they would be handed over to the tourists by he Solan administration. "It is not mandatory to purchase the bag if the tourists themselves are carrying a spacious bag to put in their waste and dispose it off in a proper manner. Our aim is to make the area clean," said Kanwar.
That's a whole lot of waste
The initiative can go a long way in tackling the menace as the daily number of arrivals into Himachal Pradesh from Parwanoo alone crosses 75,000 during peak summer season. According to reported estimates, every tourist generates at least 500 grams of waste every day.
It is a dismal site along the highway as one finds the roadsides strewn with empty cans, bottles, left over food stuffs, wrappers and waste packets. Besides adding to the filth, these also invite the attention of stray dogs and monkeys often leading to accidents.
The purpose of the scheme is to cultivate a habit of using waste bins and not dumping it on the highway or at various tourist spots.
Observers point out that once the scheme gets going, the tourist spots of Chail and Kasauli, which are thronged by a large number of weekend visitors apart from summer tourists, will also benefit as the approach to these places is also through Parwanoo.
The SMC, where the Communist Party of India is in power, has introduced several interventions in waste management during its tenure. "Today we are covering 90 per cent of the households under the door to door waste collection initiative. Our garbage collection under the Shimla Environment, Heritage conservation and Beautification (SEHAB) initiative has gone up from 35 tonnes daily to 80 tonnes which is more than 100 per cent. The waste is presently being disposed off in Chandigarh but very soon we will be setting up a unit to generate two mega watts of power daily from complete incineration of the waste that is collected," said deputy mayor of Shimla Tikendar Panwar.
The SMC has also launched Swachhta toll-free helpline 1916, as part of the Swachh Shimla campaign for residents to lift the garbage wherever it remains unattended or is not lifted by sanitation workers.
Regarding the new jute bag scheme Panwar said, "This will be the most convenient for the tourists also. They may return us the bags while leaving the state.
According to reports Shimla has risen from 292nd position in 2010 to 27th slot position among the top 73 swachh cities under Swachh Survekshan carried out by the Union government recently.
The SMC along with Solan administration is also mulling construction of toilets and putting up ater ATMs on the highway to facilitate the tourists on their way to Shimla and back.
Appreciating the effort, environment activist Sukhdev Vishwapremi from Palampur said the jute bag scheme should be introduced on all the roads that serve as entry points to Himachal Pradesh. "The situation regarding litter is almost the same whether it is the Pathankot - Dalhousie road or the road coming from Nangal or Kiratpur Sahib. But what I think is more important is to bring about a change in the mindset. Orientation should be made of the shopkeepers and also the local civic bodies to request the tourists making purchases not to litter the place".
Another social activist from Dharamshala Ramesh Mastana said, "Promoting a litter free highway should be made the agenda item in meetings of gram sabhas as majority of the stretches of the highways littered fall under the panchayats. The panchayats can run campaigns among tourists for making the roads litter free. In addition, the tourists must be handed over a small pamphlet on dos and don't on sanitation when they enter the state".
Edited by Sahil Bhalla