- City’s wet waste gets composted at household and localised levels
- Source segregation is an answer to garbage problems: Alappuzha Commissioner
- United Nations lauded Alappuzha’s decentralised waste management system
New Delhi: Highlighting India’s waste woes, an environment expert had commented, “If waste management is not done right then by 2030 India will need a landfill as big as Bengaluru.” When compared to other countries of the world, though India is lagging behind, the good news is that it has already started taking baby steps towards curbing its waste generation. And interestingly, the United Nations recently lauded one of those small yet terrific measures in their report titled ‘Solid Approach To Waste: How 5 Cities Are Beating Pollution’.
The report released by United Nations Environment Programme has listed top five cities that have been exceptional in addressing their respective garbage crisis and Kerala’s Alappuzha is one of them. Other cities that featured in the list include Osaka (Japan), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Penang (Malaysia) and Cajica (Colombia), “While many have yet to rise to the challenge, here are five cities with a solid approach to waste,” it read.
It also underlines how these five cities are fulfilling the UNEP’s goal of beating air, water and soil pollution by scientifically disposing off their waste, “Getting a grip on the mountains of solid waste produced by humanity is central to the Assembly’s goal of moving Earth “towards a pollution-free planet. After all, poorly contaminated rubbish contaminates our air, water and soil, and represents a colossal waste of the planet’s finite resources.”
The report said the other cities and parts of India must adopt Alappuzha’s waste management model to implement their oath of source segregation taken on World Environment Day this year.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose World Environment Day 2017 to launch a drive to address the mountains of trash piling up in streets and landfills across India. To implement it, cities across the world’s second most-populous nation could do worse than follow the example of progressive municipalities like Alappuzha, read the report.
Thomas Joseph, Municipal Commissioner of Alappuzha Municipality dedicates the recognition to the residents and believes that source segregation is an answer to all garbage problems, “We are very happy and proud to have been featured in the top 5 cities with excellent waste management systems. It doesn’t matter how big or small a municipal body and the region is, if source segregation is implemented properly than the problem can be solved quickly. And source segregation is only possible when the citizens are fully aware of its consequences.”
Alappuzha’s Exceptional Journey In Making Its Landfill Site Redundant
The report specifically appreciates the decentralised approach adopted by the municipal corporation and idea of making citizens the major stakeholders in the entire process. Tracing back the history of this city located on the Laccadive Sea (Lakshwadeep Sea) in the southern Indian state of Kerala, the report pats the efforts taken to transform the face of the city to an extent that it even led to closure of its main landfill site,
A few years ago, roadsides and canals filled with stinking garbage were threatening coastal Alappuzha’s status as a tourist destination as well as exposing residents and visitors alike to clouds of flies and disease-spreading mosquitoes. Protests by local residents had led to the closure of the city’s main landfill site in 2014.
It all the started in 2012, when the villagers from a nearby village Sarvodayapuram came out in huge numbers to protest against the dumping of city’s waste in the landfill situated close to their houses.
With no option available the civic corporation with a population of 1.74 lakh was forced to discard its waste in city’s landfills. It took no time before the trenching site started overflowing causing health havoc for people and tourists.
The city then adopted the mantra of ‘My Garbage, My Responsibility’ and initiated a city wide campaign, ‘Clean Home, Clean City’ in 2012. Under this campaign, composting at household levels was encouraged along with individual biogas plants covering all 40,000 houses. Around 15 aerobic composting units (also known as composting sheds) were setup in various parts of the city that consisted of 165 bins. The composting unit would convert wet waste into manure in 90 days. While some households followed the pipe composting process which is cost-effective and easy, some relied on the local composting sheds.
As for the dry waste including plastic, cardboard, glass, paper, metal, etc, the waste pickers regularly collect and deposit these at the recycling centres.
Among the citizen community, students were allotted major roles. Water and sanitation clubs were set up in each and every school of the city to encourage then in spreading awareness on waste segregation at home. As an incentive, a coupon worth Rs 20 would be given by the school if the student would manage to collect one kilo of plastic waste from their house or society.
The city in the eastern part of Kerala – dubbed “the Venice of the East” for its network of backwaters and coastal lagoons where tourists can rent houseboats – has addressed the problem by introducing a decentralised waste management system. This separates out biodegradable waste at ward level, treats it in small composting plants, and provides many of its 174,000 residents with biogas for cooking, the report added.
Realising that tackling wet waste, 80 per cent of the waste problem is solved, the citizens now have made source segregation a part of their daily routine. Five years later, today, the city has no landfill and most of the garbage is treated by the residents themselves.
Besides, solving the waste generated at the household level, the corporation has also been successful in dealing with garbage generation in market and commercial areas. All the restaurants and market vendors have to mandatorily follow the green protocol and segregate their dry and wet waste. Private contractors appointed by the civic body are in charge of transferring the wet waste to piggeries and dry waste to certified recycling centres. Heavy fines have also been imposed to ensure that no garbage is discarded on roads or anywhere else.
The Alappuzha municipality has won several accolades for their tremendous efforts towards managing waste including the ‘Clean City Award’ from India’s Centre for Science and Environment in 2016.