Some see merits in a central plant, some others want decentralised ones

A completely decentralised regime of solid waste management is merely a ‘romantic notion’ and the setting up of a centralised plant is unavoidable, according to educationist R.V.G. Menon. It has been a year since the capital city’s lone solid waste management plant at Vilappilsala was shut. No viable solution is in sight yet. Mr. Menon told The Hindu that a flawed management of the Vilappilsala plant right from the start has led to this dire situation.

Shibu Nair, who is associated with the environmental research group, Thanal, said, “It was always the wrong model, the wrong approach, and the wrong technology. Yet, the plant was set up.” “Solutions such as the mobile incinerator, that are techno-centric, are not viable,” he said. He advocated the ‘Pune model’ which ropes in rag pickers for door-to-door garbage collection.

The expertise of Kudumbasree must be harnessed not just in scavenging waste, but also in managing source-based waste systems.

“Compost systems set up at houses too need maintenance, for which Kudumbasree workers can be used. People should be educated about these systems. Otherwise, they will assume that they are ineffective.” Mr. Nair felt that instead of going for a centralised plant, a sector-wise decentralised approach could be adopted.

Though Mr. Menon is all for a centralised plant, he believes that its functioning must be carefully planned. “We need to involve people at the source as well, as this will reduce the load at the central plant,” said Mr. Menon. He listed two reasons for the demise of the Vilappilsala plant — improper treatment of waste, and lack of leachate treatment.

“Even the Chala plant is based on thermal decomposition of waste, which is not technically advisable. Biodegradable waste needs to be composted carefully. Only the rejects that should be thermally processed,” said Mr. Menon.

In flats

Vinod C.S., president of the Apartment Owners Association, attributed the failure of Vilappilsala to ‘poor operation.’ “Many flats have successfully put in place biogas plants, processing all the waste generated in a building. The system is being managed well,” he said.

The city should be split into four zones, each with its own plant, rather than dumping the entire load on one centralised plant, he said.

Technopark, it seems, is keen on finding its own solution. Just a week ago, GTech, a consortium of Technopark companies, met Minister for Health V.S. Sivakumar regarding a waste management system that could process the waste generated in Phase I, II, and III of the cyber park and the upcoming Technocity. According to Anoop Ambika, who is associated with GTech, it would be a public-private partnership, and a profit-oriented venture.