The emergence of the heritage city of Mysuru as the cleanest city in the country in the pre-Swacch Bharat rankings released last week is testimony to the importance of imbibing a culture of cleanliness over decades and generations.
The number one rank for Mysore among 476 evaluated cities in India comes as no great surprise to locals since high standards of cleanliness have been nurtured for generations by visionary kings from the Wodeyar dynasty who governed the region until five decades ago. The Wodeyars, who had travelled widely through much of the developed world, brought to Mysuru modern ideas that made it one of the best planned cities in the country nearly 150 years ago.
A gradual growth in population (14 lakh at present) and an adherence to the principles of city planning laid down by the Wodeyar kings has helped Mysuru avoid many of the pitfalls encountered by major cities.
Nearly 150 years ago the kings of Mysore created the Vani Vilas Water Works, a drinking water supply system that pumps water from the Cauvery river to the city. They also created universities, colleges and school that provided modern education to the people of Mysore. A culture of democratic participation was also started by the Wodeyars through the creation of Praja Pratinidhi Sabhas where cleanliness of the local environment was an area of key focus. Mysuru was one of the earliest cities to have door to door garbage collection.
Instead of one centralised market where waste piles up, Mysuru has had four markets since the days of the Wodeyars. This has ensured more efficient waste disposal in the city. The Wodeyars decision to set aside 900 acres for a sewage treatment plant has helped subsequent civic administrators handle the problem of Mysuru’s sewage disposal. The sewage plant created in 1994 is today also an important source of cattle fodder. Door to door collection of garbage is efficient with the participation of civic groups and NGOs. In the well-laid out localities there are clearly demarcated areas for garbage collection.
Mysuru has also clearly maintained the demarcation between its sleepy residential localities and commercial areas. In recent months sensing a garbage threat to the city, including several heritage sites, through the uncontrolled proliferation of roadside eateries the MCC has gone on a driven to regulate eateries and move them to designated sites.
Another key factor Mysuru’s emergence as a clean city is its position as a tourism destination of historical and cultural importance. Nearly 70,000 foreign and 20 lakh Indian tourists visit Mysuru annually for the city’s royal heritage and yoga.