In the vain hope that a few folds of cloth would keep at bay the overwhelming stench, motorists and pedestrians cover their noses when they pass this stretch in the heart of the city. Even then, they never fail to wince as they go by the garbage dump on the side of the Chala-Attakulangara road.

“It is sad what the capital city has turned into, and it is now a curse to get a transfer to Thiruvananthapuram,” said a government employee, who resorted to a sprint past the stretch.

It has been dubbed the ‘next Vilappilsala’ by the vegetable and fruit vendors at the Chala market who have been watching the transformation at the Thiruvananthapuram Development Authority (TRIDA) plot for the past two years. “It was almost overnight that the garbage mound formed here. Since then, we have watched it only shift and never reduce, as the Corporation brings its earth-movers to nudge the waste away from the road. I think it has run out of space to bury the waste, which will keep coming closer to the market at this rate,” Mohanan, a workshop mechanic, said.

Rain woes

Like last year, this Onam too was marked by spells of rainfall that made for a lousy holiday at Haseena’s house. A stone’s throw away from one end of the dump, she and her family have been living with the stench and its associate troubles, including overflowing drains, rodents, and stray dogs. “I have actually begun to dread school holidays. At least, when the children are at school they are away from this. For the Onam vacation, I packed them off to my mother’s house at Thirumala,” she said.

The Corporation’s health officials are struggling to figure out an alternative site where they can cart away the city’s waste en masse to be buried or burnt. The government, on its part, is unclear when work will begin on the proposed waste-to-energy plant at the site.

The last development in connection with the plant occurred in June, when the Corporation council agreed to sign the supply agreement, saying it would provide the necessary 35 tonnes of garbage every day.

The waste generated from the Chala market alone is enough to fill the site, but large quantities of it are brought regularly from hotels and wedding halls as well.

In a bid to reduce the overall generation of garbage in the city, the Corporation is aggressively pushing for the installation of decentralised units – pipe-composts at houses with limited space, large biogas plants in 62 locations, and the most recent, 18 units of ‘Pattoor Model’ biomechanical composting units. In fact, one of the largest among these, capable of processing two tonnes of waste a day, is planned for the Chala market.