Last week my husband and I went to Hyderabad for a few days. He had a conference to attend so we got to stay in a swanky hotel. While he was at meetings, I got to see the city. We were staying in the Cyberabad area and most of my sight-seeing was in the older part of the city. There are a lot of contrasts one can see between these two areas, which are around 20 kilometres apart. On the surface, one is shiny and new and the other is old and, in places, in need of renovation. But, of course, I’m here to talk about Hyderabad from the point of view of its waste, not its architectural wonders.
The first thing I noticed was the material on display in our hotel room at the Avasa Hotel indicating that they are concerned for the environment. One placard indicates that only if you put it on your pillow will they change the sheets on your bed. The other states that if you want newly washed towels everyday you should place them on the floor of the bathroom. I followed instructions so that the housekeeping service would not wash our linens, but on the first day they washed and changed everything anyway. I told the concierge about this and they promised to take care of it, but on the second day it happened again. This time I spoke to the manager, but by this time we were on our way back home. The other problem about our hotel’s claim to be environmentally-friendly is its use of plastic water bottles to provide its customers with clean drinking water. This is a hotel that has clearly spent quite a bit of money on things like 24-hour hot water coming out of each faucet (quite a waste of energy!), yet they haven’t installed water filters for us to drink water when and as we need it in glasses or metal tumblers.
On my first day as a tourist I noticed quite a bit of waste around the city, but it was most striking at Golkonda Fort. There were several spots along the 300 step walk up to the top where one could purchase snacks, which were inevitably things like chip packets and drinks in plastic bottles. While I did notice people hired to sweep up areas, it is clearly too large a task for a few sweepers to maintain. People need to pick up after themselves and, ideally, choose snacks that are organic and without packaging so that they don’t litter the landscape.
The rest of the city had bins lying around for people to use, but always a single bin. Even in my hotel room there was only 1 bin for us to put all our waste in, some of which was organic.
Like other cities in India, Hyderabad has a waste problem:
But when one is in the IT parks, like the one where my husband’s conference was held, you see a striking difference: none of the roads are littered, everything is landscaped and well groomed. But just because it’s out of sight, doesn’t mean it’s not a problem for the city and the environment more generally because we know there is no “away” where all our garbage goes. There is a great article that traces the waste journey in Hyderabad, along with videos helping to narrate the process:
We trace the journey of Hyderabad’s garbage from the dustbins to the mammoth dumps when they end up. The journey shows how our lethargy to segregate our waste adds to the problem, how unprepared waste-disposal workers are for the hazardous nature of the job and how unscientific our landfills are.
There seems to be a couple of ventures where one can recycle e-waste through e-Scrap Zone and create segregation and recycling programmes in one’s community through Waste Ventures. But there still is a lot of work to be done and, as usual, it begins with our own behaviour that allows us to find it acceptable to live in a sea of litter.