Plant was opened at Central Fish and Meat Market six years ago

A biogas plant was inaugurated at the Central Fish and Meat Market, one of the oldest and biggest in the district run by the Kozhikode Corporation, exactly six years ago.

The plant was built by Kerala Agro Industries Corporation (KAIC) Ltd. for the local body as part of the Corporation’s De-centralised Bio-waste Management Scheme. It cost the local body Rs.27.6 lakh allotted from the People’s Plan of 2008-09.

Ideally, the plant was supposed to treat 2,000 kg of animal waste from the central market per day to produce biogas measuring 60-70 m3 per day.

Signboard

A rusty signboard states the objective of the plant as the “eco-friendly production of energy from waste, disposal of waste in a scientific manner, and a novel step to reduce global warming.”

Instead, the plant and the land surrounding it has become a garbage dump. Piles of torn thermocol boxes, plastic covers, and animal parts lie in pools of slush around its dome.

Corporation cleaners do visit the plant site, but only to collect metal scraps and discarded copper wires thrown out from the nearby scrap metal shops into the plant’s yard.

The plant lies useless, filled to the brim with animal waste of many months.

Three months ago, the slush inside had overflowed, leaving the market knee-deep in a toxic concoction.

“We brought in a water lorry and used the water in it to dump the waste back inside the plant’s dome structure. The stench was way beyond we could bear,” says K.C. Khader, a dry-fish trader who sits right opposite the plant’s yard in his 80-sq ft shop.

Mr. Khader is one of over 300 traders who had to vacate their old premises in the market and shift to the new building built by the Corporation. Here space is less, hygiene is non-existent, drains are clogged, and rats are aplenty.

Promise

He recalls how, at the time of inauguration of the plant on October 10, 2009, leaders had promised that the gas from the plant would light up the central market and provide cooking gas for hotels.

“They were lying. At the time of the inauguration, the plant did not even have a mechanism to distribute the gas produced. Corporation staffers would come here and just let out the gas. Leaks were common, no proper maintenance was done. We thank our stars that nothing untoward happened,” N.K. Shafi, another trader in the market, says.

Traders are in a bind as far as disposing of waste, from thermocol boxes to animal waste, is concerned. “Chicken waste is sold at Rs.2 a kg. Others have these agents who dispose of the waste… don’t ask us where,” Mr. Khader said.

“Nothing worked out as per the plan of the Corporation. Public money was wasted. This plant was commissioned without completing its work. The traders have to push the garbage into the plant’s funnel by hand. Same is the situation of the biogas plant at the Palayam vegetable market,” N.C. Rasheed, a member of the Kerala State Vyapari Vyavasayi Samithi and a union leader based in the Central Market, said.

He said the plant’s pulveriser had broken down over three years ago.

But the Corporation’s health standing committee chairperson Janamma Kunjhunni still believes that the plant is functional. “The pulveriser was repaired by us,” she said.

Ms. Kunjhunni blames the KAIC for not taking up the annual maintenance contract, which led to the current state of affairs. She said the KAIC was supposed to maintain the plant for three years since its commissioning in 2009.

But Baby K.T, secretary, Aware Eco Trust, consultants for KAIC for the project, presented a different version — one of neglect by the local body.

“The Corporation did not even bother to provide the plant with the necessary water supply. It was only in 2012 March that a water tank was built at the plant yard,” Mr. Baby said.

He said that the KAIC struggled to keep the plant alive for a year after its commissioning in October 2009, even going to the extent of supplying water via tanker lorries. “KAIC finally gave up after the Corporation did not pay any of its bills. Payments are still pending,” he said.

More In: Kozhikode