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Lets know "The Waste Issue" through A Citizen Activist

September 1st , 2019 | Sangeeta Venkatesh

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Waste sight bothered from my student years

Student Years:

Even as a school student, it bothered me when I saw dustbins overflowing or seeing people litter in the public place. As a post-graduate student at the M.S University of Baroda, indeed the dissertation I opted was to identify how to sanitize sewage sludge for use as fertilizer.

A Citizen Activist:

But my foray as a citizen activist in solid waste management happened when we moved to our home in Whitefield in suburban Bangalore in 2002. I observed truckloads of trash been taken from our community and being dumped near a village called Hoskote. This disturbed me so much wondering how our conscience allowed us to dump our waste in someone else’s backyard. I started researching and contacted Waste Wise, a pioneering NGO in the field of solid waste management to come and help us establish systems in solid waste management.

My community in Whitefield was one of the first communities to start segregation and scientific management of waste in 2003, even before the civic administration made it a rule. And this was my first opportunity to engage with people to tell them about the appalling concept of landfills which as we know is the cause of groundwater and soil pollution and a host of other environmental issues.

A decade later in 2013 as suburban Whitefield continued to grow, some of the residents felt a need for having group of citizens that would address the problems of the neighborhood. The outcome was Whitefield Rising’ where I was part of the ‘solid waste management’ group. This group was the first to have an interaction with BBMP (the civic administration) in Bengaluru. We made a series of recommendations to BBMP that can be found in this link


Recommendation for Waste Segregation and cleaner streets

An excerpt from the above article,

The event commenced with an introduction to Whitefield Rising by Ms Nitya Ramakrishnan, co-founder. This was followed by an eye-opening presentation on Waste m Management by Ms Sangeeta Venkatesh, Environmentalist and a Whitefield resident. The presentation included:

Recommendations for Waste Segregation and Management

  • Tackling waste in individual wards and making composting compulsory and thinking ahead to scale up. Waste is not only a serious problem but a growing one.

  • Investing in capacity building (training personnel, transportation of waste)

  • Sensitising citizens through TV, walkathons, and even door to door campaigns.

  • Holding Cleanest Ward competitions

  • Felicitating residents associations and encouraging Zero Waste until it becomes part of one’s life.

  • Recognising dignity of labour for rag pickers and sanitation workers (providing gum boots, gloves, implements)


Recommendations for cleaner streets

  • Shops should take charge of the area around them

  • Provide mobile bins to roadside vendors and fine them for littering.

  • Corporation should clean up litter and sand from streets immediately after sweeping, preferably during non-peak hours

  • Keep trashcans/dustbins otherwise waste is thrown on the road and footpath.

  • Storm water drains to be sealed so that no dumping happens. To be cleaned regularly and waste removed immediately

  • Visual pollution by posters etc. has to be taken up seriously. Give a dedicated space for advertisers etc


How "The Waste Issue" came in existence 

Research in Waste Management and Sanitation:

My interest in waste and sanitation led me into research in the same field. As a research professional, I had the opportunity to work in a village in Tamil Nadu which had been affected by the tsunami of 2004. My association with Waste Wise had exposed me to various forms of ‘decentralised’ and sustainable systems of sanitation which recycles human waste without any risk of contamination and we wanted to apply these solutions in the village. This is popularly known as EcoSan’ or Ecological Sanitation.

I also felt that we need to bring in concepts of waste and sanitation as a systematic learning into schools. But this learning had to be child friendly and not dreary. So in my researcher avatar, I examined the WASH (Waste, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) conditions in various schools, ranging from Government aided, Privately Owned to Residential Schools of India. In schools, taps and toilets are needed as much as teachers and textbooks (not to mention dustbins!). A Baseline Survey was formulated for data collection on school details, budget, gender ratio, sanitation facilities (number of toilets, taps, level of cleanliness and upkeep, water availability, dustbins, cleaning staff, etc).  The data that I collected was documented as a research paper and published in the Clean India Journal. You can read more about it in this link

The Making of ‘The Waste Issue’-

When I found that there was little or no learning on solid waste in schools, the second phase was to develop an effective curriculum on waste and sanitation and hence with a small budget we went about writing a fun yet fact-filled workbook for middle school children. This was called The Waste Issue’, written by me and my co-authors Padma Shastry and Nivedita Rathaur. Our graphic artist was Anjali Shastry. We were extremely fortunate and honoured that the renowned scientist and environmentalist, Prof. T. V Ramachandra, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, has written the Foreword for the book.


Knowledge on Waste Management for every age human

My market research showed that there are very few books on knowledge on Solid Waste Management for children in India. As a citizen activist for many years and in my interaction with various apartments and communities and individual households, I found that there is lack of awareness on these issues. In that sense, the book makes for a great reading for adults as well.

What sets the book apartis that besides being educative, the ethos of this workbook pays a lot of focus to engaging children in a fun-filled learning process. The contents were designed keeping in mind that lessons in waste need not be preachy & monotonous. The spirit of the book lies in its attempt to make children ‘think’ & be sensitive to their natural surrounding – how they see waste & what value they can bring-in to refuse & reduce it. We all need to think about the end of lifeof each item we use in our lives. You will see in the book that each topic has an activity that goes with it.

The Mascot Wriggly’ the Earthworm takes you through the facts, stories and  activities that involve History, Geography, a School Audit, Story-telling, Poetry, Music, Puzzles, and some DIY (do-it-yourself) activities. There are case-studies that encourage young minds to debate and come up with their own views and solutions. As a finale, students are encouraged to organise a totally Green’ Event in their campus. The book is hence a tool that can be handled by any teacher and a school can adapt their own plan of activities that is suitable to them. 

Awards: I was awarded the ‘Swayam Siddha Award’ by the HCG group of hospitals in their programme EVElution-2018 in recognition of my work. I also write in my blog giving easy tips for sustainable living.

The author of the story is Sangeeta Venkatesh for books or conducting workshops or any other details.

InwasteR is only a platform to share WaStory and the views and experience are purely of the author.

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