Source Segregation, answer to Chennai’s landfill fires

While GCC and Fire & Rescue department might succeed in bringing fire under control, for the embers to die it requires government perseverance and residents’ participation
Source Segregation, answer to Chennai’s landfill fires
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CHENNAI: For the residents living around the city’s landfills, it is toxic smoke that they are forced to inhale every summer season as garbage catch fire due to heat. Even though there are a couple of months to go before the summer ends, Perungudi dump yard has already caught fire recently, creating health and environmental hazards. The Chennai Corporation and Fire and Rescue department might have doused the fire temporarily, but dousing the embers requires government perseverance and citizens’ participation.

“The only way to avoid the fires at landfill is to bio-mine the legacy waste (already dumped waste) to reclaim the land. While the bio-mining helps in reducing the already dumped waste, source segregation and recycling will help in reducing the amount of waste going to the landfills,” S Rajendiran, Chennai Corporation Chief Engineer (General), said.

He added that nearly half of the city’s total garbage of 5,100 tonnes per day goes to Perungudi and remaining goes to Kodungaiyur dumping yard. Of the total waste, around 50 per cent is biodegradable waste, which can be converted into manure.

“If we bio-mine 1,000 tonnes of legacy waste, another 1,200 tonnes of newly generated waste (excluding the wet waste that can be processed) would fill the dump yard every day. We will ramp up the bio-mining to reduce the backlog,” he explained.

Presently, bio-mining project is ongoing in Perungudi landfill and the measures have been taken to start bio-mining in Kodungaiyur also.

On the other hand, lack of support from the residents in segregating the waste forced the Greater Chennai Corporation to implement bylaws of Solid Waste Management Rules, 2019 that empowers the civic body to impose penalty against the residents who fail to segregate their waste. As per a civic body statement, residents will have to pay Rs 100 penalty if they fail to segregate.

Despite the Chennai Corporation and private contractors collecting garbage at door steps to ensure collection of segregated waste, several residents continue to hand over unsegregated waste.

VR Hari Balaji, Head - Information, Education and Communication, Urbaser Sumeet, said awareness on the source segregation is increasing due to continuous activities. “Our workers explain the importance of source segregation and request to handover segregated waste. In some cases, to make the unyielding residents adhere to the source segregation, they segregate waste in front of them. This helped in changing behaviour of some residents,” he added.

Apart from creating awareness among the residents of apartments, the civic body is also creating awareness among the maids who work in the apartments. Once source segregation effectively done, wet waste will be converted into manure and dry waste will be recycled. As per data, only around 22 per cent of waste are being processed in the city and remaining goes to landfills.

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