Parts of the national capital are staring at a garbage crisis from November, when the contract of a private concessionaire tasked with collecting waste from neighbourhoods in central, south and southeast Delhi runs out, said Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) officials aware of the matter, adding that it is unlikely another agency will be hired in two months.
The concessionaire, said the officials cited above, picked up garbage from MCD’s Central Zone, which includes Daryaganj, Kalkaji, Sarita Vihar, Siddharth Nagar, Lajpat Nagar, Andrewsganj, and Amar Colony, among others.
The MCD’s jurisdiction comprises 12 zones and 250 wards, which cumulatively produce around 11,000 tonnes of garbage every day. The central zone, with 25 wards, produces around 1,000 tonnes of waste every day.
With key committees still to be formed, Delhi’s civic agency has not been able to depute a new agency to pick up garbage in the Central Zone, said officials.
A senior MCD official associated with the sanitation department said the existing contractor for the central zone was granted several extensions in the past, but legally, there is no scope for the contract to be extended further. He said a new concessionaire cannot be appointed without the approval of the standing committee — an all-powerful panel that controls MCD’s purse strings and ratifies the agenda for discussion in the House.
The MCD elections were held in December 2022, but 10 months on, the 18-member standing committee is still not in place.
“From November onwards, the garbage lifting and transportation will be stopped completely by the existing operator. We have carried out the tender process for appointment of an operator under a ten-year project worth ₹1,200 crores but there is no standing committee in place to conclude the process,” the official said.
Municipal commissioners have the power to grant approval to the projects up to ₹5 crore, while projects involving higher amounts and rate contract systems have to be first put in the standing committee.
“Six members have been directly elected from the house after a legal battle between the Aam Aadmi Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Delhi high court, but the election of the remaining 12 members — one each from the 12 zones — depends on the outcome of the dispute over the nomination of aldermen. The Supreme Court in May reserved the order in the case,” the official said.
“We are stuck in a situation in which an anticipatory approval cannot be granted by the mayor while the standing committee is not in place. It is a legal crisis as there is no authority to approve such matters,” the official added.
Shelley Oberoi, MCD mayor, did not respond to requests for comment.
An MCD spokesperson told HT that the corporation has two months before the deadline, and they are legally examining what steps can be taken to avoid a crisis.
The BJP, however, accused the AAP of being unable to manage MCD’s day-to-day affairs.
Rajpal Singh, BJP councillor from Sriniwaspuri and the former central zone chairman, said, “It is a major issue facing hundreds of thousands of people. Already, the performance of the garbage collection system is poor and we are staring at a massive crisis as all the resources such as labour, trucks, and auto tippers are with the private concessionaire. MCD has also depleted its own resources in privatisation. We hope the standing committee is formed soon and pending policy matters are resolved,” he said.
This is not the first time that the issue of the garbage concessionaire’s contract ending has come up. This issue was earlier flagged in March 2022, when the erstwhile South MCD’s standing committee approved a proposal to initiate a tendering process to appoint a new contractor for the Central zone. The proposal included minimisation of the solid waste sent to landfill by diverting the minimum quantity to decentralised processing units and rest top centralised waste processing facilities.
“The deliberative wing members argued that the process of inviting new tenders usually takes months (in setting up infrastructure) and if the approval is not given on time, services would suffer as the tenure of the old contractor would get over in September 2022,” said Col (retd) BK Oberoi, the chairman of the that standing committee.