From setting up decentralised waste management systems and zero waste units at the ward level, to banning plastic bags and using apps to manage the daily garbage collection, southern cities are finding smarter ways to tackle the mounting problems of municipal solid waste.
Chennai is nowhere close to tackling its municipal solid waste, said Dharmesh Shah, a waste policy expert. “While cities like Alappuzha, Mysuru and others have not implemented a hundred percent successful waste management system, they have made a move in the right direction. They have tried to tackle source segregation, which has led to their success. Chennai has not even attempted anything in a serious way. Our attempts at source segregation is a mere window dressing. The tendering process is also non-transparent. In Kerala and Bengaluru, the citizenry is aware and the municipality is also motivated. But in Chennai, we are yet to see such an effort. There have been small-scale attempts at different zones, but we are way beyond the pilot stage. This has been happening for the past 20 years. Unless there is a massive effort, source segregation won’t work,” said the expert.
Recently, the Corporation has started reviving compost yards in various parts of the city to compost the organic waste. A senior Corporation official said, “The biggest challenge ahead of us is solid waste disposal. We have started working with residents to source segregate and compost the wet waste in some areas. It is a work in progress.” In some areas, resident welfare associations have voluntarily taken up source segregation but a comprehensive system is yet to be implemented.
Alappuzha, the idyllic city by the backwaters, was facing an acute crisis in 2012, as waste choked the roads, canals and the drains. The municipality, which was dumping waste for decades in a six-hectare plot in Sarvodayapuram village, faced another setback when the locals protested against the garbage being dumped in their backyard. Forced to deal with the situation, Alappuzha started setting up a system in place to deal with the garbage generated by the city.
M R Prem, Ward Councillor, Alappuzha said that a decentralised waste management system was put into place and a change in mindset among the people created through awareness. “The Clean Home Clean City project started in 12 wards, covering 12,000 households, to make the maximum number of houses set up a portable or a fixed biogas plant. Over 3,000 biogas plants have been set up to process 5,475 tonnes of waste. Private parties were engaged to collect waste from hotels and commercial establishments. Resource recovery centres were set up to collect plastic from municipalities. The awareness has created a change in the attitude of people towards waste. The Alappuzha model has been presented at the Climate Change conference (CoP 21) in Paris,” said the expert. According to him, future plans include scaling up of newly introduced aerobic composting plants from 181 to 400 and 10,000 kitchen biogas plants.
The fixed biogas plant can treat 8-10 kg of solid waste per day, producing biogas for 2-3 hours daily. The portable plant can treat 5 to 7.5 kg of waste to compost. If any resident is caught throwing waste, a fine of Rs 2,500 is imposed and if caught dumping trash into a waterbody, the penalty can go up to Rs 20,000.
Pipe bio-gas plant. Many residents have one such plant in their backyards
Dr T M Thomas Issac, Minister of Finance, Government of Kerala, who was behind Alappuzha’s success story, said when waste began to pile up on the streets, it was an indication of a larger problem. “We knew we had to find a solution and create an emotional response. We created an awareness and found that school children were important agents. They became messengers to the houses to convince their parents. We will have another campaign after the schools reopen. Also, there has been a huge discrimination against the sanitary workers. You need to treat the sanitation workers with respect. This is only the beginning and we are planning to scale up. Our next step will be with regard to water,” said Dr Issac, who launched a report titled ‘Not in my Backyard: Solid Waste Management in Indian cities’ compiled by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
Mysuru, which has won the Clean City tag in 2015 and 2016, has been practising the zero-waste model for the last eight years. “We have 100 per cent doorto-door collection of segregated waste, which amounts to 90 tonnes per day. The Mysuru City Corporation has 65 wards divided into nine zero waste management units. The segregated waste, on reaching these units, undergoes secondary segregation following which, the wet waste is sent to the composting unit and the dry waste is recycled. These units totally can handle 45 tonnes per day. There is a centralised facility to compost 200 tonnes and slaughter house waste of 12 tonnes per day. We have self help groups running these units. Sanitary waste is handled along with biomedical waste and sent to the common treatment plant for incineration,” said Dr Nagaraj DG, Health Officer, Mysuru City Corporation.He said these models are labour friendly, as each unit employs 9-10 workers.
Dry waste neatly segregated by civic staff in Mysuru
In addition to this, policy changes too gave a fillip to solid waste management. “Ladies hostels and PGs should have an incinerator in the premises to deal with the sanitary waste generated,” added the official.
Coimbatore, which is known as the Manchester of the South, has been taking great strides to deal with its solid waste woes.
Paramasivam P, Sanitary Inspector and Nodal Officer, Coimbatore Municipal Corporation said they have elicited community participation to realise the dream of a ‘Clean Coimbatore’. “44 citizens were nominated as Swachh Bharat Ambassadors, who have to ensure source segregation and create awareness. In addition, there is also a ‘100 Wonder Women’ programme to promote the use of the Swachhata app, created exclusively for waste management in the city, which has all the details of the garbage collected per day uploaded in real time,” said the Sanitary Inspector.
Civic staff segregating biodegradable and nonbiodegradable waste
Wards have also been adopted by private agencies, to ensure effective disposal of solid waste. “22 wards have been adopted by CRI Pumps, to implement door to door collection of waste and prevent littering. Waste from 44 apartments - 2.5 tonnes of organic waste and 1.5 tonnes of dry waste - is collected by college students, who also earn an income through this. We are also trying to control the usage of plastic bags, creating awareness among traders and shoppers to switch to cloth bags. Our Project 100 aims to ensure 100 per cent door to door collection. 10 wards in each zone are doing this successfully and the data is updated in the app,” added the official.