Schools and colleges were dosed and the local media reported waterlogging and traffic bottle necks in several places. Clogging of drains and choked bins contributed to the waterlogging in several low-lying areas, besides creating a stench and possibilities of communicable diseases.
In the Swachh Survekshan 2017 ranking, released for 434 towns and cities across the country by the Union Ministry of Urban Development in May 2017, Greater Chennai Corporation, with a population of 67.3 million, was ranked 235 owing to inadequate waste collection, lack of scientific solid waste processing, delay in construction of toilets and poor communication to bring about behaviour change. The team visited the city a few days after Cyclone Vardah. Everything was in shambles. Many of the markets, places of worship and public places, including the Marina, were not clean during the visit of the team. Chennai received a score of 916 out of 2000. One of the main causes for this can be attributed to waste management, amongst other factors.
A Citizen Consumer action and civic group article states Chennai has the highest per-capita garbage generation rate in the country at 710 gm per person per day. In the early 1990s, awareness about responsible disposal of waste began to dawn on Chennai. It was the time a NGO founded by a social activist, offered to go door-to-door to collect garbage at set timings.
The Chennai Corporation privatized garbage clearance in the year 2000 and gave the contact first to a Private firm for 5 years. The success with this PPP motivated them to continue private services and switch to two other firms. But it turned out that these service providers were not been as successful as the first. The incumbent GCC Commissioner has stated that privatisation may not necessarily be as efficient a remedy as people assume. He remarked that solid waste management system has been "completely messed up".
Let us face it, monsoon happens every year and waste happens every day irrespective of rain or shine. Every- supply chain must deal with waste management, enterprise or cities. That's where the waste management companies and solutions fit in. However, they have been hampered by inadequate information flow, which leads to another form of waste - that of time and energy. Now, IoT is enabling smarter solutions, and rapid-application development (RAD) platforms make it faster and easier to implement effective waste management.
For example, in western countries, service providers have developed a software solution, creating a smart waste management application based on analytics and mobility. Bins with sensors pick up how full the bins are; and through IoT convey the information that optimizes the pick-up time to - when they are full but not yet overflowing. Bluetooth Beacons provide location trackers that can ascertain the bins’ locations to avoid any confusion or delay for pickup. This system increases efficiency, lowers logistical costs, and reduces waste decomposition and carbon foot print. It also automates the process of identifying the best route for the day’s waste collection needs and the generation of bills by the service provider based on real time data on the work done.
Chennai Corporation and authorities can work closely with their service providers to impress upon them to integrate IoT solutions as a long-term benefit. This initiative could also go beyond waste management to disaster management and be a part of IoT for Effective Disaster Management, as outlined in a white paper by The Digital India Action Group (DIAG). DIAG is a think tank established for ideating and monitoring policy initiatives to support the Indian Government's mission of Digital India. The white paper aims to create awareness and appreciation about the potential use and application of IoT for different aspects of disaster management that makes cities smart.
In the last 2 years, we have seen Chennai flooding thrice. A Rs 1400 crore plan has been announced for Chennai under Smart Cities Mission that essentially cover infrastructure – Roads, parking etc. The above initiatives should also be considered as they would also fit in with the Chennai Smart City as a part of Central Government sponsored Smart Cities Mission and enable Chennai to move up in the ranking from 235.
— The writer is a Professor of Marketing at Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai