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Clean city

2015- 22

Partha Behera, April 9, 2023: The Times of India

Ambikapur- data in brief on cleanliness
From: Partha Behera, April 9, 2023: The Times of India

Chhattisgarh’s Ambikapur is a small town, barely 10km across and home to less than 2 lakh people, but it’s been punching above its weight in Swachh Survekshan surveys. For eight consecutive years – from 2015 to 2022 – Ambikapur bagged the top spot in the 1 lakh-3 lakh population category, setting a new benchmark for cleanliness and sustainability.

This town in north Chhattisgarh pioneered the idea of ‘garbage cafe’, where you get a free meal for bringing in plastic waste. It also boasts a 1. 5km road made entirely of plastic granules. So, it’s not surprising that 10 states have shown interest in studyingAmbikapur’s solid waste management model that’s built around ‘Ambikas’: women who power the Swachhta and sustainability missions. 

Started And Run By Women

IAS officer Ritu Sain had started the movement with an army of women while posted as Surguja district collector. The Ambikapur Municipal Corporation now has 470 women workers for doorstep garbage collection.

“There was a 25-year-old dump on the city’s border. The 16-acre site stank terribly and made commuting a horror. Now, it’s a visitors’ paradise,” she told TOI. A 14-acre botanical garden has been created at the dump site.

“We began working on a financially sustainable method to make Ambikapur free of the dumping yard, and people from all walks of life joined the mission,” said Sain, who is now director general of the National Anti-Doping Agency. 
Ambikapur mayor Dr Ajay Kumar Tirkey said, “Ritu Sain scientifically supported the threelayer waste disposal method and worked as a bridge between the corporation, district administration, urban administration and Chhattisgarh development department. ”

A Collective Effort

Sharing the town’s trash-to-treasure story with TOI, the mayor said, “Ambikapur has won the cleanest city award in the 1-3 lakh population category for eight consecutive years. This would not have been possible without the support of the administration, government, community, the opposition in the municipal corporation, media reports pointing out shortcomings, and of course, the 470 ‘Swachhata Didis’. ”

Supervisors go around Ambikapur armed with tablets and bluetooth printers to upload information on garbage lifted from homes and businesses. All 48 wards of the town are dustbin-free. The city’s solid waste management system runs on 18 segregation centres where dry and wet garbage are separated and sent to a processing centre. Women remove thousands of bottle caps by hand every day to recycle them separately.

Tirkey, an orthopaedic surgeon now in his second term as mayor, recalled how they started a series of discussions with communities and traders’ bodies to get them in sync with the Swachh mission, followed by an awareness mission in all 48 wards.

Every house and business establishment in the city was then covered by a door-to-door daily garbage collection system. Around 48-51 metric tonnes of garbage is collected every day. Nearly 70% of it is wet waste that is composted. Dry waste is segregated into 22 categories in ‘garbage clinics’and further into 156 categories in ‘tertiary segregation centres’. From waste collection and processing to user-charge collection, sale of compost, and inorganic items – everything is monitored on a self-made interactive dashboard. 
“We are earning Rs 9-10 lakh every month from selling waste, and Rs 17-18 lakh per month from rural trash collection,” said Pratishtha Mamgain, the commissioner of Ambikapur Municipal Corporation. 

Other Bright Ideas

Ambikapur also introduced a unique livelihood initiative called ‘Didi Bartan Bank’ involving 21 self-help groups and 210 women members of city-level federations (CLF). The idea behind the initiative is to curb the use of disposable utensils – plastic glasses, spoons, thermocol plates, etc. , which contribute to environmental pollution – and promote the use of steel utensils in social functions. The municipal body has now introduced ‘Bali Vaishya’, a home-composting campaign to give back to nature. Every home is part of this.

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