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Oct 16, 2012

Advice to Thiruvananthapuram might not help alleviate the city's looming solid waste crisis

The original post is on blog.wtert.org

This is a response to an article published by FirstPost.com with the title "Thiruvananthapuram sinks in its own waste as rulers look for shortcuts" on October 16, 2012.

Public protests - The Hindu
This critique is not about the conceptual or factual validity of the article but it is to distinguish between the short-term and long-term priorities and solutions for the city. In the absence of such a distinction, various stakeholders with the same goal of solving the crisis and with correct models will end up debating ideals and fighting within each other, finally doing no good to the city.

While depicting the situation as: 
When the residents of Vilappilsaala said "no more garbage" to their neighbourhood, the corporation, which is used to an archaic collect-transport-dump routine, didn’t know what to do. They just stopped garbage collection and it started piling up everywhere. The city is putrid today.
FirstPost suggests a 4-step approach (edited for brevity)
1. Ask the city residents to mandatorily separate waste at source. Once recyclables and organic matter are removed, only about 20 per cent needs to be dumped in a sanitary landfill. 
2. Once the source-segregation is made mandatory, the city corporation can collect both the recyclables door-to-door (women-run self help groups have been doing this). Engage scrap dealers to whom the materials can be sold.

3. The bio-degradable materials can be collected door-to-door and used in compost facilities at several locations in the city.

4. The remaining 20% of waste need to be disposed off in landfills.
Thiruvananthapuram - Deccan Chronicle
The 4-step advise can be followed if the City can get over the current crisis. For whatever reason, if it fails to do so, the crisis will continue like in Campania, Italy. In that case, Firstpost's advise will provide some relief but not real solutions. Therefore, it is irrelevant to the article's subject line. Let me explain how:
The subject line and the article speak about the imminent solid waste crisis in Thiruvananthapuram, but the solution suggested is not a process but a future state that should be achieved. To achieve such a state, the suggested components should evolve together with gradually increasing infrastructure, changing social habits and the city's institutional and financial abilities. Such a change cannot be brought in with sudden interventions in a short span of time.

This critique is not about the conceptual or factual validity of the article but it is to distinguish between the short-term and long-term priorities and solutions for the city. In the absence of such a distinction, various stakeholders with the same goal of solving the crisis and with correct models will end up debating ideals and fighting within each other, finally doing no good to the city.

When public is unable to find space to throw away their everyday waste (since it is not being collected), when public health is deteriorating, and the public is agitated about it, city-wide source segregation is the last thing that can be achieved. Even if source separation is practiced, there is no city-wide system in place to collect source separated waste. It has to be mixed again to be transported. There are no decentralized composting plants in the city either! They can neither be built in a day nor can they make the waste disappear!

The first priority of any solid waste management activity should be public health protection. Collection of waste is the responsibility of the urban local body (ULB). So, collect all the waste first using the formal workforce and the informal workforce (waste pickers) and transport it (as far as possible) to an operating landfill (Kerala does not have much space for landfills! they do not many options either!). Before transporting, let the informal sector take as many recyclables out of the waste as they can.

Now that there is a temporary arrangement in place [for months], go to the public and ask them to segregate the waste to make the ULB's duty of protecting their health, easier.

The second priority of any solid waste activity is environmental protection and conservation. While making temporary arrangements to transport waste to far away landfills, coordinate with surrounding ULBs to build a regional sanitary landfill facility [within a year].

Once you have accomplished that, go look for waste-to-energy technologies (you cannot manage waste in Kerala without these). If you cannot finance them, go for composting. Even though composting is more sustainable than waste-to-energy, it becomes a second option due to market and operational factors.

It is necessary that stakeholder distinguish between short and long term priorities. Confusion or lack of distinction will lead to opposition which will decrease the efficiency of the processes that need to be initiated to achieve the goals of sustainable solid waste management to improve public health, quality of life and the environment.

Apart from these, there are many factual corrections required in this article. Eg: Composition of waste, "easily find market for compost", "every recyclable has a market", etc.

5 comments:

  1. Working toward zero waste means that we do all we can to salvage resources in "waste products" so they can be reused and recycled.

    ReplyDelete
  2. vsvijayan@yahoo.com
    Sir,
    In the panel headed by Dr. RVG menon and Dr. Ramachndhran for the technology selection of municipal solid waste machinery and management for kerala, an expert in the field is not seen. A made-up to be expert had visited the kodungallur municipal solid waste plant and advised to treat the microbes culturing plant with calcium oxide.
    The decision of installation of gasification and incineration plants are clear cut violation of schedule 2 section 5 of municipal solid waste rules 2000 and lack of expertise, resulting the loss of 210 lakh rupees to the public.
    If someone comes forward to notify an efficient treatment plant equivalent or better one than the kodungallur modules, A gift of Rs. Two lakh is waiting.
    The significant of Kodungallur Municipal Solid Waste Automatic Plastic Separating Modules,
    • No waste water from Plant,
    • No Foul small from plant.
    • No Fly’s from plant
    • No weeds from compost.
    • Compost as per standards of municipal solid waste rule 2000.
    • 99.5% Plastic free compost from mixed municipal solid waste.
    • Processing Capacity of a module 1- 5 tons per hr.
    • Electric power 1ton MSW20kw(Rs. 80).
    • Bio Gas possible.
    • One labour for 1ton MSW.
    • Module cost and maintained cost FREE.

    For details 09447058008.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Awesome, yours info effectively done it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeNbonTPkMs

    ReplyDelete
  5. what could be the project cost for the unit automatic plastic waste seperation EHC ?

    ReplyDelete

Glossary

CH4 Methane
CO2
Carbon Dioxide
GOI
Government of India
INR Indian Rupee
JnNURM Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission
LFG Landfill Gas
MBT
Mechanical Biological Treatment
MSW Municipal Solid Waste
NEERI National Environmental Engineering Research Institute
RDF
Refuse Derived Fuel
SLF Sanitary Landfill
SWM Solid Waste Management
USD United States Dollar
WPs Waste Pickers
WTE Waste-to-Energy
WTERT Waste-to-Energy Research and Technology Council