The author is a Post Graduate educated in Economics & Environment law has been a Social Development Practitioner for the past 30 plus years working on infrastructure, policy and outreach advocacy, environment management, training capacity building, solid waste management, etc. His experience spreads across Asia, Pacific and South Africa
The resident or the citizen I would like to address is generally empowered by being a part of the city. More so in the context of a city of Delhi which has withstood the test of time for centuries we feed proud to be residing here. Like any other city, Delhi also has its set of challenges that the city poses to its residents and how we address them is up to us in partnership with the government and its agencies to make a better quality of life.
In this context, as part of my series of articles on Solid Waste Management, I would like to bring about the positives of a resident welfare association. Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) or for that matter many associations have created an image of being irresponsible, unreachable, untouchable, non-responsive, so and so forth. This more to do with the resident welfare associations. There is an election, some win the positions, and after that, it’s normal to just address some issues that are raised in common, like drains clogged, power failures, and similar problems. This also puts off the RWAs office bearers that they have become puppets in the hands of the residents and they keep blaming everything and all the time rather than acknowledging the efforts put in by the office-bearers. It becomes a thankless job.
But in my opinion when I started the program on solid waste management I also and my team faced a lot of resistance from the RWAs, the other residents, the other stakeholders in the community that are responsible to appropriately enable solid waste management. But persistence and patience has paid for me as an individual and as a program for my team.
Effective solid waste management through source segregation of waste at the households is the only method of enabling to dispose of the waste responsibly. This program is being implemented by me and my team through a program named as Well Being Out of Waste and ITC initiative being executed by its implementing partner E Sree Foundation.
Time always takes care of many things for us in the same way our persistence leads us to believe in ourselves and in the RWAs. A series of coordination get-togethers enabled us to build trust amongst the associations and its residents that this team was here to do something and why not give them a chance and see how they perform. The associations were putting me and my team to test in the real sense. We were up for the challenge.
Thus the handholding was initiated and slowly we could get closer on the program activities, participation from the residents’ welfare associations enlarged, the motivation exercise to the residents increased and the program was clutching onto the people and they realized that this was a positive step to make our lives healthier and create a clean environment. So, the thought of Why Not? It started spreading across the colonies and the city.
I still had challenges with some people resisting the cause, but we increased the coordination, cooperation and handholding wherein the scope of getting out of the clutches was not possible. This was all for a cause and which was absorbed to a large extent.
The hold of the residents’ welfare associations eased our efforts and we have become more confident about the program sustainability. In light of this we are being invited by various RWAs across the NCR region. We have now tried to consolidate in areas we are working and build a network of the RWAs wherein positive learnings and challenges are being shared and solutions provided by like-minded positive members. These groups have members from different walks of life and various geographical boundaries.
It is appropriate to provide the example of a few RWAs from South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) Area and New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) Area. These RWAs have traveled that extra mile by thinking out-of-the-box and making efforts to see that as a RWA and as citizens we can contribute and contribute positively in partnership with NGOs, Government Agencies and Community Based Organisations.
It is right to mention that colonies like Navjeevan Vihar (a South Delhi elite Colony) has created a benchmark in creating a zero-waste generating colony. Followed by other elite colonies like Sarvapriya Vihar, Sarvodaya Enclave, etc. the influence these South Delhi colonies have created has evinced interest in other colonies across the NCR to come down to see the colony and discuss with the RWA on how they could achieve this miracle. It was one person that took the charge and all followed suit in all these three colonies, I call them the Three Musketeers in the Nari Shakti Form (a female divine force). Following suit, a group of three women (again nari shakti) from Sunder Nagar (non-RWA members) have taken it upon themselves to address this challenge of source segregation of waste at the household level and ensure they challenge the other colonies in becoming a zero-waste generating colony in the near future. They have almost reached; they will achieve this target in the weeks to come.
In continuation of this Sangli Apartments (a NDMC defence officers’ apartments) wherein one person (this time it is a man) again took up the challenge and has created a wet waste composting model for Delhi to see. We have people across the NCR visiting to understand that such an exercise and inside a closed apartment place without any dirt or bad odour. It comes as a surprise to all when we speak about it, but when they actually see and feel the organic waste converted to organic manure, their eyes get lightened up.
I believe that the stigma of an RWA being non-responsive and many such things have gone out of the window now. If the RWAs make up their mind then everything can happen and all goodwill happens. Earnestly all citizens should stand up with their RWAs, a few should put up their hands, like in Sunder Nagar and take up the challenges of the colony and start working towards doing rather than preaching. Like I always emphasize, The Time To Preach Is Over, It Time To Do And The Right Time Is Now Or Never.
It is true that once the RWAs pull up its socks then the municipal bodies and other government agencies will definitely go that extra mile to support and engage with you as a team. The support from both SDMC and NDMC has been unprecedented and we are all hopeful this will continue and our program will be sustainable to provide our progeny a better place to live.
The acknowledgment: I as a member of this program and my team of the ITC WOW E Sree foundation Team Delhi are extremely privileged to be participating with these great individuals and increase our learning curve in terms of community engagement and participation in the true sense which has been feeling while scanning books and or viewing documentaries. Good luck to all and salutations to all engaged in this endeavour.