Ombudsman for Local Self-government Institutions M.R. Hariharan Nair has expressed concern at the present state of affairs at the solid waste treatment plant of the Kochi Corporation at Brahmapuram.

Though his visit to the plant on Saturday was immediately related to the recent fire breakout among the plastic waste at the plant and to look at remedial measures to face similar incidents in future, the Ombudsman inspected the functioning of the plant and left the civic authorities, who accompanied him, in no doubt as to what he thought of the issue.

He observed the situation had worsened pointing at the piled-up waste all around. When the Corporation Secretary P.G. Thomas tried to put the blame on the huge inflow of waste, the Ombudsman reminded him that only a fraction of the installed capacity of the plant was being utilised. Mr. Nair said the accumulated waste should be cleared in a time-bound manner. Mr. Thomas said talks were on with cement manufacturers ACC for the disposal of bio-degradable waste for fuel generation at the company’s factory.

The cement producers had reportedly asked the civic body to transport the waste to their factory site. If an understanding was reached, the entire waste could be cleared in a couple of weeks since they had a huge capacity, Mr. Thomas said.

The corporation seems to fall back on the impending upgradation of the plant as a solution to all the present shortcomings in its functioning.

However, Mr. Nair observed that the original plans for upgradation had gone awry and that there had been no progress for the last six months or so ever since FACT Engineering & Design Organisation had withdrawn from the scene.

He said the floor of the plant had caved in at many places to which the Corporation Secretary again mentioned the upgradation plans as a solution.

Mr. Nair said that if the reports of the civic body were to be believed, the proposed Refuse Derived Fuel plant would be ready within two months. The fabrication of the machinery had been completed and would be installed once the floor was ready, Mr. Thomas said.

Mr. Nair asked the secretary to hold discussions with all stakeholders and submit a report on the progress made at each level during his next sitting in March. To an inquiry on the installation of incinerator, the civic officials said that it was ready to be installed.

The Ombudsman, however, said that the corporation alone was not to be blamed but the delay on the part of the State government in sanctioning funds for the relocation of families near the plant also had a cumulative effect on its ineffective operation. The funds were made available to the District Collector for the relocation of 54-odd families only recently. A lot of work needs to be done which could be carried out only after the families were resettled and a compound wall was erected, Mr. Nair said.

On the fire incident, Mr. Nair issued instructions to the civic authorities on precautionary measures to be adopted to prevent such accidents in the future. The purpose of the visit was to find ways to deal with a future fire breakout without any confusion or delay, Mr. Nair told The Hindu. It took days for the civic body to douse the fire that broke out in the piled-up plastic waste in the plant last month.

The Ombudsman was accompanied also by C.P. Subramanian, station officer at the Thrikkakkara Fire Station, and K.R. Sajeev, managing director of Aag India Private Limited, a private company providing fire safety solutions.

Mr. Nair said that he had gone through reports by the fire officer concerned and Aag India Private Limited.

The company had already carried out an inspection earlier this month. A second inspection was undertaken alongside the Ombudsman’s visit to identify the location for setting up fire fighting system.

Mr. Sajeev told the Ombudsman that the location had been identified for an underground water tank to fight fire.

He said a primary sketch of the proposed system would be submitted to the fire force department for approval. Mr. Nair said the plan should be part of any future upgradation works at the plant.

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