Corporation finds city is not ready yet for zero waste mission

The Chennai Corporation’s proposal to develop decentralised waste processing facilities to promote a zero waste system across the city seems to have failed to take residents along.

According to estimates, less than 20% of residents in each of the 200 wards have started cooperating with the civic agency, segregating waste. The civic body has asked officials in each of the 200 wards to reduce waste sent to the Kodungaiyur and Perungudi dumpyards by 50%. But none of the wards has been able to reduce the tonnage by more than 20%.

For example, ward 62 in Chintadripet has reduced the waste sent to dumpyards from 30 tonnes three months ago to 24 tonnes every day. “Further reduction of waste sent to dumpyards is not possible. Many areas are stinking. Manpower is inadequate for the zero waste system. Residents are not willing to segregate waste. The city is not yet prepared for a zero waste system,” said D. Kalarimuthu, former Corporation Councillor.

Piling of garbage

In a bid to shift to a zero waste system, Corporation officials have been asked to gradually reduce the number of bins on the streets, persuading residents to hand over segregated waste to conservancy workers. But the reduction in the number of bins has led to piling up of garbage along many streets. The number of garbage bins was reduced from two to one along the Ayya Mudali Street, but workers from the market have dumped waste on the road, causing a pile up of garbage, creating public health risk in the neighbourhood.

“We issued notice to shops in the market this week. We have warned violators of penal action. Raids will begin on Monday,” said an official.

Animators who hold the responsibility of creating awareness among residents about the zero waste system have started complaining to senior civic officials of residents refusing to cooperate with civic officials for the decentralised waste management, citing water scarcity.

“We have explained that the decentralised waste management would also improve the groundwater quality. But residents are getting angry,” said an animator. Each ward has an animator to create awareness on the zero waste system.

In some areas residents also complain that they have not really received appropriate communication or training in segregating/ disposing household waste. Past experiences of source segregation, which failed, have also left a bad taste in their mouth.

Harbour MLA Sekar Babu said the decentralised waste management initiative should not affect garbage clearance in residential areas. “The Corporation should clear garbage three times a day. The proposal to move towards a zero waste system will produce results based on the functioning of the official machinery. Every Corporation Commissioner starts his/her tenure with a focus on such schemes. But the zero waste scheme has lost momentum in a few months. There is no follow-up later. The results of the implementation of the scheme are important. They should streamline the operations. If the Corporation relies completely on the zero waste system, the conservancy operations will be affected,” said Mr. Babu.

“Garbage is not being removed from the Wall Tax Road even after 9.45 a.m. There are many heritage temples in the area. The Corporation should remove garbage from the area regularly. Fire accidents in piles of garbage near transformers were reported four times last month in residential areas of the Harbour constituency. Dustbins should not be removed. They have to be maintained properly,” added Mr. Babu.

The Corporation has planned to permit conservancy workers to sell manure for ₹20 per kg and share the money among themselves. “A circular to this effect will be sent shortly,” an official said.

According to data compiled by the Corporation, civic officials have developed 3,443 decentralised waste processing facilities at 1,360 locations across the city. But many facilities have stopped operations following opposition from residents.

“We have proposed to construct 3,057 additional units in 1,485 locations. The design capacity of the proposed units is 350 tonnes. All units will start operations by June 30,” said a Corporation official.

Lack of cooperation

Many officials in the 200 wards said an average of 10 households on each street were cooperating with officials for the zero waste system. “A majority of the residents have refused to support the initiative. Many residents get angry with the animators. They sometimes say the water crisis should be resolved first and only then would they talk of garbage clearance. We have advised animators to stay polite. The task seems challenging,” said an official at the ward level.

The zero waste system is expected to gain momentum after battery-operated vehicles are procured for the conservancy workers. Similarly, the successful operation of industries that generate products from waste remains the key. For example, Corporation workers in all wards have started sending tender coconut shells for processing in industries located in Madhavaram.

Strengthening of the resource recovery system across the city is expected to be carried out shortly. Officials said all issues pertaining to waste management would be resolved before the end of June. On Monday, a meeting of senior officials will be held on bio-medical waste management in the city to resolve issues reported across Chennai. “Raids will begin across the city on Monday to reduce plastic waste. The fine amount has been revised,” said an official.

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