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'People have to cooperate with us, we alone cannot keep city clean'

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The Times Of India
15th September, 2021 15:01 IST

Devasish Sarma , who took over as GMC commissioner this year amid a pandemic, staff crunch and dip in revenue earnings, talks to Mukut Das about the challenges he faced and ways to improve civic service.

Q. The Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) has not been able to live up to the expectations of the people because it has failed to perform in key areas like keeping the drains clean, supplying clean drinking water and removing garbage from the city. Your comments

Devasish Sarma: I agree. GMC has not been able to meet the expectations of the people. We are doing whatever is possible with limited manpower and infrastructure. At the same time, people also have certain responsibilities. They have to cooperate with us. Without their support we cannot keep the city clean. We are trying to make people understand that they should not throw garbage on the road or into the drains. We are trying to tell them to segregate the waste at home, which will be collected by GMC.

Q. The city generates around 550 tonnes of garbage every day. How does GMC manage the waste?

Devasish Sarma: We need an integrated waste management policy to deal with the waste. About 70 NGOs are currently engaged in collecting and dumping waste at East Boragaon , on the outskirts of the city. We still do not have a waste management plant. But we are going to get one next month on a plot of 67 bighas in East Boragaon, on the outskirts of the city. With the installation of this plant, we will be able to treat large quantities of waste. We are planning an incinerator for wastes which cannot be treated. A change is going to be seen in the city in the next couple of years as far as waste management is concerned. Three companies have qualified for the installation of the plant. Out of them, one will be awarded the project.

Q. A bio-methanation plant was set up at Chatribari last year and another near the Borsola beel. What is the status of these plants?

Devasish Sarma: The plants are currently inactive. During the nationwide lockdown in the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, the garbage generation went down to a great extent. The plants were closed temporarily due to insufficient compost.

Q. The work culture of the civic employees has created a negative impression in the minds of the people. What do you think?

Devasish Sarma: We are trying to change that. What we immediately need is sufficient manpower because with the current strength we are not able to cover the entire city.

Q. What steps are being taken by the GMC to mitigate the problem of artificial floods?

Devasish Sarma: A major portion of the wetlands has been encroached upon. People have constructed buildings on river banks. The GMC can evict them. We have evicted many in the past and can carry out more eviction drives. But if the matter goes to court, it will take years to get settled. We have to stop granting permission for construction on water bodies. The need of the hour is to broaden our existing river channels and revive the wetlands. This is what the experts have also suggested. We have been spending around Rs 130 crore yearly on cleaning and de-silting the five river channels and 575 drains. Spending such a huge amount is meaningless. That is why I have changed the system after I took over. Now no private organization is engaged in cleaning drains. We clean the drains ourselves with minimum funds. This is how we have saved a huge amount of funds.

Q. What is the amount of revenue collected by GMC and how does it spend it?

Devasish Sarma: GMC gets government funding. The civic body needs to take up maximum work to spend the revenue. The tragic part is that the people do not pay revenue, for which GMC faces an acute financial crisis. GMC has been traditionally incurring a huge loss in revenue collection. It used to earn revenue amounting to Rs 14 crore before the pandemic and now the figure has come down to Rs 10 crore. This sum goes into paying the salaries of the employees!

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