Any waste can be treated and put to better use thereby reducing pollution, says Malarvizhi Shanmugam, a young researcher who dreams of a cleaner and greener Coimbatore

Carry cloth bags, recycle paper, and segregate kitchen waste — these are Malarvizhi Shanmugam’s suggestions on making Coimbatore clean and green.

“Every individual has to play a part and contribute to the environment. The city struggles to dispose off tonnes of waste generated every day,” she says.

Eco-friendly solution

Malarvizhi is a researcher who has published a paper on integrated waste management in the International Journal of Bio-Sciences and Technology. It explores an eco-friendly, scientific solution to waste treatment.

Her model can be used to bring about change in a city beset by waste management issues.

She says in her paper how waste can generate energy and be used to manufacture commercially-viable products. For instance, agriculture waste becomes manure for mushroom production. Recycled glass, aluminium and plastic can be used for laying roads, packaging and building construction. Wastes from tanneries, and textile mills can be treated with microbes to remove toxins in an environment-friendly manner.

Malarvizhi says she is more than willing to share her model with others. “Anyone is free to implement my proposal,” she says.

Segregate waste

She gives an example of a small municipality and says, “Ghorahi in Nepal has developed a state-of-the-art facility for integrated waste management. Coimbatore can do it too.”

What Coimbatore needs to do first is to segregate its waste, she says. “When bio-degradable waste becomes a bio-fertilizer, it paves the way for organic farming. Countries such as Australia and the U.S. have zero waste policy, where they recover resources from waste (with the U.S. topping the list with 70 per cent recovery). This ensures that toxic substances don’t enter the ecosystem, which in turn ensures the health of individuals. With the help of bio-technology it can be replicated here,” she explains.

Indiscriminate dumping of garbage pollutes the air, water and the population of birds. The waste can be used to generate bio-fuel and electricity, she says.

Speaking of the sewage water treatment in the city, Malarvizhi explains how the system covers three zones, with two disposal sites, one each at Ukkadam and Vellalore and two pumping stations, at Ukkadam and Nanjundapuram.

Apply science

“The equipment at Ukkadam carries out minimal pre-treatment. It only removes solid wastes before letting the water into the tank. But a scientific recycling would clean the water further and the water could be used for domestic use, thereby reducing our dependence on ground water,” she explains. The Noyyal river which once carried clean water through the city, is today highly polluted because of improper waste disposal. But there have been initiatives by the Corporation and Siruthuli to set up rain water harvesting structures have improved the water table of the city suitably, she says.