Waste management is still a foreign idea in the state of Meghalaya and in spite of the fact that Solid Waste Management Act 2016 is in operation in the country, yet the government is conveniently ignoring the Act. The question is how long the government can avoid taking waste disposal issue seriously when it is one of the major urban concerns the world over. In Meghalaya the situation with regards to waste management in the major urban areas of the state particularly in Jowai has now reached rock bottom.
In Jowai since the day Jowai Municipal Board abruptly stopped the collection of garbage from the residences of the people, waste were seen dumped almost everywhere. Residents of the town dumped rubbish at every available space and waste mounts emerges in many commercial areas of the town. This is not only an eyesore but it also denigrates the image of the town which this government has planned to develop as a smart town.
The question is can the public be blame for the unfortunate situation which is beyond their control? Can we even blame the different Headmen of the different localities for the situation the town is facing now?
The dilemma the town has with the waste it has generated has reached its nadir when the staffs of the JMB were prevented from dumping waste at landfill located at Mupyut village. The protest was organised by pressure groups and the local communities around the landfill. Incidentally, the land where the garbage dumping ground is located belongs to the Jañtia Hills Autonomous District Council and the Jowai Municipal board had an agreement with the council on August 2017 to use the landfill for 20 years. Ironically, now even the JHADC have no place to dispose the waste produced from Ïawthymme which is the council’s own market.
The issue is becoming more complex because market is the subject of the district council as per the sixth schedule of the constitution. Hence all the markets in the district are by law are under the jurisdiction of the council. By law, all the markets in the Ïawmusiang area are also technically under the jurisdiction of the JHADC, hence the council is duty bound to deal with the waste generated from these markets. The JHADC is not only duty bound to collect and dispose the waste generated at Ïawthymme, but even waste produced from the different markets in Jowai.
As per information collected from staffs of the Jowai Municipal Board, on an average the town generates approximately 60 tons of waste per day. The question now is how and where will the residents of the town dispose their garbage?
Jowai have Wailadmiki Shylla as their MLA and four MDCs, namely Andrew A. Shullai Jowai Central, Saron Paswet Jowai South, Brightstar Chyrmang Jowai North and Lakhon Dkhar Khliehtyrchi Sohmynting as their leaders. Unfortunately all the local representatives of the people have failed them. The MDCs does not see it to be their responsibility to see that the council honour the agreement that it had with the Jowai Municipal Board.
It is also true that except for Andrew Shullai all the MDCs are part of the NPP-led Executive Committee headed by the CEM Thombor Shiwat. Yet all the MDCs are maintaining silence on the issue. After the board was barred from dumping the garbage at Mupyut, the district administration at the district level made an arrangement to dump the waste collected from Jowai at Myrten in Shillong. Even this arrangement has to be stopped because of the protest from the local community, near Myrten.
Jowai Municipal Board is already facing plethora of problems. The Board’s staffs including the garbage collectors have not received their regular pay for the many years now. And even if they received their salary, it was at a gap of many months. Unfortunately, in spite of the fact that the JMB is in a financial constraint and is facing an endless predicament, the MDA government in its wisdom chose to appoint a chairman to the Jowai Municipal Board. The question is what is the chairman going to do without the government conducting election to elect the members of the Board? Or is he going to be a one man army who will all by himself, be able to bring the problem-ridden Jowai Municipal Board out of its misery? Who is going to pay for the chairman perks and the salary of his supporting staffs? The question is if the Board can afford to appoint a chairman, then obviously it is not in a financial crisis.
The Board is now supported by the public and all the dorbar chnong in the town are helping in collecting fees for collection of waste from the households in the entire town. Are the residents of the town going to allow this government to squander people’s hard-earned money like this?
More importantly, the discontinuation of garbage collection also poses an imminent health hazard to the residents of the town. It is rather unfortunate even if the town’s fight against COVID-19 pandemic is yet to over, when it will now have to face yet another threat to the health of its denizens. In spite of the fact that months have passed since collection of waste was stopped sadly, the leaders of the people chose to ignore this matter which can cause health hazard to the people.