Some of northern India’s prominent cities are among the dirtiest in the country and Chandigarh is among them, says a study by an NGO

This categorisation is in contrast to the latest Indian government rankings wherein the city, a built-to-plan union territory that serves as capital of both Punjab and Haryana, was declared India’s second cleanest city after Mysuru.

Faring poorly in solid-waste management, Chandigarh, Delhi and Shimla sport common sights of garbage dumped in the open, while Alappuzha (Kerala), Bobbili (Andhra Pradesh), Mysuru (Karnataka) and Panaji (Goa) down south top in collection, disposal and treatment of garbage, says the findings by Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

Tracing root cause: The problem in Chandigarh is directly traceable to city MC’s shortage of manpower and equipment. Worse, the only garbage-processing plant, run by Jaypee group, has ceased operations since July 11 as the MC has refused to meet its demand of Rs 1,000 a tonne as processing fee. The original pact signed a decade ago only gave it the right to produce refuse-derived fuel used in cement factories and other industries.

Even when operational, the plant was receiving 250 tonnes of garbage per day against a capacity of 300. This makes it hard to calculate the city’s garbage production. RD Sharma, the plant in-charge, blames the MC: “The garbage-collection system has collapsed as workers burn it instead of throwing in bins.”

Collection of problems: The MC has outsourced the door-to-door waste collection to private firms, who transport it to the sehaj safai kendras (SSKs) and garbage bins. The SSKs are only 35 as against a target of 132 set in 2002. From there, MC’s dumpers carry garbage to the dumping ground and processing plant in Dadumajra.

“Chandigarh may outwardly look clean, but that city suffers from an absence of garbage segregation at source,” said Swati Singh Sambyal, co-author of the report with CSE director Sunita Narain. “Facilities to transport and dispose waste are poor,” she said.