Sunday, July 21, 2024

Meghalaya Government’s Policy Failure


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The news item, ‘Marten dumping ground on deathbed’ reflects the Government’s laid back attitude in tackling tough issues. The quantum of garbage generated on a daily basis from Shillong city is humungous. Only people working at Marten know how grim the situation is but most being government employees are apathetic to the issue. When Marten was first conceived the population of Shillong was smaller; the garbage generated from commercial areas and markets was not as huge as it is today. Domestic waste from homes too was manageable. Today the quantum of garbage is so colossal that even after recovery of recyclable waste the mountain of garbage is hardly dented. It remains an ugly titanic of modern unscientific living.
The key role of a government is to have a policy on all matters and those policies need to be tested on the ground. Ministers are expected to guide those policies and to have the wisdom and foresight to envision policies that would serve the state for the long term and not just short- term interventions. But no policy in this state has worked so far. It is a known fact that the Government has been looking for an alternative landfill but has met with little success since land belongs to the ‘people.’ Now if the government can acquire large swathes of land in areas beyond old Shillong for what it plans to turn into a new township, why can some part of that land not be apportioned for a landfill? However, the broader challenge is to explore whether a landfill is a sustainable option? Much has been spoken about how Indore in Madhya Pradesh has managed its garbage. Why can Meghalaya not learn anything from that city?
One of the primary factors leading to reduction in waste is the complete ban on single-use plastic in Indore. The ‘3 R’ (reduce, reuse and recycle) centres, cloth bags and utensil ‘banks’, parks developed using reusable things out of waste materials and home composting units have also helped in the reduction of waste in the city. The waste from 4.65 lakh households and 70,543 commercial establishments is systematically sorted at the primary source and processed and disposed of at different plants in the city. In Meghalaya most things are doomed to failure. In 2019, Chief MInister Conrad Sangma at a public meeting where thousands of students were in attendance, announced that single use plastics would be banned. This is not the first time that such a ban was announced but the ban failed repeatedly because there is a deep nexus between those in the Government and the strong plastic bag lobby that doesn’t care what happens to Meghalaya so long as its deep pockets are filled. At one time the Khasi Hills District Council too had banned single use plastics but that too was short-lived. People should question why policies meant to reduce non-biodegradable waste are not implemented in letter and spirit. Unfortunately, these critical issues are not of interest to the public. Hence Governments get away with fooling the people all the time until calamity strikes.

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