People such as Basanta Thounaojam and Romen and some more are working tirelessly twice a week during this pandemic to keep Imphal city clean, undeterred by other colleagues who have chosen to stay home and keep safe. They work as garbage collectors and their job is to collect the garbage within Imphal city and keep the city clean which they are doing so. They are hired by the Imphal Municipal Corporation. Basanta Thounaojam told FPSJ Review they are provided with face masks every two hours and enough hand sanitizers to keep them safe. At Sagolband on Thursday when this reporter caught up with them, they were at their job. Basanta also told FPSJ that many of their colleagues who work for the Imphal Municipality Corporation have not turned up to work because of Covid-19. They fear that they will get infected somehow. However, some like Basanta Thounaojam are doing their jobs with commitment.
This reporter also visited L. Lokeshwor Singh (Mayor of Imphal Municipal Corporation) and K. Chandrakumar (Imphal Municipal Corporation’s Municipal Commissioner) to questioned them about the heaps of garbage found at different locations within Imphal city. About the absent workers, Chandrakumar said “80 percent workers- the sweepers, the cleaners, the garbage collecting workers etc are absent because most of them live far away from Imphal and due to the pandemic, they are not able to commute to work since public transports are not available as of now and those workers who live within the radius of 4-5 km from here, we send our office vehicles to pick them up for work. Right now, we have three working vehicles-1 in bazaar (core area) and two at Lamdeng .”
Chandrakumar also said that there are about 14-15 NGOs whom they outsource work to, who in turn send the available and willing workers to collect garbage from door-to-door.
He also added, “Because of containment zone areas being announced publicly and because of Covid-19, things are working much slower than before because the communities do not like to let the workers in their communities, so it has been difficult for the door-to-door services to be carried out efficiently. Before the pandemic, the workers used to go door-to-door, however, now the wastes are piled up by communities and the workers pick those heaps up, wherever they find them within the core area.”
He further said that there are other problems such as fuel shortages for the vehicles or when vehicles break down, these become major hurdles in doing the work efficiently and are happening because of Covid-19 and that they had to hire private vehicles during these times and make it work since it is a challenging time at present. He added, “The NGOs’ works also failed due to Covid-19 because of the issues that the communities are having over strangers entering their community areas and such, so, we try and send the garbage pick-up trucks even now but we still face problems.”
- Lokeshwor Singh told FPSJ, “Even with this Covid-19 crisis, 10 days ago, NGOs under contract were operating, but with the news about community spread of Covid-19, the leikais (communities) are not at ease with door-to-door workers, that is why, the wastes are being kept outside on roadsides etc…and on Thursday itself, we sent workers to clean up from Waheng leikai to Sagolband. I want to tell the people that let us be little bit patient because wastes do not spread Covid-19.”
To this, K. Chandrakumar added, “We must try and segregate dry wastes and wet wastes at all times to manage our wastes better. Only if we keep the wet wastes separately, then along with community volunteers’ help, I.M.C can also gain great help during this pandemic to manage the wastes better. Wastes such as dry wastes, electronic wastes can be kept separately from wet wastes (kitchen waste) and when the I.M.C workers come to pick them up, they can clear of those wastes and if possible to even try to compost the wet wastes if they have enough space around their homes because they can be very good as fertilizers for kitchen gardens but that is mostly not an option because Imphal area houses are congested. But one could burn clothes wastes and kids’ diapers etc.”
He further said the government has given Shija Hospital a one acre land area at Lamdeng for biomedical wastes’ treatment plant and JNIMS and RIMS have their own waste incinerators, when asked about disposal of biomedical wastes within Imphal. Both officers said that one of the major wastes in Imphal area is of construction and demolition wastes and that soon the I.M.C plans to put waste compacters in use for better waste management at four areas (Kwakeithel, Thangmeiband, Core Bazar area and Khurai) in Imphal.
The National Green Tribunal (an autonomous organization) has also been constantly making the I.M.C aware to follow the rules of solid waste management to follow it to the T, he added.
The I.M.C mayor said “cleanliness is very important, with or without Covid-19 and also that if people would co-operate with the door-to-door NGO workers and the workers of I.M.C, then, Imphal could manage waste much better, together, because our people are not aware that throwing wastes in public can be fined according to Solid Waste Management rule and we don’t use the dumpers provided properly also, that is why we have even removed some of the dumpers so that people would participate in door-to-door waste throwing policy now.”
Most of the Imphal city is clean; however, some places had heaps of garbage strewn near river banks and roadsides such as in areas such as Paonam Kollup, Paona Bazar, Haobam Marak and Langthabal by people living in these areas.
Writer at IRAP