For over a year now, the biomethanation plant, an ambitious project to generate electricity from vegetable and fruit waste, in Koyambedu has not been functioning.

In a bid to provide a new lease of life to the plant, the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) and the Koyambedu market management committee (MMC) have now sought the assistance of the Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) to provide a technical solution to operate the plant.

Set up by CMDA in 2006, the plant was in operation until 2008. However, in the past four years, it has only functioned for four months in 2011, when Ramky Enviro Engineers Limited, the private firm that collects and disposes waste from the Koyambedu wholesale market, repaired it.

The facility has been put to disuse because of the machine not working, and due to the poor quality of waste fed into it. Nearly Rs. 8 crore, including Rs. 1.75 crore spent by Ramky, had gone into its construction and operation.

The plant has the capacity to convert 30 tonnes of waste into 2,500 units daily. When it functioned between June and October 2011, it evoked sparks of hope about the success of the project. But when the equipment malfunctioned, the plant was closed for the second time.

Traders said the plant was one way to put accumulated garbage to better use, while also providing electricity to residents. With an integrated solid waste management plan for the city still on paper, garbage now continues to be dumped in Perungudi. Nearly 150 tonnes of garbage are generated daily in the market.

CLRI has now been appointed a technical consultant, and has been asked to resolve the issue of the frequent failure of the plant in a few months. CLRI’s director A.B. Mandal, said their suggestions would include a change of equipment and ensuring good quality vegetable waste be fed into the plant.

CLRI will also provide specifications about how to operate the plant and on solid waste management. Waste must be collected in the morning to provide quality vegetable waste to the plant. A meeting with CMDA would be held in a few days and the plant would be operational in eight months if the guidelines were adhered to, he said.

A Ramky source said they were unable to run the plant owing to a lack of space for source segregation and composting. However, the process of allotting one acre of land for source segregation, essential to the functioning of the plant, is now underway.

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