Everything is wrong with the solid waste management process in the city, say experts

A few days after joining the State Cabinet and taking over as Dakshina Kannada district in-charge Minister, Mangalore North MLA J. Krishna Palemar inaugurated, in August 2008, a Rs. 15.88-crore compost plant at Pachchanady, Vamanjoor, promising that “each batch of waste” collected from the city would be put through a 35-day process.

He struck a high note by saying the compost generated could be used as manure and the non-degradable substances would be recycled. But garbage mound at dumping yard continued to swell suggesting that things were not going as planned.

Capacity inadequate

In January 2010, the then Deputy Commissioner V. Ponnuraj hit the nail on the head saying garbage management had gone wrong.

At a time when the city was preparing to handle 120 tonnes a day, Mangalore was generating 200 tonnes already, he pointed out, highlighting the need for segregation into biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste at source. The design capacity of the compost plant is 120 tonnes a day.

Two years after those comments from Mr. Ponnuraj, the city is still making half-hearted attempts at garbage collections from doors, let alone ensuring segregation at source.

Private firms

After toying with the idea for a couple of years, the MCC has selected two private firms – one to collect segregated solid waste, the other to operate and maintain the sanitary landfill site and compost plant. The cost concerns have hit the project, according to the MCC sources.

V. Jagannatha, Professor, HUDCO Chair at the Mysore-based State Institute for Urban Development, had gone on record in 2010 that the city corporations spend Rs. 950 on managing one tonne of waste.

However, the private company chosen to collect the garbage has quoted three times over.

The other company wants an additional Rs. 238 a tonne for processing the garbage at the compost plant.

Cost, constraints

In 2009, the Mangalore City Corporation spent Rs. 9.88 crore for garbage management (or Rs. 1,350 a tonne) with more than one-third of it going to staff salary, according to the draft estimates by the Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad.

The college, which has prepared a draft sanitation plan for Mangalore, found the following: staff requires proper training on solid waste handling and collection, waste is not being segregated at source, vehicles collecting waste do not have segregated compartments, sanitary workers are not provided with any protective equipment posing health hazards, bio-medical waste from smaller hospitals finds its way into municipal waste, and that there is illegal disposal of waste into the sea which will cause “serious public health and environmental issues.”

On the whole, little has changed in the last four years of the Bharatiya Janata Party rule. Worse, the regional Lok Adalat on environmental issues, constituted by the Supreme Court, has been critical of corporation's failure to cap the garbage disposed at Pachchanady.

Even as visitors perceive Mangalore as a clean city, it has miles to go though it does sell small quantities of compost manure. By Mr. Jagannatha's 2010 account, Pune was earning around Rs. 14 crore a year from waste. Will the corporation emulate it? One has to wait and see.

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