Stress need for its uprade and proper management

If properly managed and operated, the Vilappilsala plant can be upgraded as the best solid-waste treatment plant in the country, experts have said.

Once the leachate treatment plant and sanitary landfill inside the plant are commissioned, the Vilappilsala plant can become a model waste treatment plant, they have said..

“The windrow composting technology used in the Vilappilsala plant is undoubtedly the best available technology for processing biodegradable waste. It is an internationally accepted organic-waste-processing technology, which is also mooted by the Union Ministry of Environment,” Babu Ambat, executive director of the Centre for Environment and Development (CED), said.

CED, an agency providing technical support to waste treatment plants in various States, has been operating the plant for the Thiruvananthapuram city Corporation for the past four years.

Mr. Ambat said the plant at Vilappilsala, designed and constructed by the Poabson Group, was one of the best in the State. “There have been issues of space in the processing plant as it was not enough to properly process the 250 tonnes of waste that was brought to the plant daily. This was also the reason for the odour problem there (because of lack of aeration facility). But now, the area of the processing plant is being doubled to two lakh sq.ft,” he said.

Social activist and rural technology exponent R.V.G. Menon said that unlike high-technology solutions such as pyrolisis and incineration, composting, as done in Vilappilsala, was best suited for treatment of biodegradable waste in the State.

“The biodegradable waste generated in our climatic condition has about 70 per cent moisture. But for technologies such as pyrolisis and incineration, dry waste is best suited as it has high energy content. Experts all over the world say that the best technology for organic waste with high moisture content is composting or biogas,” Mr. Menon said.

‘Proper aeration'

He, however, said the composting facility at Vilappilsala could be upgraded by facilitating proper aeration. In the case of plastic waste, the Corporation could think of transporting plastic to recycling units outside the State after converting them into pellets using plastic shredders.

“Segregating plastic and organic waste is pertinent. Although plastic shredders can be installed at Vilappilsala, it should be ensured that it is properly segregated and does not get into the composting facility,” he said.

While the experts concede that decentralised waste treatment facilities in different parts of the city are required to bring down the volume of waste transported to Vilappilsala, a centralised treatment plant is also inevitable for a city such as Thiruvananthapuram.

Social and environmental activist B.R.P. Bhaskar said that while the conventional method of taking the entire municipal waste for processing to far-off villages was not feasible in the State because of its sheer density of population, source-level processing was also only a partial solution.

“Not all waste generated in a household can be treated there. That is why we require an integrated method of decentralised and centralised facility. The Vilappilsala plant can be reopened as a centralised plant, but only after the authorities convince the people there and assure them that the plant will henceforth be properly managed without endangering their health or environment,” he said.

Mr. Menon said that as long as the issues at the Vilappilsala plant remained unresolved, there would be public opposition to setting up plants elsewhere.

“The Vilappilsala plant can no more be treated as a dump of the city. The volume of waste taken to the plant has to be brought down significantly,” said Costford director P.B. Sajan.

Mr. Sajan put forth a novel idea to ensure efficient management of the plant. “Why not involve the Vilappil panchayat in the plant operation. This way, they can ensure that the plant is properly managed and also make it an income generating initiative by selling the manure produced there. The Corporation should, of course, pay the operational expenses,” he said.