Can Chennai Corporation retain community spirit?

A community-led project in Tsunami Nagar may show if the city can successfully handle waste segregation on a larger scale.

August 10, 2013 03:58 am | Updated November 16, 2021 09:29 pm IST - Chennai

BUILDING UP: Workers dump bio-degradable waste segregated by residents. Photo: M. Srinath

BUILDING UP: Workers dump bio-degradable waste segregated by residents. Photo: M. Srinath

A successful NGO-run source segregation and recycling project in an under-privileged neighbourhood has now been handed over to a private contractor who has so far maintained the same working model. The manure that was being produced as a result of composting kitchen waste was being sold for Rs. 10 a kg but the corporation hasn’t decided on this aspect though eight months have passed since the project changed hands. The project in Tsunami Nagar, Semmencherry, may well show whether the Corporation will be able to retain the community spirit and voluntarism that helped the original model succeed.

There are 6,674 flats constructed by Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board to provide accommodation to families affected during the Tsunami of 2004 apart from those families who were evicted to make way for massive infrastructure projects. “We now cover 650 households and 8 women hired by the contractor engaged by Chennai Corporation are involved in door-to-door collection of garbage segregated as bio-degradable (kitchen) waste and paper and plastic waste that can be recycled,” said A.Sathyaseelan, Conservancy Inspector of Chennai Corporation.

The kitchen waste is accumulated in a cement concrete bin. Stage one comprises spreading this waste and sprinkling of cattle dung, preferably cow dung. It is then allowed to set for a month and then transferred to another bin, where earthworms are introduced. The earthworms were first procured from a government farm in Vedanthangal at Rs. 500 for a kilogram. The earthworms consume this waste and its excrete created the manure, which is then sieved, resulting in fine, high quality organic manure.

The resultant manure is dry, powdery and does not even have a foul smell and the process is completely environment friendly. The women have been associated with the organic composting project since 2006, when Hand in Hand, a Swedish-based NGO was entrusted with the task of running the project by the district administration. For the past eight months, the Corporation has been engaging a private contractor to maintain the compost yard.

The compost yard serves multiple purposes. It prevented bio-degradable waste being dumped in open spaces and also along water courses, lakes and tanks. Organic manure, the end product, can be used to enrich kitchen gardens in homes and apartment complexes. More importantly, the yard provides jobs for marginalised women.At the compost yard, the women begin the day by 6 a.m, complete collection at door steps, before working in the sheds.

They also segregate paper and plastic waste. The plastic waste is sent to the Zonal Office in Sholinganallur, where they are stored and later added while providing bitumen-topped surface roads, officials added.

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