Tackling open garbage dumps for cleaner neighbourhoods

Ever noticed the piles of garbage dumped openly beside the road or on footpaths? How did this garbage get there? Is it healthy to have an open garbage patch in a public area? Has someone tried to report it? How does one deal with an issue like this? All these are questions we would normally ask if we weren’t so used to seeing garbage lying on the side of the road. To highlight and denormalise these trash layden spots the Solve Ninjas at the Solve India Movement coined the appropriate term. They call them Blackspots. Below is a step by step to understand how, why and where Blackspots can form, and how to solve this rampant issue across our otherwise beautiful country.

How to fix a blackspot?

Step 1) Take a walk around your neighborhood and identify any spots where garbage has been dumped on the street.

Step 2) Mark such spots by taking atleast two pictures of the spot from different angles (instructions on how and why to click a good photo: here)

Step 3) Visit these black spots and Click photos of the same spot over multiple days and nights to see patterns

Step 4) Know your local government

  • What is the Ward Number ?
  • Understand the department(s) that will support you in fixing the spot ( Ex : In Amritsar, Construction debri is managed by Building and Road Department, Operation & Maintenance Dept for water stagnation and streetlight issue , sanitation team for waste management )
  • Who is the Health inspector of the ward ?
  • Who is the Supervisor of the street ?

This information can be found at your local ward office. Don’t forget to take permission from here, before taking any steps to fix your black spot.

Step 2) Investigate as to why people throw their waste in that specific spot. Speak to anyone who could be a witness to the crime, basically people who are always in the vicinity. Example: Shop keepers, apartment security guards, the area pourakarmikas (Sanitation workers), etc. Ask them things like:

  • For how long have people been dumping at the black spot?
  • Does the Municipal Corporation Eg. BBMP in Bangalore clear the garbage regularly?
  • Has anyone reported the issue before?
  • How does the dumping affect people in the area?
  • Has the blackspot caused them or anyone they know, any health issues?

Step 3) Once you understand why people dump their garbage in the area, reach out to your local municipal corporation and report the blackspot. Note the exact location, ward number and any other landmarks to identify the spot with & send them a picture to help them identify the spot (click here to know how to take the best picture)

Step 4) Wait and watch. Observe the spot for around 3 to 5 days. If your municipal corporation does respond and clear the black spot, continue to watch the spot for any further defaulters

Step 5) In case you see garbage continue to pile up in the identified blackspot, you can exercise your civic responsibility and take matters in your own hands. Gather a group of people (family, friends, social organizations, citizen groups, your resident welfare association,etc) who are willing to help you solve the problem. Don’t forget to include members of your municipality too. Equally distributing the factor of accountability among govt and citizens will help keep the blackspot from returning to it’s original state.

Step 6) To clean the black spot yourself, you will need the following items:

For Cleaning

  • Trovel
  • Shovel
  • Bandli
  • Broom
  • Metal Brush

For painting

  • Toilet brush
  • Paint brush
  • Paint rollers
  • PVC pipes
  • Bucket
  • Water

For Safety

  • Cut resistant gloves
  • Masks
  • Use and throw gloves
  • First-aid kit to treat burns and cuts
  • ORS to treat dehydration
  • Chairs and umbrella for volunteers to rest
  • Refreshments

Step 7) Broken window theory is the concept that each problem that goes unattended in a given environment affects people’s attitude toward that environment and leads to more problems. Anything that is “damaged,broken or ugly” creates a reason for people to throw more garbage, urinate or create other problems. Public spaces become “dead spaces” when people are not able to use the space. These spaces become hotspots for garbage disposal.

Step 8) Once necessary permissions from govt. and (if required) private property owners are secure, follow these steps to clean the spot:

  • Repair, remove and paint portions that make a space damaged or ugly and create a new default (tip: Painting the walls to a new colour creates a new default for passersby, the usage of terracotta ( shade of red ) colour masks paan and urine stains)
  • weed growths are hotspots for waste being thrown and removal of these weeds helps in maintenance of the spot.
  • Ensure that the work is clean and neat. Paint designs or rangolis to improve the visual appeal of the place.
  • Ensure the place is well lit at night. Make the space useable and noticable
  • Corners are successaptable to garbage collection. Primarily because of the lack of visibility. So try to eliminate them by adding plants, artwork or a bench to sit.

    Step 9) Improve process and enforcement. In Bangalore, the responsibility of BBMP Marshals is to monitor and fine violators. They can support in enforcement. Involve the community in maintaining the spot.

    Step 10) Share one 1 before, 1 after and 1 action pic. Select the best 3-4 that tell the story ( ideally from the same / similar angle. )
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