THE SUNDAY STORY Even though a decade of effort towards solving the challenge has failed, the Chennai Corporation this year made yet another attempt to come to grips with the mounting problem with its search for technology.    

The first municipal Corporation of Modern India continues to grapple with garbage management challenges. Chennai must handle over 4,000 tonnes of garbage generated in a day over an area of 426 sq km. Public protests on garbage clearance are on the rise. The reasons include pollution in residential localities near large dump yards and poor garbage clearance.

Even though a decade of effort towards solving the challenge has failed, the Chennai Corporation this year made yet another attempt to come to grips with the mounting problem with its search for technology.

This ‘search for technology’ aims to remediate and close the existing Perungudi and Kodungaiyur dump yards. The move, however, created alarm that it will only lead to a rise in pollution from new waste management plants on the city’s outskirts.

The Chennai Corporation had identified many pieces of land on the city’s outskirts for treatment plants. The village of Kuthambakkam, about 30km to the west is described as ‘ideal’, although this proposal has drawn protests from villagers. Civic officials said they shortlisted Kuthambakkam even last week.

Sounding a note of caution, R.Elango, former president of this village panchayat says, “The proposal for a solid waste management facility in Kuthambakkam will affect the Chembarambakkam Lake, which is a city water source.”

“The people of the village are against the project. Residents of urban limits of Chennai should find waste management points within the city instead of affecting nearby villages,” he adds.

Corporation Commissioner D.Karthikeyan says the plant will process waste and not pollute the environment like the yard in Perungudi or Kodungaiyur. “The request for proposal preparation is in the final stages. It will be ready in 10 to 15 days,” he adds.

Apart from the initiative of reversing the environmental damage in Perungudi and Kodungaiyur, the civic body invited expression of interest for two more solid waste management initiatives from multinational companies a few months ago. This includes the design of a scalable and modular plant with a future capacity of processing 10,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste per day.

For the present, though, there is little solace. Sporadic fires which pollute Perungudi and Kodungaiyur have been causing severe air pollution.

Community initiatives

Non-governmental efforts at garbage clearance gained prominence with Exnora International, a community organisation performing the task from 1993 to 1999. The units covered nearly 35 per cent of the city and employed 3,000 workers including rag pickers to segregate waste.

Garbage tonnage became important when private parties entered the arena and were paid to transport waste. They placed fancy bins, brought in compactors and uniformed staff. When Chennai Environmental Services ONYX commenced operations in March 2000, many residents did not want to dismantle the Exnora system. The company undertook garbage clearance till August 24, 2007.

Neel Metal Fanalca, another private venture, took up conservancy operations from August 2007 to December 31, 2011 but the Corporation Council ended the contract citing poor conservancy work. Ramky Enviro Engineers too has been facing challenges after it started operations in January this year in an 88 sq km area. For now, Chennai simply says, Waste Not In My Backyard — better yours.