The commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh has bagged the coveted cleanest city trophy for the fourth consecutive year. With nearly 3 million people, Indore is the largest and most populated city in the state and faces typical urban challenges like pollution, traffic chaos and waste disposal issues.
For long, those living in Indore were dumping garbage in open areas and over the years, these landfills turned into mountains of garbage. But now Indore presents a pleasant picture: It is one city in India where no heaps garbage can be seen.
So how did Indorians manage to sweep the city clean and continue to do so for four years?
"Without the active support of citizens, we would not have achieved this rare feat," admits MLA Malini Gaud, who recently stepped down as Mayor. She added, "Although the Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) put all its might behind the cleanliness drives, the real credit goes to the common man of Indore who cooperated with us to the hilt."
Most landfills which once towered over the city have now been beautified and turned into gardens and citizens have been mandated to hand their trash only to door-to-door garbage collection vans. There are no garbage dumps around the city anymore. Moreover, citizens have been encouraged to segregate waste into wet and dry at home before handing it to garbage collectors.
In a multi-layered strategy, failure to segregate waste can attract hefty fines and the IMC has collected upwards of Rs 25 crore as fine in 2017-18.
IMC has GPS-enabled waste collection vans to track and detect breakdowns. These vans and those manning them had a lion's share in making Indore trash-free. "Be it rain or COVID, nothing deters them from knocking at our doors every morning, sometimes even before the sunrise to collect trash,” says Padma Shri Bhalu Mondhe, leading artist and photographer.
After winning the coveted title for the first time in 2017, what became tough for the city was to maintain consistency for the next few years. One of the factors that set the city apart is the financial modelling of its waste management processes. About 90 percent of solid waste management is about enabling door-to-door collection and segregating it at source, explains Asheesh Singh, who has overseen the transformation of Indore as its municipal commissioner. The segregation process guides what should be done next. For instance, plastic collected from garbage which is below 50 microns thickness is used to make cement and that above it is given for road construction. This waste disposal technique helped reduce non-biodegradable substances.
As a cost-cutting measure, IMC terminated outsourcing of vans. "Most of the urban local bodies (ULBs) tend to spend their own money into processing waste, however this has been handed over to the private partners in Indore," Singh says and adds, "IMC benefitted from receiving the premium in this process."
Speaking about the sense of belonging that people in Indore have the city, architect Ajay Kataria says: "We see four different towns within one city of Bhopal which is largely bureaucracy dominated, but that isn't the case with Indore – people have a distinct fondness for their city here." In this year's rankings, Bhopal came seventh and that underlines the difference between the two cities in MP.
In recent years, delegations from several municipal corporations have visited the city to understand how it has managed to keep up its clean city drive. Indore generates 1,115 metric tonnes of garbage every day. However, it's the city's efficient waste management system that ensures one does not see any garbage by roadsides.