The secret of this success story is based on a decentralised waste management system, along with the continuous efforts local body authorities.

Why states are lining up to study Alappuzhas model waste management systemSuchitwa Mission
news Waste Management Friday, July 12, 2019 - 17:21

The success story of the waste management system in Alappuzha municipality — the ‘Venice of the East — has spread far and wide, as officials from across the country are lining up to study how the garbage-strewn town has cleaned itself up.

From the north eastern state of Meghalaya to the city of Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh to Jammu and Kashmir, officials are flocking to this 46.77 square kilometre area to study the municipality’s ‘zero waste’ story.

Impressed with the solid waste management measures taken by Alappuzha municipality, the urban affairs department of Meghalaya has decided replicate certain projects in Shillong. Recently, the director of Kanpur Smart City also visited to learn about Alappuzha town’s waste management model.

The key term – Decentralisation

The secret of this success story is based on a decentralised waste management system, along with the continuous efforts local body authorities to ensure that this is followed.

Instead of collecting all the garbage produced by around 1.7 lakh people in the municipality and dumping it in a single spot, then starting waste management processes, in decentralised waste management, the waste is treated at the source of production itself.

‘Ente malinyam, ente utharavathithwam,’ meaning the ‘garbage I produce is my responsibility,’ is the tagline of the decentralised waste management program followed by the local body. The first step in the process must be completed by each house or restaurant or office — the segregation of waste into biodegradable and non-biodegradable. Biodegradable waste is then put through undergo ‘aerobic composting,’ a process that uses microorganisms and utilises oxygen in the air to decompose the bio waste to manure.

For this, the local body has made different options available for residents within the municipality limits. Bio bins and pipe compost are offered at a subsidised rate for the residents. “A bio bin unit costs about Rs 1,800 but we are selling it for residents at a subsidised rate. They only have to pay about Rs 180 for a single bio bin unit,” Advocate AA Rasak, health standing committee chairman of the municipality, tells TNM.

Apart from this, the municipality has also installed 30 aerobic composting units at public places, which can be used at a community level. A single unit has a varying number of bins, from 50 to 7, according to the necessity of the region. In about these 30 aerobic compost units, there are about 294 bins. One bin can hold up to two tonnes of solid bio waste. People can deposit waste two times a day, from 6 am to 11 am and from 6 pm to 10 pm.

Similarly, for treating non-biodegradable waste, a material collection facility is also provided in public spots. “There are separate sections in each such facility to dispose various kinds of waste like E-waste, hard plastic and carry bags. In addition to this, we have also formed a Green Action Force, a volunteer group which goes to each household once a month to collect non-biodegradable waste,” says P Jayakumar, health inspector of the municipality.

‘Rome was not built in a day’

“This success we have achieved was not a day or year’s effort. It is the result of continued efforts for the part four years. Continuous awareness programs were necessary to make people understand the need for waste management. But nothing could have been worked without the cooperation of the people,” says Rasak.

He is also thankful for the continuing support given in solid waste management initiatives by Dr Thomas Isaac, finance minister of the state, who hails from the district. “TV Anupama, who was the district collector of Alappuzha, has also taken a special interest in these endeavours. At a time when people were apprehensive about installing bio bins and aerobic compost, thinking that it will give rise to health issues and bad odour, the then Collector Anupama asked us to install one in the collectorate complex to assure people,” he says.

In December 2017, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recognised Alappuzha municipality as one of the five cities in the world which has sustainable solid waste management practises.

Big lesson for Kochi

Even as other states are studying lessons from the Alappuzha model, its neighbour, Kochi, choking under a huge waste management crisis, has learnt nothing from its neighbour.

Instead of following Alappuzha's decentralised waste management system, it is looking to start a proposed centralised waste model, though the feasibility of that project has been questioned.

“It is easy to run a centralised waste management system. There is no effort required to segregate the waste and there is no community participation. But decentralised ones give a sense about waste management to the people as they are actively involved in the process. There is no further pollution or apprehensions involved here,” said P Jayakumar.

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