Unpleasant odour

Garbage collection in Kathmandu has been disrupted yet again due to differences between Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) authorities and four KMC worker unions. The unions are demanding that private operators be barred from waste management sector. On the other hand, the private operators have refused to collect Valley waste so long as KMC does not allow them to dump the waste at the Teku transfer station or pay for the fuel cost incurred in carrying the garbage to Sisdole Landfill Site, which is around 26 km from the Valley.

For a change, the unions do have a valid case. The private waste management companies collect up to Rs 150 a month from thousands of households for their services. Where does all this money go? If the KMC is expected to bear most of the transport cost, why allow the private operators to charge common people at all? On the other hand, the unions’ claim that the current level of KMC staff (1,400 in the cleaning department) is enough to collect and dispose all the Valley waste does not bear up. And their history of disrupting work over trifling matters is well documented. There is no question that private operators must be held accountable when they are charging money for their services. The worker unions too need to be realistic about KMC’s capacity to shoulder the burden of waste disposal by itself. There should be no objection to the role of the private sector in waste disposal if basic operating guidelines can be worked out.