How clean is Your City?

If big ain't best, size is no criterion to judge a city for its cleanliness

How clean is your cityA city is known by its name.

What's more, the transition from good to great can be made possible only if there is a strong partnership between citizens and municipal corporations - to quote the Foreword from the Lifebuoy Health Awareness City Meter Report - an AC Nielsen Survey Deliverable - scripted by Dr Prof Sneha Palnitkar, Director of the Mumbai-based All India Institute of Local Self-Government.

This brings us to a simile. The buck, as we all know, is most often passed back and forth between civic authorities and citizens for all our civic problems. It is, therefore, imperative for municipal corporations to recognise and perform tasks for which they have been constituted, efficiently and diligently, with a Kaizen approach. If this is done, they would not be what [most of them] they are - dysfunctional, bureaucratic behemoths.

A question of balance

The "moneybag metros" of India have never contributed to the wellbeing of their citizens.

These biggies, to which people flock to in pursuit of materialistic dreams, quite often end up as fairy tales gone sour, as it were.

However this may be, there are certain instances of realisation of better balance in some big cities - Chennai, for instance - as CW readers will understand from the results of the Survey, in question.

More important: Chandigarh emerges hands down as the clear victor in the Survey, just as Australia has in the last three cricket World Cups.

Man [woman], they say, is the product of his/her surroundings - both natural and man-made, including what we create from our own bearings.

The fact is - treating and supplying potable water, commuting for work, the time taken to get from point A to point B within the city, the noise levels, civic sense prevailing among the populace, or short-term and long-term influences on behaviour, attitudes, and wellbeing, are inescapable.

Slowly, but surely, what is not desirable starts getting on the nerves of citizens — all the same. Someone takes the initiative to speak out and finds followers and change is insist-ed upon.

What it all means

Courtesy AC Nielsen's Survey and Report published in April, this year, civic authorities in 18 State capitals of India [Refer Table 1] now know what people they serve think about 12 important factors which contribute to health and wellbeing in a city.

Though the respondent profile in each of the cities surveyed is diverse enough and accommodates different socio-economic groups as well as adults from different age-groups, CW readers would quite well know that statistics never presents the true picture, because any selection of sample size and sample composition are often done only to minimise errors - not eliminate them.

Lower levels of air pollution, purity of drinking water, clean public transport, presence of clean public toilets, clean public places and drainage systems [36 per cent] were the six factors [Table 1] that emerged as the most important of the 12 identified for the Survey, which accounted for [weightage-wise], 64 per cent of the total.

In all the cities surveyed, it was either lack of motorable, good roads, or the non-availability of easily-accessible dustbins in public places that dissatisfied most of the respondents - a whopping 80-plus per cent in Patna and Raipur, and over 60 per cent in all others.

Race among the metros

Table 2 presents the results of the big cities - with a population of over 5 million as on March 1, 2001 - including Ahmedabad, among others - of what a fraction of respondents satisfied with the factors considered in the Survey.

It is, at once, evident that Chennaiites and Bangaloreans seem to be much more contented with almost everything in their respective cities, as compared to respondents in the other major cities.

It may be observed from Table 2 that New Delhi, from being a highly polluted city owing to the preponderance of private vehicles - vis-a-vis Chennai and Mumbai - has metamorphosed slowly and steadily into one in which a good number of respondents are happy with lower levels of air pollution - whatever this is, in reality - that prevail today. Well, if the capital's air is becoming cleaner owing to CNG revolution, Mumbai may soon catch up, for it has now become a matter of compulsion rather than choice to jump onto the "green" bandwagon.

The big surprise is - Kolkata, notorious not long ago for its squalor, has scored well on most fronts.

Learning from aces

Our metros, however, have to aspire to do a Chandigarh, which as CW readers will note has finished head and shoulders above the rest.

An average of over 64 per cent of the 250 respondents in the city, which houses the headquarters of two States and one Union Territory, were satisfied with all the factors put forth for their opinions.

Other state capitals/cities, however, have a long way to go - Raipur, Guwahati and Patna, are conspicuous by their utterly poor scores.

However, Kolkata, which is not very far away from the trio cited, may well serve as the beacon of hope for them in the years to come.

Time for action

All said and done, citizens can help themselves to be more satisfied, if only we paraphrase the Survey's overall import.

Using public transport more often than bringing one's cars onto the road, will compel our civic authorities - the State Government or Central Government, as the case may be - to invest more public money in bettering the conditions of our roads.

Also, instead of turning to civic authorities every time to "jade" your surroundings, all of us, individuals, housing societies, co-operatives etc., can get together and enhance our green cover, or canvas, within our complexes.

It takes just a single matchstick to start a fire. Think, and act, now - or, else we will miss the "green" bus, sooner than later.

Magnifying lens over an exclamation markSpot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!

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G Venkatesh, a Research Fellow at the Norwegian Institute of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway is a freelance writer-editor, who dabbles his skills in a host of subjects - from science, cricket and holistic living, to spirituality.

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