Waste Management

India Divided on How to Deal with Biodegradable Waste

While Kochi Corporation and the municipalities of Thripunithura, Thrikkakara, Angamaly, Aluva and Kalamassery continue to transport waste to the dumping site at Brahmapuram, a number of local bodies have started embracing methods that treat biodegradable waste at source itself.

The ‘Not in My Back Yard’ (NIMBY) syndrome seems to have turned Ernakulam into a divided house on adopting decentralised systems for treatment of biodegradable waste.

As per estimates by the Haritha Keralam Mission, Kochi Corporation and the municipalities of Thripunithura, Thrikkakara, Angamaly, Aluva and Kalamassery continue to transport waste generated in those regions to the Corporation’s dumping site at Brahmapuram.

However, a number of local bodies have started embracing methods that treat biodegradable waste at source itself, besides setting up their own facilities for collection and disposal of non-biodegradable waste.

“With four more vermicompost units becoming operational this year, Eloor will have a complete decentralised solution for treatment of biodegradable waste, covering families in nearly 30 wards.

Six of such units are already functioning. A plastic shredding unit will also be launched soon,” said Eloor municipal chairperson C.P. Usha.

Chottanikara panchayat chairperson Ramani Janakan said biogas plants, biobins and other at-source composting methods have taken care of the management of biodegradable waste in households across the local body.

“We have about 7,000 households that have implemented various such methods,” she said.

North Paravur municipal chairman Ramesh D. Kurup said only non-biodegradable waste was collected from households. “For treatment of biodegradable waste generated in hotels, fish and vegetable markets, we have set up a plant on nearly two acres at Vedimara.

The at-source composting methods adopted in households include pipe compost and biogas plants,” he said.

‘Lack of space’

However, P.M. Harris, councillor of Kaloor North under the Corporation, pointed out that decentralised plants remained a non-starter in wards under the civic body due to lack of space.

“The city’s waste management woes will be solved with the commissioning of the proposed waste-to-energy plant at Brahmapuram,” he said.

K. J. Antony, councillor representing Nazareth, said most of the houses in the seven colonies located under the civic body’s jurisdiction had a total area of not more than one to one-and-a-half cents.

“We also do not have any puramboke or common land for such decentralised initiatives,” he said.

Vadavucode-Puthencruz panchayat president P.K. Velayudhan asked why Brahmapuram should bear the brunt of waste generated in other local bodies.

“Why can’t they find their own ways to treat waste,” he asked, while stating that his panchayat had already shifted to the decentralised mode in the treatment of organic waste. “About 1,500 households in Vadavucode-Puthencruz panchayat had set up biobins to treat waste at source,” he said.

High humidity

Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishad general secretary K. Radhan said the treatment of biodegradable waste at source had gained acceptance worldwide.

“It’s unfortunate that the government has voted for large-scale waste-to-energy plants, which may not be practical, considering the high humidity component in waste. It will ultimately derail the ward-level decentralised models of treating biodegradable waste that has evolved over these years,” he said.

V.N. Sivasankara Pillai, former Director of the School of Environmental Studies at the Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat), said political parties feared they might lose their vote bank, if they permitted decentralised waste treatment plants in their regions.

“The blame should not be placed on elected representatives alone. While they lack the political and administrative will to provide infrastructure for waste management, the public needs to develop a culture where they handle waste generated at households responsibly and not dump it illegally,” he added.

Quantum of waste

Social activist C.R. Neelakandan alleged that many supported big, centralised plants, realising that they would never work. “There has been no such successful model considering the nature of the waste generated here.

There is also no clarity on the actual quantum of waste generated in a place like Kochi,” he said.

Mr. Neelakandan expressed doubts over estimates that Kochi generated about 300 tonnes of biodegradable waste daily. “Every aspect related to large-scale waste management project hinges on money – be it purchase of vehicles, appointment of staff or going for multi-crore plants,” he said.


Published on thehindu.com

Kochi divided on how to deal with biodegradable waste