First for Alleppey and coming now, to Chennai

Residents in discussion about a wood-based Thumburmoozhi composting model.   | Photo Credit: Prince Frederick

Social engineering may sometimes be necessary to make composting initiatives successful. While echoing this thought, Shibu Nair reaches for an illustration. He doesn't have to stretch too far, for there is one at arm’s length.

Shibu, Indian coordinator of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, has had a ringside view of how the Thumburmoozhi model aerobic composting came to define composting in a majority of the local bodies across Kerala.

“Seventy percent of the municiplaties use this model,” says Shibu, and adds that it was first aggressively promoted in Alleppey.

“T.M. Thomas Issac, who is now Minister of Finance in Kerala, was the MLA of Alleppey at that time. He wanted to remove the taboo attached to composting, and so brought the aerobic composting units based on the Thumburmoozhi model out of composting centres, and introduced them to prominent spaces — the units would be installed on the roads, near bus stops and other such places. People had to realise that composting need not be smelly,” explains Shibu.

The model spread at a steady pace across Kerala, and the biggest shot in the arm came when the Thiruvananthauram Municipal Corporation adopted it, first on a pilot basis in two wards, and then introducing it across its limits.

“The Kerala Government standardised it, and gave subsidies to municipalities and panchayats to get them to overhaul their existing systems, and introduce this model. Institutions started adopting this model in a big way,” recalls Shibu, who is also part of the technical committee of solid waste management, at the Thiruvanathapuram Municipal Corporation.

The acceptance was made easy by the fact that the local bodies could clearly see that this model scored over the traditional windrow composting in almost every consideration.

“The windrow composting model will take up more space and more labour. The local bodies could go in for mechanisation, but that would mean that they had to increase the scale of operations – 1,000 tonnes of biodegradable waste every day. The process would take 40 days. So, they should have a storage space for 40,000 tonnes. All these things were too challenging for any municipality.”

While the administrative will would have certainly helped, the model, initially developed by professor Francis Xavier at the Thumburmoozhi campus of Kerala Veterinary University (and hence the name), seemed to be standing on solid scientific ground.

“With generous quantities of dry leaves covering biodegradable waste on every layer, in a kind of sandwich-system, there is impressive carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, and this arrests the smell. It has many other benefits — it is easy to assemble; easy to expand. It is layered composting, and so people don’t have to step into a tank, as is the case with any windrow composting model, to turn over the waste. So, it is capital-intensive, and addresses the issue of occupational hazard, explains,” says Shibu.

Shibu has extended his expertise to the Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG) for the construction of a wooden aerobic composting unit based on the Thumburmoozhi model.

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Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 11:35:54 AM |

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