Kuppai Matters: This Chennai festival is teaching people to care about waste disposal

The thiruvizha was held in a public park, where several stalls were set up on topics ranging from making compost at home to cloth pads.
Kuppai Matters: This Chennai festival is teaching people to care about waste disposal
Kuppai Matters: This Chennai festival is teaching people to care about waste disposal
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For most of us, waste management is someone else’s problem. We pass the buck on without a second thought, unmindful of the growing piles of waste in front of us.

Kuppai Matters (KM), an initiative by the Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG), that came into existence in October 2017, has been putting together Kuppai Thiruvizhas and other solid waste-management programmes in the city to sensitise its citizens about the need to responsibly dispose waste.

KM is an alliance with 18 other organisations such as Urban Design Collective, Arappor Iyakkam, Pennurimai Iyakkam, Vettiver Collective, Chennai Trekking Club, etc.

Despite the Swachh Bharat Mission being launched on a war footing, it has largely failed to challenge the status quo. There is still no effective waste management system in place and manual scavenging deaths are still common.

Sixteen years after it introduced the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, the Centre notified the new Solid Waste Management Rules. The new act came into force in 2016.

Kripa Ramachandran, researcher in the urban governance team of CAG, says that though it has been mandated that producers of bulk waste should adhere to a specific set of requirements within a year, the new rules fail to mention what could be the repercussions if these guidelines aren’t followed.

“How do we make sure then that the rules are enforced?” she asks. 

Kripa adds that Chennai has the highest per capita waste generation in the country. “In 2015, it was researched to be 750 gms/person/day, which is a huge number. So how do we address this problem?”

Hence, the idea of Kuppai Matters was to create a unified platform that could address solid waste-management issues in the city.

Photo Courtesy: Facebook/ Kuppai Matters

“We wanted to bring in a narrative shift from the usual waste disposal practises. While waste segregation at its source is just the beginning, we also wanted to make sure people understand that their waste generation can be brought down in itself,” says Kripa.

The thiruvuzha held in Nageshwara Rao Park in Mylapore on Sunday saw the active participation of people not just from around the neighbourhood but from other parts of the city as well.

The first thiruvizha was held in a private school in Anna Nagar last November.

“The very first time we held the thiruvizha, we were mistaken to be a private initiative. So we decided to conduct it only in public parks henceforth. So, ahead of the thiruvizha in Mylapore, we also had a radio campaign on Hello FM through which we were able to reach out to more people,” says Kripa.

The Mylapore edition of the thiruvizha saw a range of stalls explaining a variety of sustainable practices – from how to set up your own composting system at home to upcycled art.

There was also a booth that had people learning how to make their own cloth pads, mentored by Eco Femme. 

Kripa explains that merely moving waste from one place to another does not account for managing it. “So far, we follow centralised waste displacement. We take waste from all across the city and dump it either in Perungudi or Kodungaiyur. How does this help? What about the dignity and health of people who live in those areas?” she asks.

The team also holds weekly waste management clinics where they offer ideas on how to effectively manage waste in addition to providing guidance on what more can be done to handle waste.

The team is also working with a low-income community of about 300 houses in Greenways Road. Close to 150 houses have started composting at home as a result of KM’s efforts and the team is also eying a community waste management infrastructure in the area to encourage more people to participate. 

KM is also working on making waste management a participatory project. “The idea is to let the government know that people are prepared to handle waste management. The blame game has to stop,” says Kripa. 

The team is also working on creating a Citizen’s Blueprint – a knowledge bank of what’s available where. “Just like how Google Earth works, if people were able to find out about the nearest bio gas facility or composting pit, it would make solid waste management so much easier for everyone,” she adds.

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