It was on February 13 that a garbage-dump just opposite a mosque near Vijaya Mohini Mill at Thirumala in Thiruvananthapuram was cleared with the cleaning initiative being undertaken by the Punnakkamugal councilor RP Sivaji along with the support of a couple of residents’ associations in the area.
But it would just be a matter of days before the place once again becomes a dumping ground, if not for anything but by sheer force of our “dirty” habits. In the meantime, waste now gets dumped bang opposite the Pangode LP School nearby, another favourite local "waste-bin" used by all and sundry.
Krishnankutty VN, President of the MSP Nagar Residents’ Association in Thirumala rues the fact that a permanent long-term solution is yet to be implemented regarding disposal of household waste.
“Pipe composts and kitchen-bins work only if there are adequate muddy patches around the homestead. Otherwise, there would be an outbreak of worm-infestation in the nearby areas. One has to be very careful with household incinerators, as the presence of even a drop of water in the waste can lead to emission of poisonous gases. A bio-gas plant is ideal, but for that one needs land, a cow or two for the requisite manure and also a minimum of two to three kilos of daily bio-waste,” Krishnankutty elaborates.
Since the time the Vilappilsala garbage treatment plant in the capital city shut down four years ago following large-scale protests by locals against the untreated but increasing pile of stinking garbage in the area, spontaneous dumping grounds have sprung up in and around mostly residential areas where household waste gets surreptitiously dumped at night for lack of an alternative.
Kerala -God’s Own Country- is fast turning into one huge garbage bin and not surprisingly not a single city from this southern state has made it to the top 30 in the Swachh Sarvekshan -2016 list put out by the Union Ministry of Urban Development on February 15.
The 2016 state budget on February 12 announced a levy of 20% tax on all plastic bags as well as a five percent surcharge for drinking water, soda and other cool drinks that were sold in plastic bottles.
Whether it ends up as a genuine measure to reign in the persistent ecological damage to the environment, only time will tell.
An article by Geethanjali Krishnan published in the Deshabhimani on October 20, 2012 –which was also later reproduced by Mathrubhumi- too pertinently poses the query to every Malayali as to “Whose waste is it anyway?” (Aarudethaanu Maalinyam?)
Speaking to The News Minute, Geetha says that disposal of waste has always been a perennial problem in the capital city: “It did not suddenly come upon us with the closure of Villappilsala. We Malayalis could never bring ourselves to pay Rs.40/- to the Kudumba Sree workers who used to earlier frequent homes to collect waste. They preferred to save that amount to contribute to the burgeoning ecological waste instead!”
Geetha is quick to point out that even when citizens deem the Corporation to be responsible to come up with an effective waste-disposal system for the city, is it not the responsibility of us citizens to ensure that we ourselves drastically cut down the amount of non-degradable waste that we produce from the confines of our homes on a daily basis?
Our modern-day affinity for take-away food, packaged goodies and dependence on plastic carry-bags show no signs of abating in the near future.
As long as we do not come out of our sheer consumerist mind-set and thoughtless aping of the West, we are indeed heading towards an ecological disaster of our own making -a point Geetha reiterates over and over again in the course of our conversation.
Political apathy coupled with vested corporate interests of private players in the field has time and again ensured that a long-term solution to the problem is yet to be implemented.
An ever increasing rate of unscientific construction of homes and flats built wall-to-wall has ensured that there is no space left to cater for an inbuilt mechanism to dispose of the daily waste that is generated right at home.
Till then, recycling of waste seems to be the only way out for the time being at least!