Those who dump construction debris should be jailed
Some years ago we lived in a building surrounded by bungalows with large gardens. One day the bungalow next door started some refurbishing work. Loads of construction debris emerged out of the house and was dumped outside on the streets, not in the large empty space inside the compound of that house. Worse, the debris wasn’t dumped on the road in front of their bungalow, but right in front of our building! It was an eyesore, not to mention the inconvinience it caused.
So did we complain to the rich neighbours? Well, I went to the chairman of the society and suggested it but he said it was out of the question as they didn’t want to create unpleasantness with such influential people. And he asked me why I was bothered, when no one else in the building was.
A single individual can’t do anything. It’s only when people get together that some results can be seen. The municipality doesn’t act although there are fines to be imposed and penalties to be levied, well not unless a lot of people get together. Reading about a recent incident in Mumbai made me happy. A group of citizens got together and conducted a “debris satyagraha.” What they did was
…collect stones, cement slabs, pieces of pipes and rubble left on the roads, dumped it on handcarts. They put the debris on handcarts and dumped it in front of the local ‘E’ ward municipal office…They protested against the civic body’s apathy towards clearing debris from their area even after repeated complaints.
That got the BMC’s (Mumbai Municipal Corporation) attention.
Low penalties are a cause of incessant dumping
I wanted to find out the exact penalty for dumping of construction waste but found no information on the MCGM (The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai) site although I did find information on fines for littering and defecating – on a page which listed the cleanliness and sanitation byelaws. Fines range from Rs 100 to Rs 500/- depending on the nature of the offence. Only non-segregation of hazardous waste drew high fines up to Rs 10,000, and non-segregation bio-medical waste had a penalty of upto Rs 20,000/-. It was strange that there was nothing here about construction waste, which I think shows the low priority it has. Even stranger because it’s the rich builders who do it (and can afford to pay high fines) and that construction waste is usually dumped in large amounts and is hazardous.
I did find a newspaper report (Mumbai) which says that dumper operators who dispose of debris in the wrong place have to pay a fine of Rs 20,000/- That’s too little for a private business. Rs 50,000 ($1250) would be more of a deterrent.
Other cities in India
I tried the Delhi Municipal corporation site, the Bangalore municipal corporation site and the Kolkata Municipal corporation site but was unable to any kind of information on any type of fines and penalties. The Chennai corporation site wouldn’t open. However I did find a newspaper report about Chennai which said that non-segregation of hazardous waste in Chennai would entail a fine of Rs. 500. A bit low if one compares it to Mumbai’s Rs 10,000. I tried to look for online newspaper reports about other cities but couldn’t find anything.
Fines and penalties in elsewhere in the world
It was easier to find what people paid all in other parts of the world for dumping construction waste because such cases usually went to court and were written about, resulting in criminal convictions. The person convicted got a criminal record!! While the exact amount of fine depends on the town, there are places in the In the U.K where a firm which dumps waste can be fined £1,500 and also ordered to pay costs. But this is nothing, because illegal dumping of waste (called Fly-tipping in the UK) “can attract a maximum penalty of” a £50,000 fine and five years in prison!!
In the US too fines and penalties vary according to the town, but there is this one case in New Orleans (a city particularly vulnerable to flooding) where a fine of up to $5,000 is levied on anyone who dumps construction debris as it can affect the city’s drainage system. This is 2003 news and fines have probably gone up.
In Baltimore, a judge accused of dumping building materials along his waterfront property had to pay $10,000 fine and was sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation. And he was considered to be let off lightly as he escaped a criminal conviction.
For us in India a combination of stiff penalties and enforcement will help us keep our cities clean. But even more important, municipal corporations have to lead by example. The way things are today, the municipal corporations themselves dump. Two examples from Mumbai. One incident where the corporation continously dumped debris outside a building at Shivaji Park for months. And another where it dumped construction debris at Juhu beach! The corporation should come down hard on its own people who dump debris, and I suggest jail terms. Not harsh considering that they are “custodians” of sanitation and cleanliness.
If the law can put people into jail for a month for drunk driving then they can certainly jail people for at least a month (preferably a year) for endangering the lives of people and ruining the environment by dumping construction waste. The fear of jail without bail always works. Jail is the only answer to this menace.
(Photos are taken by me and are stock pictures, both copyrighted. The link of the debris satyagraha was sent to me by Vivek Khadpekar)