Face it: We Goans Don't Care for Cleanliness

By Ashwin Tombat
06 May 2017 21:46 IST

Panaji's rank in the Swachh Survekshan 2017 plunged from 16 in 2016 to 90 in 2017. According to the media, a lack of citizen participation, insufficient gender- and disability-friendly infrastrastructure and a failure to eliminate open defecation were the reasons why Panaji has slipped so sharply in the rankings.

Though Panaji performed well in solid waste collection, disposal of garbage and supply of basic amenities, municipal authorities seem to believe their poor showing in 2017 is basically because of the huge increase in the number of cities surveyed — from 75 cities in 2016 to 434 cities in 2017. That is hardly a legitimate excuse.

All said and done, Panaji is a relatively clean city, even though only 80 per cent of the wards have daily door-to-door garbage collection and only 75 per cent of the wards are free of open defecation. In a cleanliness survey of 14 cities last year by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), Panaji ranked second, after Allapuzha in Kerala and ahead of Mysuru in Karnataka.

But if we take a look at the state as a whole, the situation is alarming. Goa's roadsides are littered with garbage. Our rivers have tonnes of trash thrown into them on a daily basis. A recent photograph in a local newspaper showed Panaji's St Inez Creek so full of rubbish that the water could not even be seen.

Let's face facts here. Those primarily responsible for dumping this junk are not migrant 'ghanti' labourers or tourists. They are 'Goenkars'; people born and brought up in Goa.

The village I live in — on the opposite bank of the Mandovi River from Panaji — has a very well-organised system of daily door-to-door collection of segregated garbage. Despite this, the roads of the village have numerous informal garbage dumps, places where people throw their trash oblivious to how filthy it makes the village.


One morning, we found dozens of bags full of used adult disposable diapers and other bio-hazardous material dumped in our neighbourhood, probably by a local hospital or old-age home. When there is a proper waste disposal system, this kind of behaviour is nothing short of criminal.

Every morning, when I cross the Mandovi Bridge and, later, the new Patto Bridge as I come into Panaji, it breaks my heart to see how many 'Goenkars' are throwing plastic bags full of trash (or dried flowers) into the river. Unsightly heaps of garbage along the highways are testimony to this peculiar lack of civic sense of the Goan people.

Why else would all those Goans who go on picnics to beaches and rivers in the summers leave their beer and liquor bottles, as well as dirty disposable plates and spoons behind when they leave? Why do Goan boatmen who take tourists to the island and beaches just leave all their trash behind? Why do they risk their own livelihoods by dirtying the very destination they take their customers to?

A few initiatives by the authorities might help matters. Villages that have not yet set up door-to-door garbage collection systems need to be prodded and pushed to do it asap. Second is to have separate garbage collection systems for households (early in the morning) and commercial establishments like shops and offices (later in the morning, after they open). Third is to enforce penalties for littering, with stiff fines for those caught throwing garbage on the roadsides and into rivers.

Most important, we need many, many more public toilets.

These measures will help. But we Goans need to learn to value cleanliness. Without that, there is no real solution...

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

Blogger's Profile

Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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