Chennai

Corporation’s micro composting units turn mini dumping sites

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Inadequate manpower, poor upkeep mar zero waste initiative

The Chennai Corporation initiated its zero waste management drive a few months ago by setting up mini compost yards in city parks. However, persistent civic issues have led to residents in various areas complaining about problems caused by the units set up as part of decentralised waste management.

Pointing to inadequate manpower, damaged machinery and poor monitoring of waste management by civic officials, residents are demanding better waste management, as the northeast monsoon closes in.

Lack of workers

V. Rajagopal, president, Anna Nagar West Extension Phase II Association, said residents in the Ambattur zone had asked Sriperumbudur MP T.R. Baalu to resolve civic issues caused by decentralised waste management in parks, such as the Anna Nagar West Extenstion C Sector Park, at a meeting held on October 2.

The meeting was convened to elicit ideas of the public on new civic projects for the area.

Over 50% of residents have been cooperating with the civic body in micro composting yards. But new initiatives are hampered by a lack of dedicated conservancy workers, says Mr. Rajagopal.

“The city has many mini dumpyards now. Civic issues have aggravated. Dumping of unsegragated waste on the burial ground on TVS Avenue Main Road, in ward 89, has been causing pollution. It is like a mini dumping site, where a new battery-operated car is used to dump garbage. They also burn the garbage. It is horrible,” he lamented.

In one corner of the May Day Park in Chindatripet, lies a pit surrounded by bamboos and a lot of vegetation. Maintained poorly, with almost no sign of garbage to be turned into compost, the lone open pit is an example of the neglect faced by such compost pits set up by the Greater Chennai Corporation across the city.

It’s a common sight every day for Poornima, who lives in Karthikeyapuram in Madipakkam, to see garbage dumped on the road outside the Corporation playground, thanks to the civic body’s plan to collect only segregated garbage from residences and use them in compost pits set up inside parks.

Just that, both have not been working well. While residents still continue to dump garbage outside the park, where two large garbage bins used to stand before it was removed by Corporation officials, other residents complain about the lack of maintenance of the compost pits.

“Conservancy staff do not collect garbage properly in the first place. There’s a lot of garbage left outside the park. Then what is the use of composting,” asks Ms. Poornima. Other residents like Vinoth Kumar say that door-to-door collection of garbage has not been happening properly.

Raja Annamalaipuram Residents’ Association (RAPRA), meanwhile, has tied up with Green Trust and Ramky Enviro Engineers to implement the composting project along with the Corporation.

Door-to-door campaigns

According to T.N. Srinivas, vice-president, RAPRA, the Corporation has dug three ring wells in the park and four wells have been set up at two places near the canal bank. While Ramky collects wet waste from the residents and takes it to compost pits, Green Trust and the association conduct door-to-door campaigns. The trust will also be managing the compost pits by introducing catalysts and microbes to ensure the process works perfectly.

RAPRA initially had issues when conservancy staff just dumped the wet waste in all wells, instead of filling up one well before moving to the others. “We want to show that this can be implemented on a large scale. But it needs everyone’s participation. We are taking it step by step,” said Mr. Srinivas.

When asked if the monsoon might create a problem for the open pits, Mr. Srinivas said there was a possibility of water stagnation. “But since we have got the services of experts, they will take care of it,” he noted.

A resident of Madipakkam said the compost pit set up in the park had started emanating foul smell, and with the monsoon coming up, it was going to be an issue. “There’s also the possibility of diseases spreading, if the pits are not managed properly,” a resident said.

Karthick Santhanam, who lives in Nanganallur, said the compost pit set up at the Independence Day Park emanated foul smell. “They are not maintaining the pit properly. First, they should replace the dustbins that were taken away, before embarking on composting the waste. Children go there to play and germs pose a problem,” he said. Mr. Karthick said the conservancy staff were not collecting garbage properly, and there was no point then in removing the dustbins.

Sultan Ahmed Ismail, a soil biologist, ecologist and an expert in composting, said the bamboo pits created for leaf composting in the parks could be resized, as there would not be sufficient aeration at the centre of the pits, compared to the sides.

“They can have a 3x3 or 4x4 pits. The compost unit — the concrete rings could use blue metal as base. The well rings need to be kept on top of that so there is no vermin,” he noted.

The compost units need to be managed properly during the monsoon to ensure that there is no foul smell, said Dr. Ismail.

“Somebody needs to be there to turn the contents over. The water will then seep off, and this needs to be channelised, so the water can percolate through a sand filter,” he said. The water input-output ratio and excess water need to be managed, he added.

But he warns that if there is excess water that is not drained or channelised properly, it would stagnate in pits, turning them into breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Poor implementation

Former Corporation Councillor A. Ezhilarasi said: “The zero waste initiative has not been implemented properly. It is not possible to stop the dumping of waste in dumpyards of Perungudi and Kodungaiyur. After starting the initiative, conservancy inspectors have stopped doing rounds. Senior officials have also stopped doing their weekly rounds. They are lazy. Ward 1 does not even have an assistant engineer,” she charged.

Pointing to the large amount of garbage generated during the 2015 floods, residents said civic officials should focus on installing more bins and deploying more conservancy workers and vehicles for removal of garbage during the rainy season.

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 10:18:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/corporations-micro-composting-units-turn-mini-dumping-sites/article29612707.ece

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