The Andrean Civic & Political Cell had enough with the flooding in Bandra, poor waste management, and living in toxic air. So, this is how they are making a change at the ALM level.

How often have we heard the terms, ‘Solid Waste Management, Biodegradable (WET) waste, Recyclable (DRY) waste, E Waste, Bio-Medical waste?’ These are common English words, yet there’s a lot of confusion over garbage. Sounds terrible!

You regularly hear people say, “Why is the BMC making a mountain over a mole hill?” While they debate over whose job it is to segregate waste or why they do not get fair deal in spite of paying taxes, the mountain of mixed waste has grown to a gigantic height, nearly the size of an 18-storey skyscraper at Deonar—a landfill created in 1927. Reality stuck when one-day people woke up to smog and suffocation as they face the burning truth of Deonar’s dumping ground. Then all hell breaks loose with rules, fines, banns, awareness drives until the momentum died down. Sadly, we call it the Mumbaikar Spirit.

So, when Gandhi Jayanti came along how can we respect Mother India when our bins are overflowing, shoppers wielding plastic thin bags, trees trimmed on the pavement meant for pedestrians, smelly waste in black garbage bags awaiting their turn to get into the compactor.

However, the Andrean Civic & Political cell organized an ALM Utsav on Gandhi Jayanti day to celebrate  love, respect and care for the environment.

They were around 130 people of all faiths, under the banner of their respective ALMs. They are the ‘new kids on the block’, Alert, Bold, Committed, Determined (ABCD activists). The presence of a few youth of St. Andrew parish brought in a sense of assurance for the future.  Michael Jackson’s video Earth gave an emotional start to the evening at the Carmel Convent School Hall. The lyrics and visuals reminded us that as stewards of God’s creation we have a responsibility towards it. Four youth of the NGO, Navjeet, taught us through miming that we need to conserve water before we end up with water wars.

The participants were divided into four teams, aptly named—Earth, Air, Water, Fire. A Rapid Fire Round confirmed how much we all know about Solid Waste Management. Another short game tested alertness and alacrity with which we could segregate pictorial representation of waste into four compartments and no surprises, the Earth team won.

The most important part of the evening was the 10-minute slot given to each ALM to present its success story. Note that the ALM movement started in 1997 and it has taken nearly two decades to evolve into a force to reckon with. The problems of each ALM are diverse and challenging.

These are the success and inspirational stories of how the ALM preserved with goonish BMC and other government bodies to bring up their locality.

Mohan Silva, Chairman of Manuel Gonsalves and St. Dominic Road ALM highlighted their efforts with getting good and hawker free roads and pavements, regulation of traffic, waste clearance, dog poop, etc. All this was possible because they have a committee that is committed and concerned about preserving God’s creation.

Esther Fernandes is a youth who represented the ALM of St. Paul Road. Year after year, they have withstood the worst of inundated roads that paralyzed life. Their relentless efforts with the BMC have brought them relief from their monsoon woes. Their 100-year old drainage system was brought under the new BRIMSTOWAD plan. The renovation of their road, which connects Hill Road to Perry Road is now a boon to traffic.

Ernest Fernandes, the Chairman of St. Andrew Road ALM recalled how all the ALMs of Bandra, Khar and Santacruz under H-West Ward, presented a United forum to oppose the demolition of walls of religious institutions as an excuse for road widening.  Representatives of these ALMs conducted a walk from SV Road to Mehboob Studio and showed the BMC through their findings. The real culprits to obstruction of traffic were hawkers and illegal extensions of shops.

This led to the establishment of a legal committee to create hawking and non-hawking zones and to serve notices to illegal structures. All this was possible because people were united under the banner of the ALM, which the BMC had created, but didn’t realise it would become such a powerful body. It was an open invitation to areas not covered by an ALM to form one and for those whose ALM is just about surviving, to get organised.

Brian Fernandes, of the D’Monte Park ALM was proud of his astute and alert committee. They busted a racket of women who carried a cart of sacks of rubble, walked from one street to another, insidiously leaving those bags at different places. It was a crafty way for contractors to save money in disposing these sacks the legal way. They have found the source of the racket and acted with success. They present a united force to the BMC.

Maria D’souza, Chairperson of Mt. Mary-Kane Road ALM related that one of their achievement was getting rid of hawkers and working towards a well-paved road. Their greatest success is that they have garbage free roads with 100 percent segregation of waste and setting up of equipment in 19 out 38 buildings (which includes 2 churches, 2 schools, a hostel for women, 2 institutions for religious learning) for composting house-hold waste.

We ended with a creative activity. The four teams had to draw a logo for the ALM movement with a hash tag. There were no prizes for the winning teams. All were winners that evening because all came with a resolve to love respect and care for creation. They went back with literally a cloth bag of ideas and a promise to stop using plastic bags. Hum Honge Kamyab, a song we have been belting out with a hope for a better future, which brought a close to the evening. Our grateful thanks to all who made it happen.

by Maria Dsouza