A recent campaign held at a ward in Vellore City Municipal Corporation seems to have nudged residents in the right direction.

Vellore Waste Segregation campaign winner being gifted gold coin by corporation commissioner
news Waste Management Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - 18:31

When it comes to waste segregation, the biggest challenge - after setting up civic infrastructure and manpower - is to bring change in people’s attitude towards responsible waste disposal. A recent campaign held at a ward in Vellore City Municipal Corporation seems to have nudged residents in the right direction. A joint drive by the Municipal Corporation authorities and social activist Dinesh Saravanan saw nearly 1,300 households from ward 24 in Vellore City Municipal Corporation’s Zone Two segregate their waste for a period of 45 days. At the end of it, residents selected on a raffle were awarded gold and silver coins, sponsored by Dinesh. The municipal corporation has plans to implement this in other wards too. 

Speaking to TNM, the young activist who does regular awareness programs on waste segregation, says the campaign was launched following requests from the ward supervisor.

Notably in 2020, Vellore City Corporation became the first in the country to receive a national award under the ‘Smart City Mission for Water and Sanitation’ sector. The award was for the management of biodegradable waste through micro-composting centres. Vellore city has four zones and reportedly 230 metric tonnes of waste is generated daily. The municipal corporation has implemented 57 micro-composting centres for converting solid waste generated daily into vermicompost. 

“I am in regular contact with ward supervisors and they often invite me to conduct awareness programs. Recently, the supervisor from ward 24 reached out to me saying that residents were proving to be very difficult to cooperate with solid waste segregation. That is when I thought of the idea of gold coins,” Dinesh shares.

According to Dinesh, women are the main driving force behind the execution of solid waste segregation in households. That being said, Dinesh adds that men have also been participating in his awareness programs. “They too understand the concept but it is largely women who are engaged in the process. So, I had to find a way to encourage them to participate in this program,” he adds.

But for a society where even throwing waste into designated bins isn’t an instruction that is properly followed, waste segregation can appear to be a tedious concept. Even the short period of 45 days was a challenge, Dinesh says. “In one particular house, there was a nine-year-old girl who was the most committed, even though her parents were not that interested. We are planning to honour her with a special award,” he says. 

City Health Officer S Chitrasena agrees. “Children can be considered the changemakers, in fact, when it comes to waste segregation. We have plans of taking the concept to schools so they will in turn inspire their parents to follow through. There’s better response when children are involved,” she tells TNM.

“However, the biggest challenge is in bringing about a change in social behaviour. For sustained efforts, people will have to be regularly encouraged through such programs. If not, they would just go back to their old ways,” she adds.

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