What it took to keep my neighbourhood litter-free

By TheHindu on 26 Feb 2017

The Boat Club area of 20 years ago had beautiful colonial houses with manicured gardens, avenue trees, well-maintained roads and was generally quiet.

Today, many of these beautiful houses have given way to apartment buildings, as is the case with many other areas in the city. This change came with its own set of problems, like insufficient water supply, improper drainage, cables running through treetops and, of course, accumulation of garbage.

Upkeep of the area was fairly easy in the earlier days because there were fewer houses and there was a certain pride in keeping one’s neighbourhood clean. But lately, this has become quite an uphill task.

Garbage clearance was once carried out by residents associations. Now, they cannot manage the task.

When garbage was dumped on every street corner, the Corporation installed huge bins, to counter the problem. But this did not solve anything. Within a couple of hours the bins used to fill up and the garbage was back on the roads. And when the trucks didn’t come to clear this, it became an ugly sight.

Then a private garbage clearance agency came on the scene, and this brought about some change in people’s thinking. Garbage was being cleared like it was done abroad. Residents were relieved and happy. Garbage clearance used to be carried out at least four times a day.

And then, with the passage of time, new means were promoted. Numerous WhatsApp groups and meetings with residents were held to discuss segregation of waste, composting and private clearing. Sadly, nothing much came out of this.

It was only after a meeting with an Assistant Commissioner of Chennai Corporation that we came up with a workable solution.

A personal visit to each neighbour’s house, appealing to them to instruct their helper not to throw garbage on the roads has made the difference. The assurance of the Assistant Commissioner that there would be no lapse on their part in keeping the area clean was heart-warming. As we have been provided with numbers to call for advice, we know help is close at hand. Now, we have some rules: Maintain individual bins to throw kitchen waste. these bins will be cleared every day. Garden waste has to be bagged or kept inside the compound. This should be cleared twice a week. Construction debris will not be cleared by the Corporation. This has to be done by the residents themselves.

I am happy to say no rubbish has been thrown on the roads since the day when I met my neighbours over a cup of coffee and some murukku. We have to come together as a community to make things work. We have to accept the limitations and find a solution that works for everyone. After all, it is our neighbourhood and we should do our part to keep it clean.

(Kavita Chesetty is a long-time resident of Boat Club Area)