Need to be practical on village-level garbage management

| MAY 14, 2024, 10:15 PM IST

In a recent memorandum issued by the Director of Panchayats, all Block Development Officers are told to convey to respective panchayats that the government has not made any provision for garbage grants in the budget head of Directorate of Panchayats for the current financial year and hence are to make full utilisation of grants for tackling garbage under the 14th and 15th Finance Commissions. This means that there would be no provision or grants for garbage disposal in this year’s accounts. The memorandum gives the impression that the panchayats are failing to utilise the grants extended by the government.

The question then is, why are panchayats not availing of these grants? What could be the impediments when there is nothing to lose and funds to be taken? Garbage management has been a complex subject that the entire State has been grappling with for decades, and it is growing bigger by the day. The government, undoubtedly, is seized of the matter and has been trying out ways and means to tackle the issue. Another question here is whether the government is handling this issue judiciously.

Despite the stiff opposition to garbage treatment plants with sections of people holding on to their “not in my backyard” attitude, the government has given grants and incentives, and drawn plans to set up garbage treatment facilities besides the existing two major plants in Saligao and Cacora. In 2018, the government drew up a scheme to give Rs 5 lakh each to the top ten panchayats in garbage management after an evaluation done by Goa Waste Management Corporation.

The objective of the yearly grant was to motivate village panchayats on garbage management within their jurisdiction, but the allocation cuts out a sorry story and is in sharp contrast to what panchayats are spending. The government is failing to understand the plight of panchayats and the money that goes into garbage management. For example, Assagao was spending 25 lakh on waste treatment while Calangute panchayat’s expenses were pegged at Rs 18 lakh per month. We need to understand that not all the  191 panchayats can afford to spend the kind of money required for garbage management, because the net yearly figure could run into crores.

Another aspect of the grant is that it is lengthy and holds the risk of rejection from the director. It does not come easy. The panchayat will first have to adopt a resolution at its meeting requesting the director of the panchayat to sanction grants, further within 10 days, the panchayat secretary has to submit a detailed proposal to the BDO who will scrutinise it along with an extension officer and forward it to the director. The director then studies the proposal and either approves or rejects it. Also, the entire sanction amount is given in percentage instalments.

On the flip side of the argument is why panchayats are hesitant to avail of this grant and utilise it for other allied expenses like making cages for the collection of plastic, buying garbage collection tricycles, etc. Also, local bodies are found to be lax in tax collection leading to major revenue loss, money that could have been efficiently utilised towards garbage management, without relying on grants.

Garbage disposal is an all-important issue for Goa, and mere circulars and orders from higher authorities will not help. The Director of Panchayats must get local bodies on board, understand the intricacies and functional problems and accordingly work out solutions. Non-utilisation of grants is an indicator that all is not well at the panchayat level on the garbage management. It’s time the government revisits the issue and takes appropriate steps.

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