Existing landfills are full, but residents do not want anymore in their neighbourhoods

The crisis is upon us. The existing dumping sites at Kodungaiyur and Perungudi may soon be unable to take any more of the City trash. Since waste processing facilities proposed at Kuthambakkam and Minjur have run into rough weather, there is fear that the current dumping sites may have to expand further into ecologically sensitive regions including wetlands.

To overcome these challenges, Corporation officials are planning remediation of portions of the current dumpyards in Kodungaiyur and Perungudi. Remediation would involve the process of reversing and stopping the environmental damage caused by unscientific dumping of waste. The civic body has been dumping waste in 200 acres in Perungudi and 269 acres in Kodungaiyur. More than 4 crore tonnes of waste have been dumped in the existing dumpyards, according to estimates.

The Chennai Corporation would require solid waste management facilities in Kuthambakkam and Minjur for processing municipal solid waste as an alternative to the existing Perungudi and Kodungaiyur dumpyards. But the new initiatives on the outskirts are already facing opposition from local residents.

The Chennai Corporation intensified its search for sustainable technology in the wake of the National Green Tribunal setting aside the environmental clearance granted by the State government to an integrated solid waste management facility at Perungudi. Last year, 31 multi-national companies expressed interest in supplying suitable technology to the Chennai Corporation for its initiative that included remediation and scientific closure of the Perungudi and Kodungaiyur dumpyards. Eleven companies have been shortlisted for the remediation initiative.

But the company to be identified is likely to be permitted to commence remediation in a part of the dumpyards in six months and the Chennai Corporation will continue to dump waste in other part of the dumpyards. The process of reversing environmental damage in parts of the two ecologically fragile areas is likely to be completed in two years.

Officials from Tamil Nadu Urban Infrastructure Financial Services Ltd will help the Chennai Corporation zero in on the right technology for remediation.

The civic body, however, is bracing itself for the situation in which it continues to be denied environmental clearance for the solid waste management facility in alternative areas such as Kuthambakkam or Minjur. Chennai Corporation has already informed the National Green Tribunal that environmental safeguards and approvals for the proposed solid waste management facility at Kuthambakkam would be obtained before starting any construction activity on the identified land.

The tribunal had also granted an interim injunction restraining the civic body from commissioning solid waste management facilities in Kuthambakkam. Corporation may even explore options of setting up facilities for processing and disposing of waste in scientifically-designed sanitary landfill sites near the existing dumpyards, as per specifications laid down in the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000. Work on building roads inside the two existing dumpyards is under way and will be completed shortly. The new roads will facilitate disposal of waste in interior areas of the dumpyards.

Needed: Novel Alternatives

*Innovation needed on bringing in non-burn technology, unlike incinerators

*Investment on incinerators is far too heavy and there are problems of mixed waste going into them

*There are some instances of non-burn technology such as alkaline hydrolysis as an alternative method

Recycling of disinfected waste should be taken forward more actively

*Hospitals should focus on emerging challenges such as eliminating toxic substances such as mercury

*Important to achieve better levels of segregation, more number of hospitals should tie-up with common treatment facility

My Chennai My Right, an inititative by The Hindu

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