The waste dumping yard in the middle of North Paravur town, a heap of PVC pipes dumped in a corner of the Town Hall premises and five autorickshaws left to rot before the municipal office are three stark indicators of disastrous waste management exercises by successive municipal councils.
Among them, the poor quality PVC pipes are in the limelight now and are the remains of an abortive attempt by the current municipal council to launch household pipe composting system and biogas plants in large numbers.
The Rs. 6.5-crore project is under Vigilance scrutiny after the Opposition raised allegations of financial irregularities in the award of the work as well as in the procurement of plastic pipes meant for distribution among households for the waste management programme.
The Opposition raised a clamour when the company, which won the contract through a tendering process, demanded higher rates at a later stage, apparently after the Suchiwta Mission hiked rates.
It has also been alleged that the company, which won the contract, did not actually quote a rate of its own but simply stated in its bid that the work would be done at “rates applicable under Suchiwta Mission”.
A councillor, who did not want to be named, said the company’s bid should have been rejected.
Instead, the work was awarded without a scrutiny by the municipal council and despite the poor quality of the materials already sourced by the company.
However, municipal council chairperson Valsala Prasannakumar has denied allegations of corruption. She said the third lot of plastic pipes sourced by the contracted company was of poor quality, but said the Vigilance court case and a case filed in the High Court on the alleged irregularities had stalled the waste management programme.
Three-time chairman of the municipal council N. A. Ali said the present municipal council had abandoned the successful programme implemented under his chairmanship to produce vermicompost from waste. He said the composting programme was implemented with the help of Kudumbashree workers, who collected segregated waste from households and brought it to the dumping yard at Vedimara, which was developed for the purpose. The vermicomposting and windrow composting units, backed by Rs. 5.5 crore from the Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme of Small and Medium Towns fund, had become a model for other municipalities, he said.
But the present council, he said, had dismissed the Kudumbashree workers. Segregated waste was now not being collected.
As a result, people were throwing household waste in public spaces. The autorickshaws bought for the collection of waste from households were now in disuse, he said.
The new municipal regime has so far distributed 300 pipe compost units and 41 biogas plants.
The municipal chairperson said each beneficiary had paid Rs. 2,113, a subsidised rate, for a biogas plant that cost Rs. 6,500 under Suchitwa Mission.
However, the mission has recently revised the rate to Rs.10,500, requiring higher contribution from the beneficiary.
As a result people were withdrawing from the programme and the municipal authority has to refund the amount deposited by them.
A few councillors said people’s attitude too needed to change if the problem of waste management had to be successfully tackled.
One of them said even people from other areas, passing through the town, would dump waste from their households into water bodies and canals.
The municipal authority now plans to clean up the dumping yard and set up a plastic shredding unit on one side.
The other side has windrow composting columns that had been built by the earlier council. The chairperson said the previous council had abandoned the project when an engineer reported that the vermicomposting columns had not been built at the required strength.
Plans are also afoot to declare a particular area of the municipality litter-free on a pilot basis. Waste from 517 shops in this area would be collected and processed in the dumping yard, Ms. Prassannakumar said.
Suchitwa Mission has sanctioned Rs. 1.65 crore for the project.