Article by Rakesh Shukla
What’s stray dog’s got to do with garbage? Everything – its what they survive on. Its food!
When I started working ‘with’ dogs a few years back – it was only love for ‘my’ dogs. Then I realized that my dogs, or the dogs around me are not the only dogs that need help – so I started working ‘for’ dogs. Since the issue that melded this was a now discredited attempt by Bangalore civic, administrative and police authorities to hold stray dogs responsible for the death of Sandeep in July 2011 (see article I, article II & article III), and BBMP asking for a dog cull, ‘The Voice of Stray Dogs‘ was borne. It was clear that the existing ‘stray dog ecosystem’ of NGO’s – AWO’s – Municipal Corp did not allow these ‘stakeholders’ to speak for the dogs, not at least the way that they wanted to speak.
But how did garbage get into the ‘stray dog ecosystem’?
Stray Dogs are a symptom of the urban disease, they are not the disease. The attempt to ‘eliminate’ them is unwarranted, uncalled for besides extremely cruel and violates every rule in the book. They are there because garbage is dumped, left uncollected and is available to these dogs as food. This article seeks to make the point that any population control measure needs to take into account the availability of this food source and those baying for the dogs’ blood are better of spending that energy in keeping their city clean.
So how does this ecosystem operate to bring the stray dog to a street near you? Chances are your neighborhood is a composting pit. Here are the ingredients:
- BBMP/ Greater Bangalore Municipal Corporation clearly has a mandate to keep the city clean. But anyone will tell you that it is visibly much dirtier city than its counterparts Delhi or Mumbai for instance.
- BBMP also keeps pleading it is bankrupt. What BBMP does not say is how corrupt it really is.
- Did you know that Bangalore has one of the highest direct and state collections of any city in India? Why do BBMP’s coffers stay empty?
- That there is a stay on a Rs 1000Cr waste disposal tender (for Bangalore alone!) that was floated by the BBMP when it did not have any elected representatives and did not have a mandate to do so. This has since been stayed at the Karnataka High Court?
- That subcontracting is rampant and the actual pick up of the garbage may or may not happen on schedule
- That there are hardly any covered and managed garbage segregation centers and there is widespread encroachment of BBMP’s land earmarked for this purpose
- While BBMP procures its services through e-procurement the payment cycles unfortunately are not automated for the service providers
- AWO (Animal Welfare Organizations with the mandate to carry out ABC programs in Bangalore) on the other hand have at any time several quarters of working capital stuck with BBMP as unpaid bills
- With that leverage it is hardly likely that anyone of them would speak against the BBMP very loudly even for the issues pertaining to the dogs.
So what actually happens in the garbage cycle is this:
- Citizens’ garbage is picked up by the BBMP’s workers going ‘door-to-door’. Highly inefficient but put in place because people wee otherwise just piling it outside their homes!
- The workers pick up & carry this garbage in small tipper ‘tempo’s, or wheeled garbage cans to the ‘collection and segregation center’.
- Almost all the garbage is mixed garbage – it is not segregated at all.
- This garbage is then picked up by BBMP’s compactors/trucks – but not all of it is picked up 10% can be clearly seen still lying around after the trucks have left – and therefore this is a growing permanent garbage mound turning into a mountain
- In some cases either there is no door-to-door collection and or it is not regular in which case people just walk to their nearest corner and dump the garbage there!
- In such cases regular garbage collection is very poor or non-existent and most of the garbage ‘disposal’ is by the parties in item below
- This garbage center is an open plot of land and all the garbage is piled out in the open. This garbage is then worked on by:
- People – mainly plastic/ waste collectors and for the most part the arch enemy of stray dogs. They pick up all the readily available plastic and for large bags (thicker higher than 40 micron) they’s open the bag throw out the contents and keep the bag.
- Cows – they try to find whatever they can get to eat – a role in the olden times reserved for pigs (and the reason they are/were considered unclean in so many religions). Since the ‘food’ comes in plastic packets (typically thin around 40 microns) thrown by households – they make a meal of the plastic as well. That’s how they eventually die.
- Dogs – they can open packets with their teeth and legs – and will eat almost anything edible. So are efficient in getting to the food and each garbage dump is typically owned by a ‘pack’
Now some interesting data: Bangalore’s streets and ‘dumps’ get a mammoth 300 metric tons of uncollected edible garbage EVERYDAY
- At 200 gms/dog/day and all this food were accessible to the dogs this is can support 1.5 million/ 15 lac dogs!
- Of course there are ‘regulators’ of population including water, ABC programs, mortality due to accidents and disease etc.
- If there are 300,000 dogs on Bangalore’s streets they are nowhere close to saturation and Bangalore really can’t complain that ‘we’re overrun by dogs’ – we’re overrun by garbage
- Citizens: Before you blame the dog for your lack of sleep, blame yourself for doing little about the garbage
- Corporators and politicians: Instead of repeatedly asking for dog culls or ‘removal’ – do something with the mandate that you carry to keep your city clean.