Local bodies need to evolve a strong system of collection and disposal

A fresh crackdown embarked upon a couple of months ago against plastics by the Coimbatore Corporation signalled yet another brave attempt at curbing a problem that has actually managed to prevail over similar efforts so far.

Plastics, especially carry bags, have managed to cling steadfastly on to the people. Officials too believe that plastics have become nearly indispensible for the people.

But it is reckless dumping that proves to be the menace. The situation stresses the need for a combined assault on it.

For this, a strong system of collection and safe disposal needs to be evolved by local bodies, they say.

While the Corporation is working out mechanisms for safe collection and disposal, the local bodies in the periphery grope for a solution.

Their drainages are blocked by carry bags, open lands are littered with discarded plastic items and a large part of their burning garbage is plastic material. Burning of plastics causes emission of toxic substances and this is a serious pollution issue.

Veerakeralam Town Panchayat says that solid waste, containing a lot of plastics, is set ablaze in a defunct well as there is no other option.

Its president V.T. Bakthavathsalam says: “As much as 40 per cent of the three to four tonnes of solid waste generated every day in our town panchayat consists of plastic materials. But, we do not have a system of segregation of waste at source or safe disposal of these. We are trying to work on the model initiated by the nearby Vadavalli Town Panchayat.”

Private firm ITC has tied up with the Coimbatore Corporation and some local bodies in the periphery such as Vadavalli and Thudiyalur to collect plastic bags and paper waste for re-cycling. It pays Rs.2.50 a kg to the people for the waste.

But, most local bodies are waiting for the disposal component of the Corporation's Rs.96-crore Integrated Solid Waste Management Scheme to be completed at Vellalore.

“We have resolved to hand over the waste generated in our area to the Corporation's compost yard,” says Chairman of Kurichi Municipality N. Prabhakaran. The compost yard lies between Vellalore panchayat and the municipality.

There is no point in the city alone curbing the use and dumping of plastics when the local bodies in the periphery cannot do it, say officials of the Corporation.

An official involved in waste management points out that there is a huge floating population from the panchayats and municipalities that visit the city every day.

It brings various items packed in plastic bags; for instance, lunch. After the items are used, the bags are dumped in the city. This nullifies the crackdown by the Corporation.

Similarly, during rain, plastic bags and other items dumped in the Sanganur Canal in the suburbs flow into the city and choke the point where the canal joins the Singanallur Tank.

There must be simultaneous efforts by all the local bodies and a common system of ban or safe disposal must be followed. A common action plan is being suggested by Corporation officials.

Smaller local bodies are looking up to the Corporation for guidance. Kavundampalayam Municipality's Chairman K.M. Sundaram is eagerly looking forward to the merger of the peripheral local bodies with the Corporation.

He believes that more funds and workers are needed to fight the war. And, the Corporation is better placed than the others.

Mr. Prabhakaran says Kurichi needs 250 workers to prevent the littering of the municipality with plastic bags through door-to-door collection. “But, we have only 55.”

The local bodies say are not ignoring the problem by proffering workers' shortage as an excuse. “We too have made some efforts at restricting the use of plastic bags.

Though many shops have stopped giving plastic carry bags, the garbage still consists of a substantial number of this disposable and non-recylable item.

A comprehensive plan for the city and suburbs may help all of us handle the situation better,” he says.

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