Expedience is still the norm in waste disposal

CHENNAI Dec. 4. Although the Government has urged municipalities in and around the city to privatise collection and disposal of garbage, only a few have done so.

The Ambattur, Alandur and Tiruvottiyur municipalities have made progress in privatisation of garbage disposal. The others are facing problems in acquiring land for dumping yards.

Many of the municipalities have identified the land but are waiting for either Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority clearance or a court verdict on purchase of land. Moreover, most municipalities do not have precise data for drawing up a scientific waste management plan.

The urgency of waste management comes in the wake of a State Government directive that a scientific approach to garbage disposal be adopted in municipal areas. Invoking the Centre's Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, the directive lays down comprehensive rules for solid waste management involving source segregation, safe transport and proper disposal. The emphasis is on creating yards for composting organic waste and recycling the rest.

Besieged with problems over land acquisition, most local bodies have found an easy way out — disposing of the waste on the nearest available land or in a lake. The Ambattur and Avadi municipalities, till recently, were dumping garbage in the Thangal and Avadi lakes.

Rather than opting for scientific methods, many local bodies on the southern outskirts of the city have begun transporting garbage to a 15-acre site at Pallikaranai.

The Alandur municipality, which dumps garbage there, has been charged with strewing in the marshes refuse, affecting its fragile eco-system. The Pallikaranai marsh is one of the few nesting places for many birds and it attracts migrating species.

Alandur, again, was among the earliest municipalities to have privatised garbage disposal. It signed a contract with the Bangalore-based Swachatha Corporation three years ago to remove garbage from 15 of its 42 wards at Rs. 360 a tonne.

The Ambattur municipality was accused of dumping garbage at Kallikuppam, a residential area where it proposed to develop a compost yard. The residents went to court.

Ambattur too has privatised conservancy operations at Padi, Anna Nagar West, East and West Mogappair and the Industrial Estate. With a population of 1.36 lakhs, the area generates 81.5 tonnes of garbage, which is removed by the Swachatha Corporation. The civic agency now disposes of its garbage at Mannurpet near Athipattu, says its Commissioner, A.M. Selvam.

The 2.1-lakh population in the Tiruvottiyur municipality limits generates 110 tonnes of garbage a day and it is transferred to a dumping yard on Manali High Road, according to the Commissioner M. Vijayalakshmi.

The State Government acknowledges that urban local bodies have limited staff and vehicles, do not adopt modern methods of clearing garbage and face labour problems. Privatisation is being emphasised to take care of these problems, says the Municipal Administration department web site.

The fleet of conservancy lorries with the local bodies will be increased with financial assistance from the Tamil Nadu Urban Finance and Infrastructure Development Corporation and grants from the Eleventh Finance Commission.

The primary concern of local bodies is cost, says an official of the Avadi municipality, which itself has not adopted privatisation. Selection of bins and vehicles and a method to verify the claims of contractors are all secondary.

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