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| Last Updated:: 30/01/2015

Solid Waste

Solid Waste Management

Success Story of Pammal Municipality


Waste generation is strongly linked to per capita income and consumption. As income increases, consumption increases as more income is spent on goods and services. This is, especially, more when there is a transition from low income level to middle income level. This could be attributed to changing lifestyles, food habits and living standards. Since urban consumers consume more than rural consumers, generation of waste in urban areas is higher. According to UN estimates, India will have more than 40 percent, i.e. over 400 million people, clustered in cities over the next thirty years. Owing to this rapid urbanization there has been an increase in the solid waste generated in the last few decades. Hence, there has been a growing concern in provision of sanitation facilities and environmental issues in urban areas as these are the major determinants towards public health conditions. Managing solid waste is, thus, an important environmental concern but unfortunately, it has a lower priority than provision of water supply and sanitation facilities. Solid waste management is perceived as a linear activity of collecting waste and disposing them.
The problem statement:

In India managing solid waste is a function of the local government namely the Municipalities which are the Urban Local Bodies. About half of the municipality’s expenditure is allocated for this activity. However the activity is plagued by the following issues. 

Financial issues:

Limited revenues earmarked for municipality to carry out effective Solid Waste Management.
Institutional issues:

Lack of suitable and adequate staff, and fragile links with other suitable agencies.
Operational issues:

Non-availability of land for disposal of collected waste. Accumulation of solid waste in heaps resulting in breeding of disease vectors such as flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches, rats etc., Indiscriminate dumping of waste at disposal site leading to contaminated water leading to deterioration of water quality in surrounding areas, bad odor emanation of land fill gas containing methane which is explosive and also results in global warming.
Social issues:

The activity is labour intensive with a variety of people involved namely the rag pickers, scavengers and municipal workers who are the informal waste collectors. Lack of public awareness on SWM issues on effective disposal compounds the problem. 

Policy response to the problem:

All the above issues were highlighted by several civic and environmental activists, which resulted in direction by the Supreme Court to Ministry of Environment and Forests to draft rules on MSW. Realizing the need for proper and scientific management of solid waste, the MSW (Management and Handling) Rules 2000 were notified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, in exercise of Powers conferred by section 3,6 and 25 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 with the objective of regulating the management and handling of the Municipal Solid Wastes. The objective of these rules was to make every municipal authority responsible for the implementation of the various provisions of the Rules within its territorial area and also to develop an effective infrastructure for collection, storage, segregation, transportation, processing and disposal of Municipal Solid Wastes. The progress in implementation of the activities by the municipalities in adherence to the MSWM Rules 2000 has been slow. There are some examples where the interventions have been successfully implemented. Pammal Municipality is one such example. The above rules become important in the context that the Pammal Municipality is a Award winning Municipality and has gained recognition as a model unit because of its adherence to the MSWM Rules 2000.      

Establishment of Model Solid Waste Management Unit at Pammal:

Pammal is a third grade municipality with 21 wards and a population of approximately 100,000, located 17km from Chennai. In 1994, Ms. Mangalam Balasubramanian and a group of women formed a Mahalir Mandram (women’s association) to address the challenge of waste Management in Pammal. This waste was deposited in the neighborhood bins. Awareness – raising street plays were held to educate residents about pollution and the benefits of waste management. At that point, the Mandram began segregating the waste and making vermin compost from the biodegradable material. The successful production of compost inspired the Sankara Eye Hospital to allocate space on a portion of their land in Sankara Dhyana Mandapam for the Mandram’s vermi compost production. In 1995, the Mandram registered itself as a self help group and obtained a loan, which was used to construct a vermi composting shed. The impact of their work attracted the attention of many officials and impressed Pammal municipality’s executive officer.
In 2004, representatives of PepsiCo visited the project and subsequently suggested that the activities be expanded to cover a larger area. In 2005, using PepsiCo’s support, a larger shed with 108, one –two tone capacity vermi compost tanks was constructed on 1.1 acres provided by the municipality. The Municipality then invited Ms. Balasubramanian to expand the service to cover all 21 wards in Pammal. The Mandram registered itself as an NGO named Exnora Green Pammal and signed a contract with Pammal municipality.

 Performance of activities at Pammal model SWM:

The key objective of the project is to evolve a garbage free Pammal with extensive green cover. The strategy used in the implementation has been— Recycle, Reuse, and Reduce garbage going to landfill. The activities included. 

Door to door collection of garbage from households by Green Ambassadors (Pasumai Thuduvargal name in Tamil illustrating the dignity of Labour) segregated at source as organic and inorganic.  Conversion of organic waste into vermin compost with a brand name “Excellent organic compost” (Exorco).  The inorganic waste is separated into different categories such as pet bottles, HDF, LDP, Laminates, Cardboard, Pet bottles are crushed into pellets. Thin carry bags are crushed and sent to CIPET (Central Institute of Plastic Engineering Technology) Students for their project work. Some of the water pouches and thin carry bags are recycled in a weaving centre established by the NGO near Thirukazhukundram.

Conversion of dry leaves into briquettes. Dry leaves such as coconut leaves, garden dry leaves are converted into briquette. Conversion of food waste, canteen waste and meat waste into Energy. At present a demonstration unit of waste to Energy is set up producing bio gas and producing 5 KW of electricity lighting street lights. In all such above activities the total waste materials are converted into usable materials and provide employment opportunities to many women from downtrodden families.
The success of solid waste management depends upon people’s participation. The rate of recovery of recyclables is not as high as it could be, largely because some residents do not segregate their waste. When residents don’t segregate their waste, the workload of green ambassadors is increase because they have to segregate the residents’ waste, the value of recyclable material is reduced because the recyclables become dirty, the quality of biodegradable material is reduced, and the amount of landfill material increases. If more residents segregate their waste properly, the recovery rate of recyclable materials will increase, and the amount of landfill waste will be lower. Raising awareness to achieve widespread public cooperation in terms of segregation of waste requires continuous effort and is likely to take several years. Changing people’s habits is a gradual process. Solid waste management requires money for startup and for operation. Services cannot be sustained from one-time grants.
The revenue earned by the sale of compost and recyclable materials and the collection of a user fee covers less than 10%of the operating costs. The Municipalities /local bodies by imposing a Green Tax on all residents could assist in getting segregated materials. Collecting a user fee is not an ideal way to generate revenue for solid waste management because payment is irregular, and collecting the fee is a considerable burden for the service provider. Although collection of a user fee strengthens rapport between the service provider and residents, such collection becomes a very costly task because collecting the fee consumes an enormous amount of the service provider’s time.

The Pammal SWM experience demonstrates that successful implementation of the Government’s rules depend upon determined local leadership, public awareness, involvement and cooperation of residents, qualified staff, attentive human resource management, proper and ongoing financial support and physical facilities. Together such elements can achieve major improvements in the cleanliness of neighborhoods as well as a significant reduction of waste.

Source: Managing Trustee, Exnora Green Pammal, Chennai & Director, Sam Foundation for Eco Friendly Neighbourhood