It’s a tale of two cities with contrasting ground realities: Mysore in Karnataka that has been adjudged the cleanest city in the country by a survey of the Union Urban Development ministry, and Damoh in Madhya Pradesh, which has been declared the dirtiest.
So what does Mysore do that Damoh doesn’t?
For one, Mysore processes 220 of the 410 tonnes of solid waste it generates daily. The city, in fact, plans to start selling the recycled waste under the brand name Mysuru Gold early next year, says M V Sudha, the public relations officer of the Mysore City Corporation.
It also has a new sewage treatment plant that has the capacity to treat 150 million litres per day (MLD) while the city produces only 120 MLD.
Some locals point out that the ‘city of palaces’ was always ‘swachh’. The country’s first underground drainage system was after all laid in Mysuru in 1902 by the then-monarch Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV, who laid special emphasis on sanitation and waste management.
However, Mysore’s clean façade hides the sordid practice of manual scavenging that is still rampant. Though the city boasts of a fleet of modern truck-mounted vacuum cleaners, scavengers are still employed to clean up clogged septic tanks with their bare hands.
Historians like Nanjaraje Urs also questions Mysore’s new-found status as the cleanest city. “Only the areas with hotels, palaces, parks and museums are kept clean,” he says. The state of slums and lower-income neighbourhoods are as bad as any other in the country.
Residents of Damoh, on the contrary, are unanimous that their city stinks.