Time for new lessons in waste management

File Photo
Share If You Like The Article

Kochi’s humiliating ranking of 372 out of 382 in the Swachh Survekshan 2020 hints at an ineffective system in place , De-centralised waste management system is the key, say experts

File Photo
File Photo

KOCHI: Kerala’s economic capital has once again disappointed its residents with a humiliating ranking of 372 out of 382 in the Swachh Survekshan 2020 undertaken as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Urban) by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.    Though Corporation officials rubbished the parameters in the National Cleanliness Survey, it is a fact that city’s waste management system is subpar. While Alappuzha was selected as the best small city for ‘Innovation and Best Practices’ for its decentralised wastewater treatment in the category of cities with 1 to 3 lakh population, several other districts in the state, including Thiruvananthapuram and Palakkad, ranked are higher than Kochi.

Can Kochi take a leaf out of these districts’ books? Express finds out.Earlier, talking to Express, Mayor Soumini Jain blamed the flawed survey, adding that not getting an open defecation-free status in P&T Colony would have played a role in the abysmal rank.  Nevertheless, recurrent efforts and failures to set up a septage treatment plant at Brahmapuram by the Corporation have not deterred it from planning to construct another septage treatment plant. Similarly, the much-awaited `295-crore waste-to-energy plant(WTE) at Brahmapuram continues to dawdle.

The blame does not fall on corporation alone. Lack of political will and an inefficient centralised waste management system can be counted as culprits.P Rangadasa Prabhu, president of Ernakulam district Residents’ Associations’ Apex Council, questioned the tardiness of the WTE project. “The residents’ associations had supported it but the political intervension  has ruined it. Our concerns are overlooked. The WTE project, a first in the state, would have been a relief,” he said.

What needs to be done

De-centralised waste management
According to experts, Kochi can very well learn from the capital city which has put in place a slew of initiatives to manage waste. As per Shibu K Nair, India coordinator for GAIA Asia Pacific and a veteran in zero waste initiatives, Kochi needs a sector-wise waste management system like Thiruvananthapuram. “Even municipalities near Kochi have been dragged into this mess of promising a centralised waste management system and then not delivering the same. This has hampered the former’s abilities to set up effective systems themselves. In Thiruvananthapuram, people took matters into their hands — they raised funds and got small DPRs sanctioned — within the last three to four years they’ve created nearly 54 places to manage waste. The efficiency of residents’ associations, skill of the local government and that political leadership exhibited in the capital city is unfortunately almost non-existent in Kochi,” he said.

Sector-wise segregation and green protocol played a major role in helping Thiruvananthapuram secure the 304th rank. A 2007 policy on ‘Malinya Mukta Keralam’, had highlighted that while 50 per cent waste came from households, the rest were from shops and hotels. “The capital city follows this level of segregation — it is not sufficient to categorise the same as wet or dry waste. Simultaneously, the Smart Trivandrum app has gone a long way in building and supplementing a systematic network of waste management,” said Shibu.

Getting over geographical disadvantages
Kochi is geographically a wetland, highly prone to waterlogging  areas. Solutions must be found accordingly. “While Alappuzha has implemented and utilised the power of technology in their system, Thiruvananthapuram is a far better model for Kochi to adapt from,” said Shibu.

The right solution to city’s problems
According to D Dhanuraj, chairman, Centre for Public Policy Research, capacity building hasn’t taken place in state or local-self-government level. “Everyone has generic solutions, studies have not been undertaken to check if they are the right ones to Kochi’s problems. Residents associations and ward-level engagements must be strengthened and brought into the mainstream so that they can play a role in managing waste. But none are keen to do and are more anxious about power decentralisation,” he said. The CPPR chairman added that being the epicentre of power, Thiruvananthapuram has its advantages in getting initiatives implemented.

Share If You Like The Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *