Kochi

Brahmapuram and the sorry tale of seven local bodies

Being complacent: The dumping yard of the Kalamassery municipality. Kalamassery is among the five municipalities in Ernakulam that received notices from the PCB for failure to set up biomethanation plants for treatment of food waste.

Being complacent: The dumping yard of the Kalamassery municipality. Kalamassery is among the five municipalities in Ernakulam that received notices from the PCB for failure to set up biomethanation plants for treatment of food waste.  

A corporation, five municipalities, two panchayats and a single waste dump! The failure of the Kochi Corporation in effectively managing the solid waste treatment plant at Brahmapuram has brought to light the enormity of waste management issues in the district.

Aluva, Angamaly, Kalamassery, Thrikkakara and Thripunitura municipalities, and Cheranalloor and Vadavucode-Puthencruz panchayats are dependent on the Kochi Corporation for the disposal of their biodegradable waste.

The State Pollution Control Board had issued notices to the municipalities in last October asking why environment compensation should not be levied on them for not complying with the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016. Kalamassery municipality was slapped a penalty of ₹2.47 crore as environment compensation in December last year.

The board is yet to fix the environment compensation on the remaining four municipalities.

Asked why the Aluva municipality failed to come up with its own mechanism to treat biodegradable waste, its chairperson Lissy Abraham said plans to set up a plant on the 2.5 acres owned by the municipality at Keezhmadu were yet to take off owing to protests by local residents.

“The municipality had earmarked ₹2 crore to set up a plant to treat food and other biodegradable waste at Keezhmadu. We are finding it difficult even to set up material collection facilities for the storage of non-biodegradable waste,” she said.

The municipality said that the dependence on Brahmapuram had impacted its coffers. “We have to pay nearly ₹1,350 per metric tonne of biodegradable waste load to the Kochi Corporation as fee for dumping it in Brahmapuram. We are able to meet the expenses from the Plan fund allocated by the government,” they said.

Biodegradable waste generated in the five municipalities and two panchayats is taken to the Kochi Corporation’s Brahmapuram plant as the civic bodies lacked any facility to ensure food waste processing as per the provisions of the Solid Waste Management Rules.

The provisions under the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986, stated that local bodies should identify suitable sites for setting up solid waste processing facilities, besides procuring landfill facilities. As per the Rule 22 (5) of the Solid Waste Management Rules, door-to-door collection of segregated waste and its transportation in covered vehicles to processing or disposal facility should have been ensured by April, 2019.

The five municipalities had failed to set up their own facilities for the treatment of biodegradable waste generated under their jurisdiction. Inspections had found that waste got accumulated on road sides in violation of the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016. The civic bodies should have ensured bioremediation or capping of old and abandoned dump sites.

‘No land’

Stating that lack of adequate land was a major hurdle for setting up biomethanation plants, M.A. Gracy, chairperson of Angamaly municipality, said that the agreement with the Kochi Corporation was to transport waste generated in markets under its jurisdiction to Brahmapuram. “We have now included a project with the assistance of Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board to set up a treatment plant,” she said.

K.T. Eldho, vice chairman of Thrikkakara municipality, echoed the same feeling as Ms. Gracy while saying that the civic body had no land under it to set up a biomethanation plant for treatment of food waste. “We had initiated tender proceedings for acquiring land for the project twice, but failed as there was no land available.

The civic body had also earmarked ₹2.5 crore for the initiative,” he said.

On why Thrikkakara could not emulate local bodies that had set up their own mechanisms to treat biodegradable waste, Mr. Eldho pointed out that about 1,000 households had now come forward to set up biogas and ring compost methods. “We are providing them the units free of cost. The target is to reach out to about 5,000 households,” he said.

Chandrika Devi, chairperson of Thripunitura municipality, said the civic body had no other option but to depend on Brahmapuram for disposal of its food waste. “We have no land for setting up our own facility as food waste from shops, hotels and other establishments are now taken to a central facility and taken to Brahmapuram,” she said.

Public blamed

On why the civic body had not encouraged decentralised treatment methods, Ms. Devi said the response of the public to biogas and ring compost methods was not satisfactory.

She admitted that the municipality was paying nearly ₹1,400 per metric tonne load of food waste to the Kochi Corporation for using the Brahmapuram facility.

Sony Cheeku, chairperson of Cheranalloor panchayat, cited the non-availability of land for setting up its own biomethanation plant. “We are a cash-strapped local body that lacks the funds to establish an expensive plant. There is no other alternative but to transport food waste to Brahmapuram. For non biodegradable waste, we have set up a plastic shredding unit,” she said.

Corpn. slammed

The case of the seven local bodies has been reported before the Principal Bench of the National Green Tribunal, New Delhi. In its report, the tribunal’s State Level Monitoring Committee (SLMC) on Solid Waste Management said that the Kochi Corporation was repeatedly evading from doing any rectification measures at the solid waste management facility at Brahmapuram.

“Several meetings were convened by the State Level Monitoring Committee to get clarifications on certain actions initiated by the Kochi Corporation to ensure that immediate actions are being carried out there for the safe management of solid waste. It is the sole responsibility of the corporation to make sure that they are managing the entire waste brought to this plant while they are allowing other five municipalities and two grama panchayats to transfer their waste to Brahmapuram,” it said.

‘Unfortunate’

The State Level Monitoring Committee said it was unfortunate to note that the corporation had not taken any earnest effort to provide a suitable centralised facility to ensure proper management of waste till date though solid waste from the five municipalities and the two panchayats were being transported to the plant from 2012 onwards.

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Printable version | Aug 9, 2020 12:31:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/brahmapuram-and-the-sorry-tale-of-seven-local-bodies/article31044333.ece

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