Fifteen wards clean up their panchayat with some help from BARC and DRDA.

In the seemingly unremarkable panchayat of Kurudampalayam, 15 km north of Coimbatore, a discerning eye will notice something remarkable. There is not a single garbage bin out on the streets. This is because the residents began segregation of waste at the individual house level over two years ago.

Two colour-coded dustbins were distributed to the 9,600 households in the 15 wards of this Panchayat, with directions to dump biodegradable material such as vegetable waste in a green bin and the rest in a red bin. The waste was collected from the households by panchayat workers.

It did not stop with segregation. Through vermi-composting, the collected waste is used to generate organic fertiliser and is being sold to local farmers at subsidised rates, says Kurudampalayam panchayat president D. Ravi.

The organic fertiliser, tested at Sugarcane Breeding Institute and Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, yielded positive results in terms of quality. The plastic that was collected was sold to a private firm, generating income that was used for welfare works in the panchayat. Ravi has also invested personal funds to construct six waste processing plants at a cost of Rs. 3.6 lakh to generate organic manure. This will be sold at subsidised rates to farmers and help employ nearly 120 persons.

Things have developed further with Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) stepping in for a project to generate biogas from organic waste for a community kitchen. It hopes to feed 250 socio-economically backward families of the panchayat. This involves installing a biomethanation plant that will process all kinds of organic waste.

K. Ananthanarayanan, a 43-year-old employee in a private firm, says the villagers are keen to ensure the success of this project, as the organic fertiliser so far generated from the waste had greatly benefitted the panchayat where farming remains the predominant occupation.

In the 15 years of living in the area, he says, very few projects have evoked this kind of response from the locals. The Panchayat president is all praise for the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA). Tha. Murugan, DRDA Additional Director, says the keen interest evinced by the villagers was instrumental in the agency taking up the project. “Our focus now is on adopting a ‘bottom-up’ approach as the success and sustainability of any project is dependent on the support of stake holders.”

The Additional Director says several waste disposal projects are underway in the district now with the Government hand-holding restricted to only about a year. The projects are ultimately designed to make the districts completely self-sufficient. Initial assessment of the project was conducted a few months ago by J. Daniel Chellappa, senior scientist from Technical Coordination Wing of BARC, who explained the process to the locals.

Usually, BARC begins training the stake holders on source segregation during the construction of the plant, since segregation at source is the single most vital factor affecting the efficiency of the plant, says Daniel. But BARC has been spared this much time and resources because, Kurudampalayam’s residents are highly aware about not just source segregation and solid waste management but also the hazards of non-biodegradable waste.

From waste to wealth

The project uses indigenous technology developed by Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC)

The plant will process kitchen, vegetable and all organic waste

Waste will also be collected from hotels, restaurants and marriage halls

Waste will be segregated by households. It will be collected twice a day by Vallari SHG using 15 battery-operated vehicles

The project will reduce the panchayat’s expenditure on waste disposal. It will also provide free cooking gas for the community kitchen

Joint effort

Of the total Rs. 40 lakh cost of the biomethantion plant, a third will come from the public. The rest will be borne by the State Government. The plant can process two tonnes of waste per day and generate gas to fill three cylinders of 14-kg capacity each.

More than 200 such plants have been set up across the country so far. BARC expects to set up nearly 50 plants in Tamil Nadu by the end of 2015.